Engineering courses face closure

Sartor shake-out spells the end for at least a third of universities’ and colleges present degrees

Plans for a radical shake-out of Britain’s engineering degree system – to be published on 11 September – will cause at least a third of courses to close or downgrade within five years, according to the Engineering Council, which has masterminded the changes.

Manufacturing engineering courses are set to be the worst hit.

The all-new Engineering Council ‘bible’ on course accreditation and professional training – Sartor, or Standards and Routes to Registration – will set tougher entry standards for courses leading to Chartered Engineer status, and is to refuse accreditation to courses whose students fall short on A-level or equivalent qualifications.

These courses will be forced to close, or convert to a less theory-based syllabus leading to the status of Incorporated Engineer.

‘About a third to a half of all current engineering courses will have to close or adapt,’ said Peter Swindlehurst, Engineering Council executive officer and co-author of the report.

The move follows a decline in numbers of engineering graduates and criticisms that there are too many academic engineering courses and not enough bright students to go round.

‘We are reluctant to accredit courses that are applying the usual difficult exams, but failing three quarters of their students,’ said Swindlehurst.

The Engineering Council’s plan is that courses which downgrade, leading to Incorporated Engineer status, will also be eligible for continuing education and training for working engineers, another part of Sartor.

But some universities will still be able to take any mix of students, provided they impose a first year assessment examination and offer alternative degree courses for the two streams of students this creates.

These will be channelled into courses leading to either Incorporated or Chartered status, possibly offered in consortium with partner universities.

‘The imposition of input standards is an important public signal that engineering courses leading to Chartered Engineer status will turn out people intellectually equipped for the job,’ said Dr Trevor Evans, chief executive at the Institution of Chemical Engineers. ‘For too long in schools, many engineering courses were seen as a sink destination for the weakest part of the sixth form.’

Sartor details, page 2