!New! DATA BLOG: EPC engineering enrolments survey results

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EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey

Firstly, a huge thank you for your contributions which the Recruitment and Admissions Forum confirmed are highly valued by our members. You told us that the data is used in many ways, from enabling individual members and departments to understand their experience relative to the sector and their comparators, to evidence-based decision making on new courses to offer. The survey gives us all an early temperature check of the health of HE undergraduate and postgraduate engineering enrolments; our survey is the only place you can gain this insight, many months before enrolment data for 2018/19 is published by HESA.

This year we saw improved member engagement and data quality, plus an increased response rate from a greater number of universities resulting in better overall coverage across more discrete disciplines. We will continue to work to make your involvement as easy as possible.

Stable enrolments, changing distribution

  • The EU share of the undergraduate market contracted for non-Russell Group universities; while the Home share expanded.
  • Postgraduate courses saw a higher proportion of overseas enrolments; especially in the Russell Group which reported greatest volatility.
  • At undergraduate level, Non-Russell Group universities dominated the home market.
  • London universities reported a decline in engineering enrolments.
  • Mechanical engineering remains the sector headliner, but fares poorly when it comes to attracting women.
  • The most notable growth was reported in Biomedical engineering, with Product design, General engineering and Other also showing clear growth overall.
  • The most notable decline was in Mineral, metallurgy and materials engineering.
  • Software engineering may also be on the up, but for undergraduates was proportionally the singularly most EU dependent discipline.
  • A three-fold growth was reported in enrolments on degree apprenticeships. But where are the part-time enrolments?

Summary findings

Mechanical engineering remains the sector superstar, dominating our sample population (and official data shows undergraduate numbers have doubled in a decade); members also reported that the applicant field in this area remains strong.

Software engineering features more prominently in our survey than ever before. But interim UCAS undergraduate data doesn’t suggest an engineering surge, so if software engineering is really taking off, it may be at the expense of other disciplines. What’s more, at undergraduate level, software engineering is proportionally the singularly most EU dependent discipline in our sample (charts 1 and 2).

Both disciplines fared poorly when it comes to attracting women into engineering, between them they had the worse female:male ratios in our sample, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Nor does the EU student sample support the cause, which is surprising given Europe’s track record in this space. But recruiting from further afield (other overseas) does, particularly if you’re in the Russell Group…and enrolling postgraduates! Biomedical engineering continues to have the best female:male ratio in our sample.

This year we celebrated huge gains in the coverage of our female:male data, which was almost complete for home undergraduate enrolments (chart 3).

The EU share of the undergraduate market has contracted in our survey for non-Russell Group universities, while the Home share has expanded. Could this be an early sign to the new direction as Brexit looms near?

Postgraduate engineering courses saw a much higher proportion of overseas enrolments, especially within the Russell Group. At undergraduate level, Non-Russell Group universities dominated the home market (chart 4).

There are huge regional variations, with the North and London attracting the most enrolments from overseas, particularly at postgraduate level (chart 5).

Our survey showed part-time undergraduate enrolments to be pitiful in numbers, mostly seen in Civil engineering. At postgraduate level, part-time study was far more common, with Civil engineering again leading the way.

Degree apprenticeships

We received submissions for 3.5 x more degree apprenticeship enrolments than last year (572), and these were returned by one quarter of our respondents (approximately half of these were in addition to the enrolment figures submitted elsewhere). Degree apprenticeship enrolments were reported in all disciplines excepting Biomedical engineering, Chemical, process and energy engineering and Product design. They were dominated by Mechanical, aero and production engineering and Civil engineering. Just 3% of these were at postgraduate level (chart 6).

Undergraduate enrolments compared with 2017-18

The most notable growth was reported in Biomedical engineering, with Product design, General engineering and Other also showing clear growth overall. The most notable decline was in Mineral, metallurgy and materials engineering. Among the other disciplines, there were mixed fortunes.

Following an apparent hit last year, Chemical, process and energy engineering witnessed greater growth than decline this year. Members report that attracting core Electronic and Electrical Engineering students continues to be challenging.

The levels of stability (the gaps between the lower and higher bars) were relatively uniform in the data, suggesting relative stability in the engineering undergraduate sector (chart 7).

