Imagining engineering as a liberal arts degree

A major new reports says it could be investigated

The Australian Council of Engineering Deans wants to know what the profession will require in 2035, so they asked Caroline Crosthwaite (emeritus professor Uni Queensland) and colleagues to ask experts and research alternatives for a scoping study.

Which is what they comprehensively did, producing a deep dive into what engineers will do and the education they will need. The report points to five core issues for education,

* programs, and pathways for “a more diverse cohort of students”.  This could mean engineering, “reimagined as a ‘new liberal arts degree’ with a problem finding/solving and design focus, mathematics and science foundations, and the development of engineering thinking, judgment while fostering the capacity for lifelong learning?” Double degrees and/or micro credentials could “contribute more towards meeting future education requirements.”

* importance of T shaped skills: (expert knowledge and skills as the vertical, collaboration and learning as the horizontal

* changed curriculum contexts and pedagogies: “greater use of open-ended problems, and stronger engagement with industry and community is needed. Problem finding as well as problem solving will be required. Pedagogies that nurture the development of engineering habits of mind as well as more general learning habits of mind are required.”

* impact on education provider structures and cultures: “The development of technical and professional skills supporting collaborative, inter-disciplinary team-work and work outside conventional engineering roles appears likely to be a more important part of an engineering education for the future.”

* new kinds of engineering educators: “more practice-oriented, able to better engage with and inspire students, able to use appropriate pedagogies, and able adapt to the broadening requirements of engineering education.”

There is a great deal of detail in the report and many ideas that will challenge the set-in-their ways – the one which some might struggle with is the prospect of engineering reimagined as a “new liberal arts degree.”


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education