Recruitment and Admissions Forum 2021 webinar series

The EPC is delighted to announce the annual Recruitment & Admissions Forum, a web series again this year, with the theme ‘Doing it differently’. Building on our popular webcasts over the last 18 months, we are offering you three distinct online events – totally free to members – during November and December. As always, our line-up of speakers is second to none.

The Forum is aimed at all staff involved in recruitment and admissions in any engineering discipline – from early career staff through lecturers and researchers to department heads, deans of faculties, PVCs and VCs – anyone with an interest in recruitment and admissions who wishes to stay on top of the unprecedented changes and to develop their strategy and practice.

EPC RECRUITMENT & ADMISSIONS FORUM WEB SERIES: Doing it differently – Getting in: Entrance requirements, 24th November 2021

We open our Recruitment & Admissions Forum with a deep dive into widening access, increasing diversity and the role of admissions. How are different types of provider challenging established practice? What is the place and power of entry requirements? How can we do it differently?

To explore these themes and look for innovative solutions, we will float a series of provocative blue-sky ideas and invite our panel of experts – and our audience – to explore what we could do differently. Do we need entry requirements? Is Maths A level important? Should we be more radical with contextual offers and other levers for diverse student recruitment?

Book your tickets now.

EPC RECRUITMENT & ADMISSIONS FORUM WEB SERIES: Doing it differently – Getting out there: International students and postgrads, 1 December 2021

Continuing our Recruitment & Admissions Forum Doing it Differently theme, we’ll be looking at innovative practice in recruiting international and PGT students.

We are honoured to be joined by Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, to present an overview of what can be done differently in the competitive landscape to attract international postgraduate students in the light of Brexit and the Covid pandemic. This will be followed by a Q&A with Vivienne and a panel discussion to explore different perspectives between providers and over time.

Book your tickets now.

EPC RECRUITMENT & ADMISSIONS FORUM WEB SERIES: Doing it differently – Getting on: Lifelong Learning, 8 December 2021

The third in our 2021 Recruitment & Admissions Forum Series with a deep dive into lifelong learning. How can we realise a vision for lifelong learning? What can we do differently to maximise the impact of policy change? Introduced by Martin Eason, who will outline provocative ideas about what we could do differently to promote lifelong learning for discussion by our lively panel of experts and our audience.

We close the series with the launch of the EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey results, including the opportunity for questions.

Book your tickets now.

Brexit impact on UK’s engineering education sector

Exploring EU student and staff experience

We are pleased to announce the publication of the EPC’s joint study with UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education on the experiences and perceptions of European (EU) engineering students and academic staff in UK universities.

The findings of Brexit impact on UK’s engineering education sector: Exploring EU students and staff experiences shine a spotlight on the importance of the long history of collaboration and shared purpose with the UK’s direct geographical neighbours to advancing excellence in engineering and engineering research. The research demonstrates that the readiest and most promising opportunities are in preserving and strengthening existing relationships, exploiting geographical proximity, to further research collaborations.

Drawing on surveys, interviews and data analysis, the independent research was conducted to support an evidence-based approach to the recruitment and retention of European talent into UK engineering education, research and practice through understanding the concerns and expectations of European students and academic staff.

The views expressed within were made at a particular point in time before the EU and UK negotiators reached an agreement on 24 December 2020. The interviews were conducted before the General Election in December 2019 and due to covid-19, the surveys were delayed to June 2020.

Financial barriers threaten the future of engineering EU student recruitment

While a UK engineering education is still attractive to a majority of EU students, at different levels of study, interview and survey data support the idea that EU undergraduate students who started degrees after June 2016 were taking the opportunity to study engineering in the UK as a ‘last chance’ before changes to fees, funding and visa requirements. Being eligible for home fee status and financial support from the UK’s Student Finance were among the most important factors when making the decision to study engineering in the UK.

Of our survey sample, only one in five students – including 8% of undergraduates, 23.8% of Integrated Masters, 16.7% of postgraduates and 28.6% PhDs – would have applied to a UK university today if they were not eligible for a student loan or full scholarship. According to these findings, the announced changes in tuition fees, access to student finance and visa requirements for courses starting in academic year 2021/22 might be expected to have a severe impact on the recruitment of EU engineering students.

EU academics forewarn an engineering “brain drain”

Brexit consequences for EU engineering academic staff are far-reaching. Academics reported that four years of uncertainty around a UK-EU deal has already negatively impacted collaboration with European partners and access to funding: since the Brexit referendum outcome, there are cases where UK partners were excluded from EU-funded research proposals with well-established and new EU partners. Moreover, Brexit has exacerbated EU nationals’ perceptions of not feeling welcome in the UK.

Whereas EU engineering academics agree that the UK’s universities provide the resources and opportunities for career progression and research leadership, only one third of survey respondents would have come to the UK if they had had to make that decision today. Freedom of movement, access to research funding and being afforded equal rights with British citizens will be key to informing their decision to remain in the UK – or to leave – in the near future.

Discouraged by research funding difficulties and worried by uncertainties in securing their rights to live and work in the UK, EU engineering academics said they may consider leaving the UK to seek jobs on the Continent, mainly in their home countries or in Switzerland, Germany and France, as they believe “all the engineering opportunities are in the EU”. As shown in an analysis of HESA data, this “brain-drain”, as one EU academic put it, could be particularly damaging for engineering research: one in four research-only engineering academics is European, of which 75% are on fixed-term contracts.