At postgraduate level, growth outweighed decline across all disciplines except Civil engineering and Software engineering. The stand-out pattern is, similarly, the consistency of those reporting their enrolments to be about the same (chart 8).

Enrolments at universities across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland collectively showed a notable increase overall, together with those in the South and the North. At undergraduate level, universities in the Central region also showed much greater growth than decline. Across the board, universities based in London fared worse with both undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments reported as being most in decline relative to their growth (chart 9).

While non-Russell Group universities reported relatively stable enrolments overall, the Russell Group witnessed greater volatility, showing growth overall, most convincingly at postgraduate level (chart 10).

Reflections

Notwithstanding Brexit, we also know that some (non-EU) overseas markets are struggling. And, of course, we know that recruitment and selection are made in the context of institutional strategies and targets. Share your own reflections below…

In addition to the slides published here, a headlines slide deck is available to download for all EPC members.

Protected: Recruitment and admissions forum 2018 presentations

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!New! DATA BLOG: Will this year’s undergraduate engineering intake really be bad news?

An interim assessment of placed UCAS applicants for this autumn highlights that engineering follows a sector-wide slide in placed applicants overall but bucks a sector increase in applicants placed from the EU and a bumper crop of placed applicants from overseas.

Of course, this is only part of the story – in so far as it is limited to undergraduate unconditional firms through UCAS, is a snapshot taken quite a while before movement is complete, and will not translate directly to enrolments – but the findings highlight the importance of getting a better picture of actual enrolments as early as possible. The only way to get an early look at the patterns of actual enrolment is through the EPC’s engineering enrolments survey, and the more universities participate, the clearer the picture will be. Never has this early insight been so critical.

UCAS data highlights

Applicants placed on undergraduate engineering courses through UCAS looks set to fall for the second year running. The latest UCAS data, which gives the 2018 entry position 28 days after A level results, shows that the number of applicants accepted to engineering through UCAS has fallen below 28,000 at this point in the cycle for the first time since 2014.

A look at the national context across all subjects shows that engineering is following the overall trend.

But for pockets of undergraduates, is the outlook worse for engineering? For those from England, the growth between 2009 and 2016 was certainly stronger in Engineering, and the decline is marginally less. This is positive news and represents a significant slice of the market. However, for placed applicants from the remaining UK administrations engineering appears to fare worse than the sector as a whole. And while the sector saw growth in placed applicants from the EU and overseas (as well as those from Scotland) between 2017 and 2018, engineering did not.

Of course, this interim assessment of the 2018 cycle isn’t yet the full UCAS picture, and I am reminded that a count of unconditional firm UCAS applicants doesn’t translate to the bums on seats at enrolment (or even full admissions data).

It is not yet possible to say which engineering disciplines have been hardest hit in UCAS terms as data at engineering discipline level won’t be available until late 2018.

However, the findings of the EPC Engineering Enrolment Survey will be launched on 14th November at the annual Recruitment and Admissions Forum which will be held this year at Sheffield Hallam University. The preview of enrolment patterns to engineering courses at UK universities is critical benchmarking data, valuable for any staff with an interest in recruitment or admissions for engineering departments. Our survey gives us all a first glance at engineering enrolments long before official HESA data becomes available. You can complete this year’s survey via the EPC website.

The Forum also welcomes Helen Thorne, UCAS’ Director of External relations, who promises to share unprecedented insight into undergraduate engineering trends and applicant behaviours. You can book your place here.

The full data on which this analysis is based is available to download from the UCAS website.

Engineering enrolments survey 2018-19

Download an .xlsx version of the EPC engineering enrolments survey

Go to the online survey

The EPC’s annual engineering enrolment survey gives us all a first glance at engineering enrolments long before official data becomes available. We hope that as many of you as possible will participate again this year; the more responses we receive, the more robust the wider insight we can provide. We understand that enrolment numbers will not yet be completely stable but ask that you provide your best estimates based on your university’s latest information. Our survey will close on 22 October 2018. The results will be launched at the annual EPC Recruitment and Admissions Forum at Sheffield Hallam University on 14th November 2018.

Book your place

The survey results will also be available on the EPC website.

Thank you for attaching your completed survey by email to s.fowler@epc.ac.uk. Or for completing it online at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/82B8J/..

