University closes engineering school

Middlesex University has blamed a huge drop in the number of applicants for this week’s announcement that it is to close its 600-place engineering school. It also warned that other engineering institutions are facing similar problems. Two hundred and fifty students at the 25-year-old School of Engineering will be forced to transfer to other colleges […]

Middlesex University has blamed a huge drop in the number of applicants for this week’s announcement that it is to close its 600-place engineering school.

It also warned that other engineering institutions are facing similar problems.

Two hundred and fifty students at the 25-year-old School of Engineering will be forced to transfer to other colleges and universities at the end of July 2000. The worst-affected subjects are mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering.

Of the remaining students some will graduate at the end of the academic year, while those on the popular product design course will be moved to another department within the university.

A spokeswoman for the college said: `Despite an advertising campaign costing tens of thousands of pounds, student numbers were 26% below the target for the year. It is now financially unviable for us to continue teaching the subject.

`The problem of too few applicants does not only concern Middlesex. There is too much provision for the numbers applying for engineering courses across the UK,’ she added.

The college rejected the idea of running the school down over a three-year period because of the high cost of engineering courses.

Judith Secker, deputy director of the Engineering Council, denied there was a lack of potential engineering students. `The more prestigious universities are seeing an increase in the number of applicants,’ she said.

`The disappointing thing about Middlesex is that it had some very imaginative courses for incorporated engineers, which is something we are trying to promote.’

The closure may mark the start of a general trend towards fewer but higher quality university engineering departments.

Ann Bailey, head of education at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said: `You need to have adequate resources for quality courses. If that can be better achieved by collaboration between universities, then that’s fine.’

Most of the school’s 14 academic and 26 technical staff are expected to be redeployed or take voluntary redundancy. `We are very much hoping to avoid compulsory redundancies,’ the spokeswoman said.

* Leader comment, p12