A fractured pipeline for the UK engineering workforce

One third of EU academics surveyed came to the UK initially to study as undergraduate and/or postgraduate engineering students before becoming academics. Many EU students plan to stay in the UK after graduation to work as engineers. However, changes to study conditions and the UK’s points-based immigration system are seen as heavy barriers to EU nationals. They are likely to have a negative impact not only on student and academic staff recruitment, but also on the UK’s engineering research and innovation base, and on its much-needed, diverse and talented workforce.

Given a historical reliance on European engineers in the UK workforce, the skills pipeline might be compromised if they no longer regarded the UK as an attractive place for prospective and existing graduates and for academics to pursue their future career plans.

Recommendations

The findings shine a spotlight on the importance of the long history of collaboration and shared purpose with the UK’s direct geographical neighbours to advancing excellence in engineering and engineering research.

While the opportunities to develop new partnerships with countries outside the European Union are desirable and welcome, it would be inadvisable to develop these at the expense of well-established relationships within closer reach of the UK. The research demonstrates that the readiest and most promising opportunities are in preserving and strengthening existing relationships, exploiting geographical proximity, to further research collaborations.

“[Since Brexit] it feels it will become more difficult to get grant applications to work with our direct geographical neighbours. We’re looking at a lot of partnerships with India at the moment, with Mexico. This is really good but traveling to India and Mexico is by far more difficult than interacting with people from Europe. (…) It makes these kinds of collaborations very difficult, actually. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about people and unless you interact in person, at least every once in a while, with researchers, things just don’t happen. It makes things much more difficult”.

To reinforce its leading role in engineering innovation, the UK’s new strategy should promote inclusive and mutual agreements in granting access and funds to research collaborations with European partners; support student and staff interchange between the UK and the EU; and facilitate purchase and distribution of specialised equipment and technology.

The post-Brexit agreement to secure participation, and access to funds, by UK-based researchers in Horizon Europe is beneficial. Further reassurance needs to be signaled by the UK Government to support the re-establishment of UK researchers’ leading role in European projects.

Rather than replacing Erasmus+, the new Turing scheme should expand on the UK’s participation by enabling engagement in European student exchange. This should be a springboard to wider international engagement in Europe and globally.

Barriers to EU engineering students and academic staff to study and work in the UK have a negative impact on the diversity of experiences and learning opportunities of UK nationals studying in UK universities. UK’s universities are among the most international universities in the world. Being part of a diverse and welcoming university environment was regarded as one of the most important reasons to study, teach and research engineering in the UK in this study and many other surveys. Without promoting this diversity, UK students will also lose important opportunities to engage with different ways of teaching, learning and research in engineering.

(…) we do have a lot of students here in universities who are coming from mainland Europe. We need that influx and the influence of people coming in with slightly different backgrounds and ideas to strengthen the courses here by adding that aspect of variety. As we’re making sure that we do keep those opportunities would be very beneficial. (…) having to limit that in just the UK might reduce our impact and ability to push the boundaries of research”.

Notes to editors:

  1. “Brexit impact on UK’s engineering education sector: Exploring EU students and staff experiences” is a Royal Academy of Engineering funded project by UCL Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) and the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC).
  2. A more detailed report can be downloaded below.

What is Engineering? Subject coding: HECoS, JACS and engineering, an unofficial guide

If you follow the HE data environment, or even just the policy headlines, you’ll probably have noticed that a new subject coding system – the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) – has now been fully implemented. HECoS replaces the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) shared by UCAS and HESA and commonly used across the sector; the detail behind what official statistics consider subject, subject group, subject line, or discipline. Luckily for us, Engineering features distinctly in both JACS and HECoS.

But first more techy background. The HECoS vocabulary (refined to version 9 currently, despite its appearance in open HESA data for the first time in the latest, 2019/20, data series) is confusing for most, and a minefield for the uninitiated. Although the codes are randomly generated and have no inherent meaning in themselves, for the purposes of analysis, each code is grouped into subject areas at a few levels of detail – the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH). And although we are advised that CAH can be applied against both the old (JACS) and new (HECoS) coding frames with caution, disappointingly this does not allow for consistent analysis.

So, what does this mean for Engineering? In short, you will continue to be able to see patterns of application, acceptance (UCAS) enrolment and other student population data (HESA) for the engineering labels you recognise, plus a new bioengineering classification:

  • mechanical engineering
  • production and manufacturing engineering
  • aeronautical and aerospace engineering
  • naval architecture
  • bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering
  • civil engineering
  • electrical and electronic engineering
  • chemical, process and energy engineering
  • others in engineering

Aside from the change in the order in which they’re typically presented, aerospace becomes aeronautical and aerospace engineering; electronic and electrical becomes electrical and electronic engineering; and bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering gets its own line. Plus, for general engineering, you now need to think in terms of engineering (non-specific).

But this is not just semantics. Quite apart from the change in culture and practice in course coding at source, some fine jiggery pokery means apparently like-for-like comparisons are not so. Not least, the new bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering courses have come from elsewhere, including elsewhere in engineering. Combinations within engineering have also been (more accurately) absorbed.

