Process Automation, Instrumentation and Control (PAIC) postgraduate programme

Welcome to the Process Automation, Instrumentation and Control part-time postgraduate programme and CPD modules.

The type of plant used in the chemical and process industries is specialised, extensive and invariably automated. Over the years the dependence upon automation has grown and continues to grow inexorably. Today, it is inconceivable that anybody would contemplate building a new plant or carrying out a major refurbishment without putting in comprehensive instrumentation, control and related systems.

That growth has been driven in part by developments in control technology because the systems themselves have evolved in both capacity and functionality. But the primary driver has been economic, recognising that the technology can deliver substantive benefits. Process automation has become the primary means of realising many, if not most, aspects of operability, productivity, quality, reliability, safety, security, sustainability and viability. 

Control systems, with their real-time and historic data, are increasingly seen as a platform for realising further higher level benefits. For example, advanced control techniques such as predictive control and optimisation are becoming the norm. Systems also now support a variety of powerful tools and techniques for analysing process data, abstracting statistical information and manipulating it for management purposes. 

Process automation therefore includes the immediate objectives of process control but also addresses the wider issues of enterprise management. It is an interdisciplinary subject, lying at the interfaces between chemical and electrical engineering, instrumentation and control, maths and computing, software and IT, business and management.

In many respects, the development of automation systems can be more complex than the design of the plant being controlled itself. Unfortunately there is a chronic shortage of personnel with the depth of understanding and breadth of knowledge necessary to apply the techniques and technology involved.

The Process Automation, Instrumentation and Control (PAIC) programme has been established to meet that need. It is endorsed and supported by the Partnership in Automation and Control Training (PACT) which involves a consortium of major companies in the chemicals and process industry.

The PAIC programme consists of a suite of optional modules within the framework of an accredited MSc degree and is organised on a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) basis.  
It is aimed at, and designed around, the needs of personnel working in the industry in some control and automation capacity. 

The structure of the programme is:

  • MSc in Process Automation, Instrumentation and Control, (part-time);
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Process Automation, Instrumentation and Control, (part-time);
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Process Automation, Instrumentation and Control, (part-time); and,
  • 16 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) modules.

Download the PAIC programme brochure.

Details of the PAIC programme

Progression of the postgraduate programme

Image: Progression on the Postgraduate Programme Featuring a common entry point, the structure of the programme gives a range of academic options, depending on the student’s desire for academic advancement, their availability of time to study, their career goals and ambition.

All students will be initially enrolled on the Certificate, and will then progress on to the Diploma, and then the MSc degree as they successfully complete each stage of the programme.

The programme contains a common suite of 16 modules – both core and elective, with some having prerequisites. The number of core versus elective modules per award will depend on the pathway and previous experience of each student. Students will be advised by our staff of their possible individual programme of study at the onset of their studies.

Postgraduate Certificate
The programme for the Postgraduate Certificate comprises four modules which normally would include the relevant core modules. On attaining the Certificate students may progress to commence the Diploma programme and study four more modules.

Postgraduate Diploma
The programme for the Postgraduate Diploma is that of the MSc degree but without the industrial project.

MSc Degree
MSc students will have typically taken two to three taught modules per year with completion of eight modules in three to four years. Allowing an extra one year for the industrial project, the expectation is of completion of the programme within four to five years.

The industrial project
The MSc requires completion of an industrial project and it is the culmination of the programme. It represents a major piece of design, development or research work done in-company. Supervision is carried out on a joint academic/industrial basis. The expectation is that it will take a total of 780 hours, equivalent to four months full-time work plus time to write the dissertation.

The programme modules

The Programme Modules

The 16 modules within the programme are all delivered with the following essential characteristics:

  • organised for delivery at Imperial in one week blocks;
  • attended by students typically aged 25 to 50, some sponsored by their companies;
  • all students are treated equally, irrespective of their professional or academic background;
  • a strong applications emphasis – many lectures taught by industrialists;
  • a balance between breadth and depth, technique and technology, conventional and modern, theory and practice, information and understanding;
  • intensive tuition in small student groups with similar interests but differing backgrounds; and,
  • every module taken as part of the programme is assessed through a written examination and an assignment.

The modules are organised in one-week blocks of intensive tuition which enables students to balance their studies alongside work and domestic commitments. At the completion of each module is an assignment equivalent to another week’s full-time study, carried out in the student’s own time.

