A senior industry figure has warned that universities could scupper long-term plans to ease the engineering skills shortage.
Speaking at the launch of the new Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE), last week, Engineering Council chairman Dr Alan Rudge said that universities had shown a marked reluctance to back new courses aimed at more practical engineering skills.
‘When it comes to engineering, too many universities want to be like Oxford or Cambridge or Imperial College,’ he said. ‘Only a few have seen that there is a huge untapped market out there for a new kind of engineering degree.’
Rudge’s comments came as the IIE pledged to persuade industry that the new institution had the technical skills that would fill many of the gaps within some sectors of industry.
But there are growing concerns that the supply of incorporated engineers will be hampered by shortages of suitable graduates.
‘If universities do not play ball, all this will be for nought,’ Rudge said of the IIE’s planned campaign.
While some universities are launching new BSc (Hons) courses that focus on a more practical engineering content, many remain resistant to what they seem to think of as ‘dumbing down’ of the traditional engineering syllabus.
There are currently only 35 accredited courses in the UK leading to incorporated engineer status. Rudge said there should be several hundred on offer to allow students sufficient choice.
Under plans announced last autumn in the new Standards and Routes to Registration document, four-year degree courses for all chartered engineers will be phased in, accompanied by three-year degree courses for incorporated engineers. These IEng courses have been slow to catch on so far.
Figures show that chartered engineers outnumber incorporated engineers by a ratio of about two to one. Many people in industry believe that this figure should be reversed in the near future to deal with skills shortages.
The IIE has been formed from a merger of the Institution of Electronics and Electrical Incorporated Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Incorporated Engineers, and the Institute of Engineers and Technicians. It currently has nearly 40,000 members on its books.
Interview, page 15