And at a discipline-by-discipline level:

  • general engineering exports courses to medicine, physics, geography and architecture, not to mention those that the new engineering (non-specific) imports from other subjects.
  • mechanical engineering passes numerous course codes across to production and manufacturing engineering as well as (naval) architecture and physics.
  • electronic and electrical engineering notably redistributes robotics and cybernetics to production and manufacturing engineering and virtual reality engineering to computing. It also helps to populate the new bioengineering classification.
  • civil engineering and aerospace engineering are truer to form but send a few JACS codes off into other engineering disciplines (and physics for aerospace).
  • production and manufacturing engineering exports nothing (but remember it’s quite an importer from other engineering disciplines at least).
  • chemical, process and energy engineering appears at a glance to be least touched by the changes.

Of course, this is a summary, not a detailed mapping. The takeaway is that, despite what the CAH titles may belie, these are not like-for-like mappings and are not comparable. To this end, the chart below shows UCAS accepted applicant data for 2019/20 and 2020/21 by CAH3 in engineering and its equivalent JACS3. There are clear differences between the CAH and JACS 2-year pairings, whilst the 2-year trends for most are broadly similar, albeit less pronounced by CAH.

Click on the chart to expand

The chart and underlying data / trends are also provided in a spreadsheet we’ve prepared to help you map in detail, should you want to do so.

A list of HECoS CAH codes (at levels 1 and 3) aligned to each JACS subject group can be found in the Summary JACS to CAH pivot worksheet. The reverse mapping is provided as Summary CAH to JACS pivot. The full version 1.2 HECoS Lookup, identifying each JACS subject group, course code and label (which relates to this season’s HESA data series but expires at the end of July) by HECoS code, label, CAH1, 2 and 3 is also provided, including summaries of their mapping category and relation (see remaining tabs for mapping and definitions).

Further support documentation available on the HESA website.

Data Blog: Become an expert in UCAS engineering data in ten steps

Spoiler: there is no data in this data blog! Instead, we bring you a mixed media UCAS engineering data masterclass to share what we’ve learned about the tools available this year while looking to analyse it.

You may already know that you can access engineering data using MS Power BI at discipline level on the UCAS website. If not, let me excite you.

You can quickly and easily produce headline tables and charts filtering UCAS applications and acceptances profiles for engineering, drilling down into a host of variables including the cohort’s gender, age and where they are from.

Below are EPC’s engineering focused instructions, coupled with a brief video tutorial to walk you through visually.

Don’t worry, an analysis will follow. In the meantime, if you discover any more UCAS self-service details, options or top tips, please do post a comment below.

And if you’d like to be involved in the development of the interactive data analysis tools planned for EPC online, please contact us.

Click to watch this 12 minute guide

Masterclass step-by-step guide

1. Go to UCAS.com and scroll down to Data and Analysis. Select Undergraduate statistics and reports and then End of cycle data resources. Alternatively, go directly via this link.

2. By selecting either Acceptances, Applications or Offers you can filter acceptances and main scheme applications, offers and offer rates for engineering.

Top tip: These all seem to lead to the same place, where there is a check box to choose from again in the top right hand corner.

Top tip: You can filter the chart by engineering but for better detail in linked charts and tables, leave the filter on all and click on the engineering colour in the key or in the chart itself.

3. Once you’ve homed in on engineering, you can filter or drill down by

  • Domicile
  • Age group
  • Gender

Top tip: We couldn’t find an export or copy functionality, so if you want to copy a whole crosstab into another document or report, you may need to resort to the downloadable datasets (see 7. Below).

4. By selecting Unconditional offers you can view unconditional offers (18-year-olds) by type of offer (direct unconditional, conditional unconditional, other unconditional or conditional component) and proportion.

Top tip: This includes English, Welsh and Northern Irish applicants only.

5. Technical notes and definitions are available above in the help section of the dashboard.

Top tip: You won’t get far this year without deciding whether to identify engineering using JACS3 – available at discipline (detailed subject, sometimes known as subject line) level which is available for 2007-2020 – or its replacement subject coding scheme, HECoS (detailed subject, sometimes known as CAH3, which is available for 2019-20 only. These aren’t comparable and the latest HESA data is only available by HECoS. If you want to know the details, a quick engineering guide and an unofficial engineering mapping spreadsheet is available here.

6. If all of this is too much, EPC members can download the headline applications and acceptances data from the EPC website.

Top tip: This is a password protected members page. If you are an EPC member and don’t know your password, please contact us.

7. Or, if you’ve got the bug, even more data is available (for home students) if you’re prepared to download some datasets. A full list of datasets, variables and combinations available can be found here.

Top tip: This is also your reference guide if you want to understand which of the many datasets you need to download to undertake your own analysis.

8. Using the datasets, you can filter applications (including applications type) and acceptances (including acceptance route) by engineering by:

  • Ethnicity
  • Disability
  • POLAR4
  • IMD
  • UK region
  • Provider region
  • School type

Top tip: If you want to access headline engineering data on all (not UK only) select provider region.

But not by combinations of those together. Those you can analyse multivariately are:

  • Domicile
  • Gender
  • Age group

Top tip: This dataset is one of several which exceeds MS Excel’s row limits making rookie analysis tricky. Remember, for a basic look at distributions, you don’t need to download the dataset as it can be explored via the UCAS website.

Top tip: It’s pretty quick and easy to use the online UCAS tool to check your subject totals tally back to the published figures. Note though that some of the overall totals across all subjects published by UCAS vary a little between their outputs, probably due to their rounding policy.

