Allocation of Capstone Project Topics - a Case Study in Ulster University

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Most professionally accredited engineering programmes at honours and master’s level require that students undertake a significant individual or capstone project in the penultimate or final year of their programme. A range of approaches is used across the higher education sector to ‘match’ a student with an appropriate project topic, inter alia, interview, project fair or auction. The advantages of a good match are self-evident: the main disadvantage of this ‘bargaining’ system is the ad-hoc nature of the process and the risk of weaker or less confident students not being allocated their topic-of-choice. In situations where this occurs, the student experience can be negatively impacted and may result in decreased levels of student engagement and student satisfaction, a key metric, in the National Student Survey. This issue, when coupled with large class sizes and busy academic departments, often results in a project allocation model that is less than optimum. Since the capstone project typically represents a large proportion of the final year marks and hence can influence the student’s degree classification significantly, engineering departments need to be aware of fairness and equity issues when project topics are allocated. This paper critically reviews best practice in the area and describes how course teams in the School of Engineering at Ulster University manage the ‘matching’ process. Despite some initial reservations about the allocation model, both staff and students report their broad satisfaction with the system.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 33rd International Manufacturing Conference
EditorsPeter Tiernan, Alan Ryan
PublisherUniversity of Limerick
ISBN (Print)978-1-5272-0850-6
Publication statusIn preparation - 30 Aug 2016


  • Industry 4.0
  • Engineering Education


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