"Engineering education has lost contact with its related profession"
1st December 2014
Engineering education has lost contact with its related profession. University departments are, for the most part, staffed by scientists and graduates with no industry experience. And the graduates there have no real engineering knowledge: the courses they passed taught science and mathematics in place of engineering, contextualised only by their lecturer's non-engineering research.
Degrees accredited by UK engineering institutions are supposed to provide the academic formation of a chartered engineer. Like many professionals, chartered engineers need both an academic education and professional training.
But education and training have become too separated. Universities believe their job is to provide a general scientific and mathematical education, with a view to producing the next generation of researchers. They don't see it as their responsibility to create engineers - that's down to industry.
The Conceiving, Designing, Implementing, Operating (CDIO) - an educational framework originally conceived at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - has recognised this issue, and is making laudable efforts to address it. But even CDIO is run by university lecturers rather than engineers. Their solutions are, at times, too theoretical, and their contextualisation misses the mark.
Engineering departments need professional engineers. Much like the practitioners found in medical and law schools, they are capable of adding realism to university courses.
Professional engineering practice is mostly about exercising semi-intuitive professional judgement supported by back of the envelope calculations. Academic practice focuses on exercises which can be solved using the pure science, higher mathematics and computer modelling which interests lecturers. Real engineering problems are too complex to be addressed in this way.
One suspects that there might be a class issue at work here. Universities welcome surgeons and barristers to part-time teaching in a way they do not professional engineers. This may be explained by engineers unfortunately sharing a title with those men and women in overalls with dirty hands.
A talk to students by what are called industrialists in academia (people who have worked as engineers, aka engineers) is considered by academics an opportunity for a few amusing anecdotes, but lacking sufficient rigour to be taken seriously by either staff or students. The opinion of industrialists on what should be taught by universities is not really welcomed - though lecturers are smarmy enough to your face when you are giving out free lectures.
Read More: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2014/nov/21/university-engineering-departments-overalls-research
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