8. You can also consider main scheme offers by discipline, and unconditional offers for engineering as a whole.

9. There is other data at all-subject level you might find useful including Clearing plus, 18-year-old population estimates, post-result grade increases, and entry rates.

10. Phew! Well done for getting to the end. Any queries? Do feel free to contact us.

Policy summary, February 2021

It has been a busy start to the year for HE policy and politics, despite the roll-out of a third UK lockdown at the start of the year – significantly impacting campus presence and face-to-face teaching and cancelling summer level 3 exams again this summer across all UK administrations.

After numerous delays, the government FE white paper has now been published, alongside an interim response to the Augar Review and the Pearce review of the TEF. A summary of these and other “live” policies are outlined below.

  • Skills for Jobs FE white paper

The Skills for Jobs white paper presents the government’s post-compulsory skills agenda, setting out plans to boost quality, parity of esteem and take-up of higher technical qualifications at levels four and five. “Kitemarked” qualifications will be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) based on the institute’s employer-led standards for higher apprenticeships. The triangulation will be completed through full alignment to T levels, enabling progression from T levels to HTQs.

The range of options at post-16 and post-compulsory will be showcased by a modest injection into careers advice through improvements to the national careers service website and further rollout of local careers hubs.

From 2023, funding for non-kitemarked qualifications will be reduced and a new IfATE/OFS system for assessing quality beyond initial qualification approval will be applied to all technical education providers. This will include apprenticeships, which are also targeted for expansion, through funding for smaller employers to offer apprenticeships, greater ease for larger employers to transfer their apprenticeship levy funds, and the publication of salary returns data for apprenticeships.

The lifetime skills guarantee, and lifelong loan allowance announced by the Prime Minister last September, intended to allow more flexible use of student loan entitlement over a lifetime, will be implemented from 2025. Aligned with this is a signal of future funding to support development of more modular, flexible higher education provision and credit transfer in 2021-22.

Prior to this (in summer 2021) there will be funding for a further eight Institutes of Technology charged with offering high quality higher technical STEM provision in all areas of England.

  • TEF report

Dame Shirley Pearce’s Independent Review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) called for clarity of purpose (and name) and improvements its metrics and their statistical application, transparency, relevance and balance (read burden). Pearce recommended greater granularity within four aspects – Teaching and Learning Environment, Student Satisfaction, Educational Gains, Graduate Outcomes – and a more nuanced rating system.

Pearce noted the need for broader input metrics, accounting for regional differences. Within Educational Gains, she noted an ambition for each university to demonstrate how, within their own particular mission, they articulate and measure the educational outcomes and learning that they aim to provide for their students.

A subject-level exercise was also recommended for inclusion in the provider-level assessment to inform ratings at provider rather than subject level.

  • Government’s response to the TEF report

The Government “mostly agreed” with the Review’s high-level recommendations and has responded by abandoning the subject level TEF exercise. Instead, they have asked OfS to develop a “revised and invigorated” provider-level TEF which will run not on a one-year cycle, but every four to five years, with the first group of assessments completed and published by 2022. Where the government didn’t agree with the recommendations was in its insistence that the TEF’s secondary purpose was to inform student choice. Furthermore, emphasis on ‘Student Satisfaction’ was rejected in favour of ‘Student Academic Experience’.

Unsurprisingly, driving out low quality provision permeated the Government’s vision for the new TEF (name unchanged) within a wider quality regime which will “apply across all providers, not just those at the lower end (where the OfS is consulting on plans to introduce a more rigorous quality baseline)” – see below. Four award levels will replace the existing bronze, silver and gold, where the new bottom category will capture those providers failing to show sufficient evidence of excellence and who need to improve the quality of their provision. The introduction of Limiting Factors is mooted, such that a provider should not achieve a high TEF rating if it has poor student outcomes.

A consultation on future iterations of TEF is expected in due course, including measures beyond

just earnings (including a reliable measure of educational gain) taking account of regional variations and flexible modes of study. There is a useful ONS Evaluation of the statistical elements of TEF which might guide this, at least in part.

In case you missed it, the OfS published the findings from the second subject-level pilot of the TEF in 2018-19 to coincide with the publication of the Pearce Review into the TEF.

  • Government’s (holding) response to the Augar Review

The Augar Review was the 2019 review of post-18 education and funding. For a summary in relation to engineering, see the EPC blog. In their much-delayed response to Augar, the Government stopped short of any serious funding reforms instead shoehorning these into further reforms to the higher education system to be consulted on in spring 2021 ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The current freeze on the maximum fee levels, and the threat of a huge cut in Home undergraduate fees, remains until then.

There is some recycling of policy in Skills for Jobs white paper (see above), including the lifelong loan entitlement, local skills improvement plans, the rollout of approvals for higher technical qualifications, and signalled plans for incentivising more modular and flexible delivery apply across higher education.

The Government also outlined its plan to realign teaching grant funding towards national priorities (through the introduction of a bid basis) including STEM, healthcare and specific labour market needs (see below).

  • Teaching Grant

The Teaching Grant letter announces an £85 million increase to the amount allocated through the main “high-cost subject funding” method for high-cost and “strategically important” subjects, including engineering. The London weightings in student premium and T funding will be ended from 2021-22, which is a big hit for London universities, particularly the big multidisciplinary ones who won’t benefit from an increase for small and specialist providers.

