FPGA is great for, like stated, heavy duty on the fly pixel by pixel colorspace conversion, compression/decompession, or encoding/decoding signal standards. And the devices are great for general purpose stuff too. For sure timing is much more deterministic than uP, but less so than CPLD.
But at DMS there is a less electronics focused interest in general. I don't know if its ADHD or what, but folks today are able to get more result with less effort than those of us who made stuff 30 years ago. I had no arduino I could use to quickly rip out a design. If I wanted to make something digital in nature, I had to spec in a processor onto my design and get it working as appropriate, or hack something together off of a much less developed reference card. Or select FPGA and drop it in. And the systems were much more difficult to learn their languages, and VHDL was no quick learning curve, as mentioned.
I think that given the quicker/easier availability of results for makers, we now have a heightened expectation from makers. They want the thing working, and I mean fast. I ran into this with LabVIEW class. Yes it was interesting and well known to be incredibly powerful. But the notion of spending weeks to get comfortable with a new language with the complexity of LabVIEW put off most folks. And why not? I was able to run my arduino flashing lights on a design I cooked up in literally 10 minutes of class (thanks @Bill).
I fear that technology has advanced. And I suspect that our tools will need to advance and meet the new expectations as well. That being said, I am in favor of having FPGA expertise in house. And I hope for good turnout, and expect you will get it. I got it with LabVIEW initially. But I also want to encourage the good folks at DMS to hang in there, as some of the best topics around are those that take many tedious learning sessions to get rolling well. Examples: FPGAs, LabVIEW, C and other text languages, HSPICE and others, MIcrowave Office, LTSpice, the list goes on and on.
For these slower learning curves, learning may not be pleasant at first. And it might take even a few days to weeks to really start to get dangerous with the stuff. But the impact and usefulness of the art you learn is often proportional to the time it takes to become proficient. In other words, you have a lot to gain in becoming a good VHDL programmer or LabVIEW programmer. So hang in there, and remain patient. And most importantly, be sure to use your new skill outside of class immediately upon learning it. This is where learning really occurs..application and use of your new craft.