Students typically complete two or three modules per year although if they have satisfactorily progressed to the Postgraduate Diploma they may complete their eight modules in 12 months if they wish.

A rich variety of elective modules caters for the students’ differing backgrounds (chemical, instrumentation etc.) and enables them to select a path through the programme according to their interests, needs and future career direction.

The modules

Some modules are of a foundation nature, the emphasis being on breadth rather than depth. Their purpose is to fill in gaps in students’ background knowledge. The emphasis of the other modules is on depth of understanding – theoretical, technological and applied. These modules are taken according to students’ interests and requirements.

Courses and Advisory Recommendations
It is noted that every student will have a unique background, hence course recommendations are advisory rather than prescribed for all.Students with Ch Eng backgroundStudents with EE Eng backgroundStudents with other background
Advanced Process Automation
Advanced Process Control
Batch Processing and Automation
Chemical Engineering Principles  
Classical Control Systems Design ο ο ο
Control Schemes & Strategies ο ο ο
Control Systems Technology
Dynamics & Control of Distillation Columns
Fuzzy, Neural & Expert Systems
Instrumentation and Measurement
Management of Automation Projects
Mathematics and MATLAB
Modelling & Simulation ο ο ο
Modern Control Systems Design ο ο ο
Optimisation & Scheduling
Process Analytical Technology
 ◊ Core course      
 ο Prerequisite for one or more other courses      
 ♦ Elective course      
Table showing core and elective courses for students with a variety of educational background

In general there is a free choice of any eight of the 16 modules: there are, however, some important constraints. Some elective modules require another module to be completed beforehand – these are indicated by the prerequisites listed in the table below.

The courses below are prerequisite for the courses indicated on the rightAdvanced Process AutomationAdvanced Process ControlClassical Control Systems DesignDynamics & Control of Distillation Columns
Chemical Engineering Principles        
Classical Control Systems Design        
Control Schemes & Strategies      
Mathematics and MATLAB    
Modelling & Simulation      
Modern Control Systems Design      
Course Pre-requisites
The courses below are prerequisite for the courses indicated on the rightFuzzy, Neural & Expert SystemsModelling & SimulationModern Control Systems DesignOptimisation & Scheduling
Chemical Engineering Principles      
Classical Control Systems Design      ♦  
Control Schemes & Strategies        
Mathematics and MATLAB    
Modelling & Simulation      
Modern Control Systems Design      
Course Pre-requisites

Where a prerequisite is indicated, it dictates the order in which a student must take the modules. The modules are grouped into the following three categories, with the content of individual modules detailed on separate pages.

Core
Chemical Engineering Principles
Instrumentation & Measurement
Mathematics & MATLAB

Technology & practice orientated
Advanced Process Automation
Batch Processing & Automation
Dynamics & Control of Distillation Columns
Fuzzy, Neural & Expert Systems
Process Analytical Technology

Theoretical & technique orientated
Control Schemes and Strategies
Control Systems Technology
Management of Automation Projects
Advanced Process Control
Classical Control Systems Design
Modelling & Simulation
Modern Control Systems Design
Optimization & Scheduling

Employer benefits

Should you be sponsored by your employer to participate in this programme of studies in Process Automation, Instrumentation and Control, your company will be nurturing and developing an employee who will add increasing value to its business.

Not only will your employer benefit from your learning but they will also gain:

  •  an injection of the latest thinking and technical skills,
  • your access to Imperial’s resources and events,
  • your networking and exchanging of ideas with other like-minded individuals,
  • your fresh insight into specific problems or technical issues,
  • your selection of modules specifically designed to address the needs of modern industry,
  • and your desire to hit the ground running as you will immediately apply your new learning within your organisation.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Imperial’s Centre for Continuing Professional Development addresses the life-long learning needs of professionals through the delivery of postgraduate short course training. The 16 programme modules are also offered as CPD courses through the Centre.

CPD short courses are delivered cyclically and to see when a preferred subject is being delivered, as well as finding details of how to book places and fees, please visit our schedule of modules.

Certificates of attendance will be issued on completion of a CPD short course. A CPD short course does not feature an examination or assessment. Therefore we strongly advocate that students wishing to gain a qualification should apply for the Postgraduate Certificate which is achieved by taking and passing the assessments for four modules.