The budget for Uni Connect goes from £60m to £40 million, with the savings going on £5m for student hardship and £15m for mental health. Finally, capital funding for providers will be distributed through a bidding competition rather than a formula method, and students from the Crown Dependencies will be subject to home fee status and counted for funding purposes.

  • Quality and standards

Although there is, as yet, no formal response from the Office for Students on the recent quality and standards consultation, Government will to exert power over metricised HE “underperformance” permeates the policies of the day. Within these, OfS is asked to roll questions of standalone modular provision into its thinking on the development of the quality regime.

We are also promised a consultation on “further reforms” to the higher education system in spring 2021 which, along with “other matters”, may pick up on some of the missing in action proposals form Augar et el including the future of foundation years, reforms to student finance, minimum entry requirements. Hopefully all ahead of a final decision on quality and standards.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that the sector – which has pretty much unanimously called for the Quality Code to be retained – recognises the fatal undermining of the proposed approach to the government’s other levelling-up and social mobility agendas.

  • Post qualification admissions

Following the flurry of reviews of university admissions by UCAS, Universities UK, the Office for Students and DfE late in 2020 the latest, DfE, consultation is aimed principally at when students receive and accept university offers (not the wider assessment, admission or policy agendas).

The consultation presents two options which are predicated on removing teacher predictions from the system altogether in favour of on exam results. The first, “post-qualification applications and offers”, creates a longer application window by moving results dates forward to the end of July, and higher education term dates back to the first week of October. The second, “Pre-qualification applications with post-qualification offers and decisions” would mean applications being made during term-time (as now) but offers being made after results day.

DfE recognises that courses which require additional entrance tests, auditions and/ or interviews will also need to be accommodated in either system, somehow (cue the consultation).

The EPC is currently considering its response. DfE’s consultation runs until mid-May.

  • Brexit

The Turing Scheme – a replacement for the Europe-wide Erasmus+ now that its door is closed following the UK’s departure from the EU – was launched by Gavin Williamson earlier this month. Alongside this, the government has updated its International Education Strategy with a commitment to increase the amount generated from education exports, such as fees and income from overseas students and English language teaching abroad, to £35 billion a year, and sustainably recruit at least 600,000 international students to the UK by 2030.

The Turing Scheme is the UK’s global programme to study and work abroad. Website. EPC research (to be published shortly) conducted in partnership with UCL’s Engineering Education, highlighted many of the benefits of engagement in European student and staff exchange.

  • Free Speech proposals

The government has published proposals on academic freedom and freedom of speech as follows:

  1. Legislate for a Free Speech and Academic Freedom Champion to be appointed as a member of the OfS board with responsibility to champion free speech and investigate alleged breaches of registration conditions related to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
  2. Legislate to require a new OfS registration condition on free speech and academic freedom.
  3. Explore further the option of strengthening the section 43 duty to include a duty on HEPs to ‘actively promote’ freedom of speech (where section 43 relates to the 1986 Education (no 2) Act).
  4. Legislate to extend the strengthened section 43 duty to cover SUs directly.
  5. Set clear minimum standards for the code of practice required under section 43
  6. Introduce a statutory tort that would give private individuals a right of redress for loss as a result of a breach of section 43
  7. Wider and enhanced academic freedom contractual protections

Professional recognition post-Brexit

Is my professional title still valid in the EU? Will my combination of academic qualifications and professional experience still count post Brexit? What does the information on recognition of professional registration in the EU on the Engineering Council website mean for me? Here’s the simplified version…

Now we have left the EU, the EU legislation adopted by all Member States (called the MRPQ Directive), which sets out obligations to mutually recognise each other’s professional qualifications, no longer applies to the UK.

Under the Trade and Co-operation agreement there is a mechanism for professions to negotiate a Mutual Recognition Agreement between the UK and all 27 Member States.  This would effectively replace the Directive and put in place new legislation. (For EEA/Swiss professionals who want to gain the UK professional titles, there is already a new piece of UK legislation that replaces the Directive).

In the meantime (during what is likely to be lengthy and difficult negotiation process) for UK Professionals who want recognition an EU country, the UK application will now be treated like any non-EU country. The EU professional title can still be awarded, but it may take longer, and the application process may be slightly different. The Engineering Council has advised that, in practice, many EU countries do not require the professional title to work (just as in the UK).

Membership of organisations such as ENAEE and FEANI is unchanged by Brexit, as they are European Higher Education Area associations.  ENAEE is particularly important for the academic community, as it means that we will continue to demonstrate that our engineering degrees meet the European standard (EUR-ACE).

Going forward, it would be helpful to know if there is member appetite to engage with the Trade and Co-operation agreement mechanism on behalf of professional engineering or if there are better ways to achieve the same objective?

Trusted Research: How safe is your research?

Overview

This was a discussion on the security precautions that academic institutions should take to prevent intellectual property being leaked to competitors or foreign governments. With the aim of preventing research and technologies being used for immoral or unethical means by external actors while still encouraging – and enhancing – collaboration both nationally and internationally.

