Too many Institutions?

Doctors are regulated by the General Medical Council, dentists by the General Dental Council, pharmacists by the General Pharmaceutical Council and barristers by the Bar Standards Board.

There are around 11 Royal Colleges that review a doctor’s ability to practice.  Although some dentists specialisein such a way that they have to join a medical college, their ability to practice as a dentist appears to be directly regulated by the British Dental Council.

Pharmacists become members of the Royal PharmaceuticalSociety, which only recently passed regulatory authority to a new body called the General Pharmaceutical Council. Although a pharmacist might work directly for a drugs company, in a hospital or in a community pharmacy they are all in the same society.  The Bar Standards Board appears similar to the General Dental Council in that they oversee barristers almost directly.

My observation is that most of these professions appear to have a simpler structure for professional recognition than engineering does. The most complex seems to be doctors; their membership is split among 11 royal colleges. In contrast we are split between 36 institutions, including diverse bodies such as The Welding Institute, The Institute of Acoustics, The Institution of Lighting Professionals and the Institute of Water. 

It seems apparent that 11 groups of doctors and one voice for most of the other professions provide a more coherent voice than our multitude of voices speaking for engineering.

Apparently there used to be more than 50 institutions, so we have consolidated somewhat.  It seems apparent though, that 11 groups of doctors and one voice for most of the other professions, provide a more coherent voice than our multitude of voices speaking for engineering. The Engineering Council is meant to be our single ‘voice’ but in my opinion it fails to achieve that aspect of its remit. 

The largest institution, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has a membership of around 150,000, followed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers with around 100,000 members and then the Institution of Civil Engineers with around 80,000 members. That is a total of 330,000 engineers. I’ve seen one estimate that suggests that these three biggest institutions account for around 80% of engineering institution membership, if so that would mean that there are around 410,000 members of institutions. The Engineering Council, however, states that it has around 235,000 registrants. 

Although some of the institutions’ numbers will be students and others interested ‘lay’ people, it does seem like around 175,000 people are missing off the Engineering Council register somehow. Either they refuse to pay the additional fees or they just don’t see much point in gaining professional recognition. 

Something else I observed is that equivalent organizations to the Engineering Council provide statistics for their respective professions.  The Engineering Council doesn’t seem to do this but Engineering UK does.  As they also lead the Big Bang event, which is doing a good job of raising the profile of engineering, it seems to me that they are doing a lot of what the Engineering Council should be doing. Maybe we should all stop paying the Engineering Council and send the money to Engineering UK instead!