Chapter: Chapter 1

1.11 The prior knowledge and experience of 21st Century students


Long, long ago in the mists of the 20th century it was possible to assume that students presenting themselves to university Engineering Schools would have constructed models using Meccano, could wire a plug for mains electricity (and would have received a 110 or 240V shock), had changed and mended the tyre on their bike, would have … Continued »

1.10 The changing nature of university student generations


Educators cannot, on their own, define and control engineering education because (at least in non-centrally-directed societies) it is necessary for students to sign up before an offered programme can be viable. It matters not whether we call them ‘Generation X or Y’ or ‘Millennials’ or ‘digital natives’ or even ‘binge drinkers’; The background, attitudes and expectations of … Continued »

1.9 Graduateness and habits of mind


With such a diversity of potential graduate outcomes, is there a set of attributes which characterises (or should characterise) a graduate? Is it meaningful to speak of ‘graduateness‘ – a phrase which enjoyed a few years of popularity around the turn of the 21st century?  [QAA, 1997] If we look in the UK Subject Benchmark … Continued »

1.8 Why educate engineers? Intellectual stimulation


To provide an intellectually stimulating education There was a time when the primary purpose of a university degree programme was what we might now call ‘general education’. The experience was intended to challenge students to think, rather than to accumulate specific knowledge or skills. This motive still survives in many Arts and Humanities disciplines and is still … Continued »

1.7 Why educate engineers? Citizens


To prepare engineering/science/numerically-literate citizens for society Many of the decisions which must be taken in a 21st century society involve an assessment of technical issues and/or quantitative data. Currently obvious examples are the use of nuclear power for electricity generation or fracking for oil or gas production: A proper approach to key decisions in these areas … Continued »

1.6 Why educate engineers? Employment


To prepare graduates for employment in engineering industry This is the ‘obvious’ intention of both undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes. The implication is that all students aspire to become professionally recognised engineers (‘Chartered‘ or ‘Incorporated’  in the UK context, ‘registered’ or ‘certified’ in some other countries) in one or more engineering disciplines. However there are number of … Continued »

1.5 Why educate engineers? Research


Even within the context of ‘education’ as defined above, there are at least four motives for providing an education in engineering. To prepare students for research A comment: Few of the students in your classes will want the same career as you. On the other hand you should not feel any need to apologise for your … Continued »

1.2 it’s not …


It might be helpful to clarify what engineering education (in the context of this book) is not. It is not about the acquisition of specific practical skills, however useful or interesting they might be to any individual. It is not about training people to run CFD codes or send CAD designs to a CNC machine … Continued »

1.4 it is more than …


An interesting sidelight on engineering is provided by the US National Academy of Engineering report written in 2008 entitled Changing the Conversation [National Academy of Engineering, 2009]. This contains the comment: ‘… current messages are framed to emphasize the strong links between engineering and just one of its attributes – the need for mathematics and science … Continued »

1.3 degree titles


In the UK, the USA and education systems based on these two models, engineering education is usually focused on generic skills and understanding which can be applied in a range of employment environments. This is reflected in degree titles such as Mechanical Engineering rather than product-specific titles such as Tractor Engineering which used to prevail in (for … Continued »