Our contribution is part of a broader study conducted in cooperation with the national accreditation body Engineers Ireland that examined the conceptualisation and education of ethics in engineering programmes in Ireland. The paper is a qualitative examination of the use of case studies in engineering ethics education and includes 23 engineering programmes from 6 higher education institutions in Ireland. The qualitative study aims to determine (RQ1) how cases are selected, (RQ2) the goals envisioned for engineering ethics case instruction, (RQ3) the characteristics of the scenarios employed and (RQ4) the preferred application by instructors. A first finding notes the diverse set of goals and application of ethics case studies. The focus is more on decision-making in professional contexts and less on power relations, equity and the broader societal mission of engineering. The second finding highlights the discrepancy between how instructors employ cases and their preferred application. Engineering ethics cases typically include individualistic, hypothetical and historical scenarios. Nevertheless, instructors favour immersive cases set in real or realistic contexts of practice, containing factual or real-time data, which can provoke students to reflect on broader ethical issues. Considering this aspirational discrepancy, we conclude with recommendations that can guide the development of engineering ethics case instruction.