The Engineering Council’s vote late last month to go ahead with the Sartor 97 proposals might come as a surprise to many used to the complexities of institutional decision making.
After all the positioning and lobbying done by the engineering institutions, the council has done well to get some form of agreement.
But there is still a long way to go in the process of creating a better educated engineering elite. Although the council can claim the support of most of the engineering institutions, the EEF and the DTI for its proposals, it still faces some formidable hurdles.
Not least, the Dearing report on higher education due next month could throw many ideas back into discussion.
Much of the detail still has to be thrashed out and as we report this week, the idea of choosing students for the top ranks of the profession by their performance in A-levels looks a difficult process to defend. Students with the equivalent of three Cs would join a three-year degree leading to incorporated status. Only those with higher grades would make it to chartered engineer.
Opposition to the idea from the Engineering Professors’ Council and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals is fierce.
There is much logic in their opposition. It makes sense to open up opportunities for high-level qualifications to students who have come through a variety of routes – academic and vocational. The open opportunities principal has driven much of the thinking on improving vocational training standards in engineering and works well. Creating second class citizens at 18 will not help improve engineering excellence or the profession’s standing as an attractive career.