Important links

CPNI’s advice on security best practices: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/managing-my-asset/leadership-in-security/board-security-passport

CPNI’s advice on what to include within a security considerations assessment: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/security-considerations-assessment

CPNI’s think before you link campaign: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/security-campaigns/think-you-link

CPNI’s Trusted research guidance for academia or industry: https://www.cpni.gov.uk/trusted-research

Any of CPNI’s guidance can be rebranded to fit your company/university branding.

Game of Pawns, FBI website: https://www.fbi.gov/video-repository/newss-game-of-pawns/view

Engineering council’s guidance on security: https://www.engc.org.uk/standards-guidance/guidance/guidance-on-security/

Proposed National security and investment bill 2019-2021: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/nationalsecurityandinvestment.html

Key Points

Research, security-mindedness and transparency: David Sweeney, Executive Chair of UKRI, and Kelly Pullin, Head of Strategic Coordination at UKRI

Challenges:

  • Supporting universities and researchers to navigate the complex regulatory and ethical landscape while still encouraging international collaboration.
  • Ensuring the continued success of UK universities in research and innovation systems along with the success of international education in general.
  • Offering necessary protections and freedoms to institutions and companies in an environment of privacy concerns and cybersecurity challenges without compromising security.

Context:

  • National security and investment bill and understanding the potential implications of the bill.
  • The collective objective to protect UK research integrity and credibility.

Introductory points:

Nothing is risk free, the aim is to mitigate the risks to academic research and collaboration as best as possible. Universities and their industry partners need support in order to achieve this. However, we need to recognise research organisations’ autonomy and treat academic freedom as a necessity.

What is already in place?

  • Wealth of expertise in security across the sector
  • Guidance and information readily available
  • We try to be as informed as we can
  • There is access to respective agencies and links have been formed with government

What more is needed?

  • Greater coordination and sharing of information as appropriate – with an awareness of tensions with other policies
  • A transparency around challenges and threats
  • Clarity around expectations and requirements
  • Establishing strengthened and sensible processes to help academics navigate the security landscape

Current support:

  • From government, Department for International Trade (DIT), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), National Cyber Security Centre (NSCS) and Centre for the protection of national infrastructure (CPNI)
  • UKRI
  • Other organisations include UUK/UUKi, ARMA, OECD and Jisc

By Ewan Radford, an undergraduate in Integrated Masters in Electronic Engineering with Space Systems at the University of Surrey.

Emerging Stronger: Lasting impact from crisis innovation

Overview

What have we learned about learning under lockdown? How can we use the experience of trying to deliver high-quality engineering degree programmes to strengthen our teaching in future? This live webcast discussed the positive impacts of Covid-19 on university teaching and explored  the solutions to the unique challenges faced by online learning with a focus on lessons learnt which could potentially be carried forward post-Covid.

Important links

You can download the ‘Emerging Stronger’ report by Prof Bev Gibbs and Dr Gary C Wood at http://bit.ly/EmergingStronger

If you have any ideas or experiences with improving the online learning experience or have ideas on evaluation, you can share your 500-600 word case study at https://tinyurl.com/ES-Submit-2021,until 31st March 2021.

Catch up with the recorded webcast

Episode 1 including Keynote by Sir Michael Barber and first panel session (see details below).

Episode 2 including second panel session and summary (see details below).

Key points

Keynote (Rec 1 00:05:50): Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the OfS Board

Sir Michael congratulated the university sector for its resilience, vigour, innovative capacity and dedication in these challenging times. He outlined five thoughts around Emerging Stronger and potential innovations in pedagogy.

  1. Promoting social and economic value. While the OfS doesn’t pick and choose between subjects, high-cost subjects, including engineering, are highly prized by Government and the OfS for their contribution to our society and our economy through teaching future generations from an increasing breadth of backgrounds. (Watch the upcoming T grant consultation for some potentially good news for engineering.) What more can engineering do beyond what it already does to shape our economy and society in the future?
  2. Experimentation in course design. Engineering already demonstrates a diversity of models of teaching and learning, including degree apprenticeships. What is the right mix of applied and theoretical teaching and how should this change over time? What are the range of models that we want?
  3. Strengthening pedagogy through innovation and digital teaching. The EPC is in a strong position to build on what has already been developed and to move the sector forwards with a great diversity of innovative pedagogy models. It’s not too late to respond to the consultation on this. (Look out for the OfS report to be published in February or March). What can be done to prepare for the next academic year and the longer term?
  4. Contributing to the future. What is the role of engineering faculties within universities in spreading opportunities and economic growth more equitably.? In the past, great engineering breakthroughs have been brought through crisis; engineering can play a leading role in building a better future. What might that be?
  5. Innovations in engineering. Awesome technological developments will lead us to new opportunities. The future is bright for engineering.

Emerging Stronger Paper Overview (Rec 1 00:31:30): Prof Bev Gibbs, Chief Academic Officer at NMiTE, and Dr Gary C Wood, Head of Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy

Emerging Stronger 2020 was about sharing early ideas and the immediate response. There was little opportunity for evaluation due to the short timeframe available.

The major themes investigated in Emerging Stronger 2020 were Assessment, Student collaboration and professional skills, Practical work, Employability, and Student Partnership.

Emerging Stronger 2021 will focus more on student experience and evaluating the ideas presented in Emerging Stronger 2020.

Large Cohort Team-Based Learning (TBL) (Rec 1 00:42:40): Alexander Lunt, Lecturer, University of Bath

Historically passive Q&A tutorials are ineffective and under-utilised. Team based learning improves engagement and interaction.

