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Last week's poll: Technical degrees

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said his party will introduce German-style ‘technical degrees’ if elected, drawing on advice from employers to provide a route to degree-level qualification for the less academically-inclined. What would be the effect of this for engineering?

 Of the 633 respondents to last week’s poll. more than a quarter – 28 per cent – thought that Ed Miliband’s plan for German-style ‘technical degrees’ would be no different from current apprenticships with a university element. However, another large group, 23 per cent, thought they had the potential to improve the practical skills of engineering graduates. Another 21 per cent worried that they could devalue engineering education, while 13 per cent thought technical degrees could be confused for academic engineering degrees ad 12 per cent thought they could boost the status of engineering.


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Readers' comments (27)

  • Isn't this what the Polytechnics used to provide before Labour encouraged them all to become Universities?

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  • It will lead to a different role in engineering than those with traditional degrees. Not a bad thing. It gives good diversity and when it comes to raw engineering skill this route could be better. There is space for both, but I feel the technical degree will be seen as inferior. Graduate roles are already easily filled and I would worry that those with technical degrees may not get employment as easily in engineering or other sectors.

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  • The German higher education system appears to work well and the Technical high schools and universities produce well qualified engineers.

    The over-expansion of the UK universities has produced over 300,000 graduates / year with devalued and in many cases practically-useless degrees that cause them continuing frustration, and force them to enter low-quality employment in the service sector.

    The closing of the excellent technical colleges was a bad error and a move to improve vocational education for most young people must be a move in the right direction. The UK needs good quality, well-paid, technicians more than it needs Ph.D.s and much more than it needs the plethora of unemployable degrees that are now being produced.

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  • To Bill,

    Polytechnics became universities in 1992 under the Tory government Labour didn't return to power until 1997.

    I am a Senior lecturer at a teaching/new university i.e. former polytechnic.


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  • Bill watson's point is well made. We have seen an erosion of vocational education under both Labour and the Conservatives. The obsession with academic education and degrees has gone to far and we need to get more balance with vocational. My Polytech engineering education did me proud.

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  • As the Polytechnics became Universities around 14 years into an 18 year Conservative administration I fail to see the connection.

    In terms of commenting on the actual poll, I think more meat would need to be put on the bones to see how different it is from an apprenticeship - would it just be adding the word "degree" to an existing system, and adding fees into the equation?

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  • Why for less academically inclined people? Starting with that pre-requisite already devalues the Technical Degree. It's not the way the Germans work. We should have Technical Colleges at 6th form level that prepare people who want to enter technical trades or do engineering degrees.

    Have people entering work that have a basic working knowledge of mechanical, and electrical engineering, solidly backed up with maths and English, with the ability to generate simple models on spreadsheets, can safely use machine and hand tools, been introduced to design tools and automation can only benefit the engineering sector.

    The Germans do this by introducing their students to commercial packages and systems such as Siemens PLCs. This helps their companies because their graduates already have a knowledge of those devices right from the start.

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  • Practical skills are different to the 'science' of engineering and should be celebrated as such.

    Let's clarify that a career as a technician is hugely valuable but is different to harnessing physics to the benefit of mankind aka Engineering.

    The continuing confusion that a man with a spanner is an engineer (wrong!) serves no one...

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  • You need to take some care not to devalue a true engineer. If the courses are less academic, then maybe you should become a technician, not an engineer.

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  • Maybe it's just the use of words that's confusing in England.
    In Germany there is the apprenticeship from which you graduate as a skilled worker.
    Then there is the master (Meister) with which you can open your own business.
    And there is the graduated engineer. A few years back it was the Dipl.-Ing. with at least 9 semester study. Now it is the Bachelor and the Master.

    In England you have the engineer as a train driver, a mechanic and a graduated engineer.

    If you visit a "doctor" in England you will never see one.
    The receptionist will decide whether you need to see a nurse or a GP, and then maybe the GP will send you off to a consultant.

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  • It's been a long time since train drivers were referred to as engineers. That's back in the age of steam, and it's mostly an American usage. Moreover, GPs are doctors.

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