Engineering a new education

It’s 12 years since the last review of engineering education, so discipline deans commissioned a two-year study of what needs to change

The report by Peter Lee and 13 colleagues for the Australian Council of Engineering Deans comprehensively catalogues what engineers will need to do and how students should be taught to do it.

Among many challenges the report calls for a new emphasis in courses.

“Industry wants to see a re-balancing of the theory-practice components of professional engineering education, with a greater emphasis on practice, including the human dimensions of engineering,” the reviewers conclude.

Rank and file academics responding to a survey specified ways to deliver.

* change in teaching practice * integrating real-world situations in teaching * using digital technologies to model engineering problems * increased industry collaboration * “integrating human/social dimensions within technical contexts” and * use of e-learning

As for issues to address, they include; * cost of scaling up for large cohorts, especially in practice-based education *limited access to industry partners and lack of work placements * limited availability of qualified teaching staff with significant industrial practice * programmes that target specific student cohorts rather than looking to a diverse student intake and * accreditation of programmes that challenge traditional models.

And because engineers are practical people they also acknowledge impediments, * resistance to change, * organisational structures and disciplinary silos

Perhaps the most optimistic outcome of the report is Professor Lee’s conclusion that engineering academics are up for the challenges. “In the past year they have demonstrated remarkable willingness to change their teaching practices in response to the new COVID environment, adapting quickly to online delivery, and willing to further adapt the curriculum. They understand industry’s desire to have students exposed more to industrial practice.”