It is useful to have online assessment before in-person meetings for students to be able to practise. This allowed students to have questions to bring to the in-person meeting. Increasing engagement.

Internet of Things Student Placements (Rec 1 00:49:30): Ceri Batchelder, Royal Society Entrepreneur in residence and SELA Board Member, University of Sheffield and Mo-Anna Tucker, SELA Graduate, University of Sheffield, and Intern, Recycling Technologies

Offering online placements enabled more places to be offered. Online placements can offer more flexible working options. Internet of Things (IoT) environment sensors were able to be accessed from students’ homes using the internet, allowing the placement to be conducted remotely.

Mental Health and Wellbeing of Engineering Students (Rec 1 00:57:30): Jo-Anne Tait, Academic Strategic Lead, Robert Gordon University

There are high rates of mental health illness amongst engineering students. Online teaching exacerbated problems and any available support is less accessible. Mental Health of staff and students should be prioritised more.

Promoting lecture and examples sheet interactivity (Rec 2 00:01:05): David Fletcher, Professor of Railway Engineering, University of Sheffield

Adding a question asking function to online slides is useful as it allows students to ask questions about the content anonymously. This is useful for foreign students who may not be confident in their English ability along with people scared of asking questions in person. Answers to all questions submitted were given in the next lecture.

Online Project Based Learning: Engineering Design (Rec 2 00:07:15): Daniel Beneroso, Assistant Professor, University of Nottingham

Online refresher lectures along with reviewing progress against key milestones is useful. Each student getting a mentor helps ensure that they stay on track. A strong support structure is necessary.

Student Partnership in Learning Design (Rec 2 00:14:50): Ryan Grammenos, Senior Teaching Fellow, UCL

Attempted to use 3 different platforms to perform a project remotely as no one platform did everything needed. Students were overwhelmed and unhappy with this approach. Students felt lost and did not know where to start. It was a struggle to communicate expectations and the staff had forgotten what it was like to be a first year.

By Ewan Radford, an undergraduate in Integrated Masters in Electronic Engineering with Space Systems at the University of Surrey.

Guest blog: EPC Hammermen student prize

Congratulations to Rachel Beel, Glasgow Caledonian University, and to Dan Hicks, University of Brighton, joint winners of the 2020 EPC Hammermen Student Award. The Hammermen Award is an annual prize, presented in association with the Hammermen of Glasgow, to celebrate engineering students’ excellence. This year’s award received an unprecedented number of submissions and five finalists competed for the coveted prize at the EPC Congress. To see Rachel and Dan’s posters and multi-media pitches, as well as the other short and longlisted applicants, visit the EPC events microsite.

We asked Rachel to tell us about her win and this is what she said:

“My name is Rachel Beel and I was one of the winners of this years Hammerman Award for my poster on the link between Academia and Industry.

My poster highlighted how my work placement in industry ended up driving me towards my final thesis topic. The skills and experience I had gained in the workplace were built upon by researching and completing my final thesis on: The Design, Manufacture and FEA of a Thin-Walled Pressure Vessel.My placement was at Pacson Valves in Dundee where I was in the engineering office working on 2D and 3D drawings and models, alongside pressure retaining calculations and some supply chain work. The main skills gained from this was the ability to apply a design code to calculations correctly and figuring out how to do so effectively. I took it upon myself to use 3 different design codes in my thesis: the ASME BPVC, BS EN 13445 and PD500.

My poster also managed to highlight the struggles I had faced with being a student applying design codes and how certain sections and attributes would be left to ‘the experience of the engineer’, along with a few others. However despite these struggles and a global pandemic I still managed to get a First-Class Honours degree from home.

My experience of the virtual congress and meeting the other finalists was great. Hearing about everyone else’s posters and what they were currently working on was very interesting and actually gave me little hope I’d manage to win since I seemed to be the only one at my level- just finishing my fourth year and graduating. If you’re thinking on entering you definitely should even if you don’t think you’ll get anywhere with it. I never thought I’d be long-listed, never-mind a finalist or winning it so you never know what will happen! By next years congress I am hoping to be able to finally get a graduate job as COVID-19 has cancelled most, if not all, opportunities for me to get one right now. I have however managed to put the prize money towards a new iPad Air that will keep me entertained in the mean time, to draw and do some art commission work before hopefully moving forward in my engineering career.”

For information on other Hammermen awards, please visit their website.

EPC engineering enrolments survey results 2020/21

The EPC engineering enrolments survey gives us an early annual temperature check of the health of HE undergraduate and postgraduate engineering enrolments.

Sector pressures undoubtedly impacted the 2021 survey. The EPC reduced our focus to the changes experienced in new enrolments in engineering this autumn (plus changes in deferral and attrition behaviours) leaving us without underlying distributions to share with you. Our members faced unprecedented barriers to engagement this year, including competing deadlines and priorities; timing issues; complexities and structural changes resulting from Covid-19; and sensitivity and caution around their position.

Despite these compromises, we have together created a survey sample of:

  • 35 EPC member universities
  • covering both undergraduate and PG cohorts
  • with well distributed responses across engineering (175 distinct disciplines)
  • representing all countries and regions of the UK
  • and a typical institution type profile of previous annual EPC enrolment surveys.

