Sartor deadline missed

The institutions are still debating details of engineering qualifications reform

At least two of the big four engineering institutions will not meet today’s deadline for responses to the Engineering Council’s Sartor 97 proposals for reform of professional engineering qualifications.

The changes would mean most new entrants would take a three-year, BEng degree leading to incorporated status. There would be higher entry standards leading to chartered status, four years of study and more difficult professional reviews.

While the big four institutions – mechanical, civil, electrical and chemical – support Sartor’s broad aims of raising qualification standards, there is much debate on how this can be achieved.

The IMechE and IEE say it could be May before they are ready to present their reponses, while the IChemE is not certain of meeting this week’s deadline.

`It’s more important to get the new system right than meet a deadline,’ said Peter Wason, the IMechE’s director of professional development. `We’re still putting together the details and are also anxious to take account of the Dearing report on higher education.’ This is not due until July.

The IEE said the Sartor proposals needed further work. Academics are concerned that candidates for one of the three new options could find themselves in limbo with no career path. Such students would take a three-year BEng degree with the option to qualify for the new higher grade of chartered engineer through taking a `matching section’ of further study.

`We want a better definition of the matching section and some professional examinations incorporated into the Sartor framework,’ said Clive Holtham, IEE director of qualifications.

The ICE has largely rejected the details of Sartor and is putting forward rival proposals. This would leave chartered engineers representing the bulk of the profession with a new `superchartered’ status, open to all after a further professional review.

Professor Jack Levy, director of engineers’ regulation at the Engineering Council said there are no plans to put back the deadline for responses.

`We’re trying to take account of all views. All the bodies are in favour of raising standards to ensure we keep a world-competitive position in engineering.’

By Arlene Foster