UNIVERSITY NETWORK FOR THE SILICON INDUSTRY
PLF Hemment(1) and CM
(1)University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK
(2)National Microelectronics Institute, Edinburgh, UK
A new part-time modular postgraduate
Masters-level programme developed by a consortium of ten universities
is described. The philosophy and strategies adopted by the academic
and industrial partners in designing a world class, relevant and cost
effective programme for professional engineers employed in the Silicon
industry are discussed. The route for exploitation is through the
creation of a 'University Network for the Silicon Industry'
The growth in the use of electronics
in everyone's daily life continues to explode. This has led to electronics
becoming the fastest growing industry in the world - and it depends
on a supply of semiconductor Integrated Circuits (ICs). However, the
rate of growth continues to make it difficult for the semiconductor
industry to match capacity with demand. It takes close to three years
to bring a manufacturing plant to full capacity. By the time a shortage
has arisen, it is too late to invest.
Only twelve months ago the semiconductor
industry was facing temporary over-capacity and the associated low product
prices. And now we are faced, once more, with lengthening lead times
for products, capacity shortages and rising semiconductor prices. Plants
in the UK are running at capacity. Many are expanding and taking on
more staff. Filtronic have purchased the mothballed Fujitsu fab near
Durham, and are ramping-up to produce GaAs circuits for mobile phones.
The empty plants in Newcastle, Dunfermline and Newport are attractive
facilities to bring back into production rapidly. This market dynamic
results in the need for the industry to be able to staff new plants
rapidly. This can only be achieved by ensuring that the industry builds
a strong base of experienced engineers that is able to sustain periods
of rapid growth. The situation is compounded by the rapid development
of technology in the industry. It is necessary to refresh the skills
of employees in this rapidly changing environment on a continuous basis
so that they are in a position to introduce and operate the next generation
of advanced processes.
Against this background, the semiconductor
industry and academia in the UK have been collaborating for over 8 years
to address the requirements for education and training. This has led
to a number of initiatives, including:
- The development of a standardised
skills pipeline for the industry.
- A vocational education and training
system to develop operators and technicians. This involves vocational
education qualifications run at a network of Further Education Colleges
and vocational training qualifications that are taught 'on the job'.
This work is currently being extended by the colleges to provide the
same material in a distance learning format.
- A part time postgraduate programme
at Masters-level, which is the subject of this paper.
2. Justification and Development
Silicon manufacturing demands knowledge
of materials, device physics, process chemistry, batch manufacturing,
statistics, quality management and other disciplines. There is general
agreement that this breadth of knowledge cannot be achieved through
undergraduate courses. Rather the industry prefers to attract employees
with undergraduate training in a wide range of relevant disciplines
and for them to apply their skills in teams to address the industries
specific problems. This approach brings flexibility and adaptability
to problem solving. However, it does mean that there is a requirement
in the industry to provide ways in which engineers can address any gaps
in their education.
The new MSc programme evolved in 1997
from discussions between industry and academia to address the shortage
of process and manufacturing engineers. It was recognised that there
was (and is) a world-wide shortage of up-to-date specialist, postgraduate
training and education courses in IC manufacture. At that time, UK industry
estimated that it would require the equivalent of an additional 60 MSc
graduates each year to maintain its rate of growth. Yet, ironically,
during the late 1990's, a number of UK University courses had been discontinued
or postponed due to the dearth of suitable applicants.
The solution adopted was for industry
and academia to work together to develop a new, dedicated set of Masters-level
postgraduate modules, based on the expertise in silicon processing and
technology already existing in a consortium of ten UK Universities .
Each of the partner universities has justified its inclusion through
its academic strength in a specific topic area. The active participation
of industry ensures that the technical content of the course is fully
up to date and relevant. It also provides a steady flow of applicants.
The title of the programme is "Advanced
Silicon Processing and Manufacturing Technologies". The Engineering
and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) provided £435,000 funding,
over 5 years, for the development of the programme under its Integrated
Graduate Development Scheme (IGDS). Industry has supported the programme
by contracting to fund a minimum number of delegates each year.
The programme is designed for graduate
engineers employed in the silicon manufacturing sector. It provides
specialist training for staff wishing to extend their technical knowledge
and a "fast track" for career development of future senior engineers
and engineering managers.
It is very flexible. Delegates can
chose to study a single module or take 4 modules to obtain a Certificate,
8 modules for a Diploma, or 8 modules and a in-company project to obtain
an MSc. They may join the programme at any time and, if they so wish,
defer registration for a qualification until after taking a few modules.
The large number of University partners
created a number of logistical and organisational problems, which have
been resolved in imaginative, novel ways:
Ownership: the programme is
jointly owned by the partner universities.
Quality assurance: the partners
have established a single Validation Panel to ensure that the highest
academic standards are maintained across all partners. It avoids each
University having to validate all other University's courses before
awarding a degree. This is a unique concept in the UK and has proven
to be highly successful.
Registration and Awards: delegates
register with one of the partner universities and the academic awarded
is in the name of that university. They may transfer their registration
Common procedures: UK universities
are autonomous institutions, each with its own statutes, regulations
and procedures. The consortium has endorsed a Memorandum of Agreement
documenting common procedures for the smooth running of the programme.
In a few situations, such as appeals and discipline, the individual
partner's regulations take precedence.
The difficulties in the semiconductor
sector during 1998/99 temporarily reduced demand for the course and
delayed the start until the current upturn in the industry. The first
intake of delegates was accepted during Spring 2000.
3. Organisation and Management
The management structure of the programme
is shown in the following diagram:
The technical content of each module
has been developed in close collaboration with industrial advisors.
When appropriate industrial experts act as lecturers.
5. Future Plans
This programme provides the nucleus
of a 'University Network for the Silicon Industry'. The courses and
material developed will be used to provide less intensive short courses
and as the basis for courses in Further Education colleges and schools
in the UK.
Work is also progressing with a view
to establishing a parallel Masters-level programme in IC design and
embedded software. Again, modules will be provided by UK Universities
with specialist expertise. The focus on distance learning will continue.
Delegates will be able to run a full suite of CAD tools remotely over
ISDN lines, following the lead of the IGDS course presently offered
by Bolton Institute and the University of Northumbria at Newcastle.
A part time, modular postgraduate MSc
programme has been described that has been developed to meet the particular
needs of the UK. In the future the programme will be made available
more broadly to EU partners and will be the basis of new Short Courses
designed to address the issues of the skills shortage and skills mismatch
that is evident.
The authors would like to acknowledge
the work of David MacNicol at the NMI, Sandy Peace at the University
of Surrey and all the contributors to the programme from academia and
industry. Details of the programme can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org.