Furthermore, we know our annual survey typically broadly reflects published engineering HE trends (many months after we share our findings). We tend to capture:

  • similar domicile profiles (roughly 3 in 4 undergrads in our survey are UK domiciled and approximately 2 in every 3 postgraduates are international)
  • a high proportion of overseas postgraduate enrolments, especially within the Russell Group
  • and the popularity of Mechanical (undergraduate) and Electrical, electronic and computer engineering (postgraduate).

We hope we have judged this year’s particularly challenging balance of burden, valid coverage and utility in a way which both instils your confidence and continues to offer useful insight. We are grateful to those of you who assured us of the survey’s continued high value during the collection process and thank you for recognising both its strengths and weaknesses. Your support for the survey is greatly appreciated, thank you.

Enrolments compared with 2019-20

In total, the undergraduate level of change tended towards growth, with over one-third of responses (reported by discrete discipline level) recording new enrolments at more than 10% higher – in fact, many of you reported even greater growth, citing the central policy change days into confirmation (Centre Assessed Grades) as an impetus for unexpected growth. This is supported by the pattern of home undergraduate enrolment growth, including increases of more than 10% which were higher among home enrolments than overall. Given that home undergraduates represent approximately ¾ of the undergraduate population, we can be relatively assured that 2020 was a healthy year for home undergraduate engineering enrolments. (Figure 1.)

What’s more, both EU and non-EU overseas changes in enrolment are pretty uniform, with reported levels about the same as last year dominating the mid-point with substantial range. This suggests stability in the overseas engineering undergraduate sector again this year, despite earlier fears in the sector of the impact of Covid-19 on international travel. (Figure 1.)

However, we observe less stability at postgraduate level, with non-EU enrolments showing an overall decline; over half of postgraduate engineering disciplines surveyed reported a drop in enrolments of more than 10%. Around 40% of postgraduate engineering disciplines surveyed reported a drop in EU enrolments. These differences are important as approximately 2 in every 3 engineering postgraduates are international, suggesting the overseas engineering market may have shrunk this year in this context. (Figure 1.)

Overall, home engineering postgraduates are reported to have increased, by more than 10% in over 40% of responses. Despite this, nearly 1 in 3 responses recorded enrolments to be more than 10% lower in this cohort, indicating a mixed bag within the engineering postgraduate sector. (Figure 1.) Further analysis shows that Mechanical engineering is of note at postgraduate level, clearly bucking the general decline overall in 2020. The postgraduate engineering superstar, Electrical, electronic and computer engineering appears relatively stable. (Figure 2.) This is not so at undergraduate level, where this discipline bucks the growth trend (Figure 3).

By university type, the survey reveals that the greatest decline in postgraduate engineering enrolments is skewed towards Russell Group members, who see higher international enrolments overall. Conversely, Russell Group universities dominate the increasing trends in undergraduate enrolments in engineering; with 60% of distinct disciplines at Russell Group members reporting undergraduate growth, compared with about half of that proportion at their non-Russell Group counterparts. (Figure 4.)

Regional analysis highlights a clear North / South divide at postgraduate level; decline is more pronounced than growth everywhere north of and including the Midlands. London and Wales show the greatest relative growth. (Figure 5.)

At undergraduate level, the greatest enrolments stability (in terms of “about the same” responses) is in Wales although we witness greater decline than growth (in small measure), However, the proportion of respondents reporting a decline in new enrolments of greater than 10% is broadly in line with the other regions; this is a remarkably consistent measure at undergraduate level, with the exception only of London and the East / South east. The Midlands shows the greatest proportional decline in undergraduate enrolments overall. London witnesses the greatest relative growth. (Figure 6.)

Deferrals

We sought data on deferrals in the context, initially, of reports that applicants might be deferring in greater numbers due to the uncertainty resulting from the pandemic. However, as the cycle progressed, it became clear that deferrals were also being driven by universities struggling to cope with the impact of the unprecedented shifting of results during confirmation in 2020 (qualifying a high number of conditional firms). The data we received was not extensive but did suggest an overall tendency towards more deferrals than last year, particularly among postgraduates (specifically international postgraduates) and Non-EU and home undergraduates. (Figure 7.)

Attrition

The data we received on students not returning / dropping out was patchy and ambiguous, not least because of delayed processes, exceptional delayed starts this year and more general confusion around (non) returning students and how to count them. However, the data we did receive does suggest an increase in dropout; in fact, some qualitative reports of increased progression as a result of pandemic pressures were received.

Context

Of course, we know that recruitment and selection is made in the context of institutional recruitment and admissions strategies and internal strategic pressures in any year. For example, some of the fluctuations in numbers will be influenced not current market forces but by changing course profiles and conscious decisions to adjust cohort size,.

In the devolved countries, in particular, we were told that these were also influenced by government policy and funding initiatives. Other policy factors cited included managing the impact of the central government changes to the summer exam series results and the economic context in which student decision-making occurs.

This year, many members were mindful of the impacts of Covid-19 on overseas partnerships, geography and travel limitations, and shared a wealth of administrative workarounds at play including delayed starts, arrivals and registrations and exceptional late intakes.

Sector behavior was also cited as a factor in enrolment trends; there was a perception of some pre-result unconditional offer making and, initially, unusual confirmation at lower than advertised entry requirements.

Further information

In addition to the images published above, the slide deck from the EPC Recruitment and Admissions Forum launch is available to download for all EPC members.