Creating a new breed of ‘supergrads’

Creating a new breed of ‘supergrads’

When it comes to new approaches to education, what happens in engineering is the canary in the mine.

Along with medicine no discipline more clearly confronts the questions that the whole sector is now facing about the right balance between learning by doing, and learning by understanding. So everybody in higher education should take notice of the current debate in engineering about degree apprenticeships – and the extent to which they could (or should) be a game-changer.

There’s a well-documented shortfall of engineering graduates, a shortage of engineering and technical skills, and many employers tell us that graduates are not job-ready. So why aren’t we more excited about degree apprenticeships?

This is the theme of a landmark report published today by the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC), the voice of engineering academics in the UK, representing 7,500 individuals in more than 80 universities.

Employer-led, not employer-dominated

The report states that in order to make degree apprenticeships in engineering a success, we must work collaboratively to put apprentices at the heart of the debate, and make an honest and reflective appraisal of what works and what doesn’t. We also need to convince policymakers that apprenticeships are not currently going according to plan, but that it’s not too late to make the changes required to make them attractive to school leavers and employers.

We have arrived at a system where degree apprenticeships are intended to be “employer-led” but instead they often become “employer-dominated”, failing to focus on apprentices’ wider learning needs and long-term goals. In an honest desire to ensure the relevance of apprenticeships, the system may have overlooked what we have already learnt about learning. We need to pool the understanding of academics and of industry to create degree apprenticeships that appeal to prospective apprentices and provide them, as well as employers, with what they need. Degree apprenticeships must be partnerships between employers, providers and apprentices themselves – there is no room for silo cultures here.

Failing brand

What’s more, the complexity of the apprenticeship system – coupled with ambiguous messaging and poor branding – is a barrier to potential apprentices, parents and employers – particularly smaller firms. We need a centralised approach to raising awareness among prospective degree apprentices, providing information about options and practicalities. Early intervention outreach must be coordinated, evidence-based and properly funded. And government should relax the rules around the apprenticeship levy to allow some of an estimated £1.28 billion of unspent funds to be used to improve careers advice and to promote degree apprenticeships.

But there is still the challenge that degree apprenticeships outputs are themselves ambiguous. The idea of promoting a broad appreciation of the benefits of degree apprenticeships in the current climate is baffling; apprentices’ rights to professional recognition, continued employment and a degree must become clearly navigable in order to move forward.

EPC calls for change

Today’s EPC report, Experience Enhanced, is the collective perspective of the UK’s engineering academic community, the culmination of a two-year project to assess policy and practice around degree apprenticeships. It highlights nearly 50 recommendations spanning four areas: ensuring the best possible learning experience and outcomes for apprentices; the need for closer collaboration between employers and learning providers like universities; the importance of building recognition as a professional engineer into the pathways of apprenticeships; and the financial sustainability of degree apprenticeships.

Degree apprenticeships might not be the silver bullet for all recruitment challenges where there’s a skills deficit, but they do bring the rigours of academic learning and knowledge together with the practical skills and behaviours of the workplace – a new breed of “supergrads”?

Experience enhanced: improving engineering degree apprenticeships

The EPC has published a landmark report calling for changes to degree apprenticeships to deliver a new breed of ‘supergrads’ – graduates with enhanced levels of practical experience.

The report, Experience enhanced, is the outcome of a two-year project to assess policy and practice around degree apprenticeships and it highlights nearly 50 recommendations for the Government, for employers and for other organisations such as the Institute for Apprenticeships and the Office for Students.

The EPC criticises the Government for creating a system where degree apprenticeships are intended to be ‘employer-led’ but can become ‘employer-dominated’, failing to focus on apprentices’ wider learning and long-term goals.

Among the key recommendations is a call for the Government to relax the rules around the Apprenticeship Levy to allow some of an estimated £1.28 billion of unspent funds* to be used to develop high-quality apprenticeships, to promote them and to improve careers advice.

The report also takes aim at the messaging around degree apprenticeships. The complexity of the system is described as “a barrier” to potential apprentices, to parents and to employers (particularly smaller firms). The branding of degree apprenticeships also runs the risk of presenting them as something less than traditional degrees, rather than as an enhanced experience.

The EPC’s other recommendations span four areas: ensuring the best possible learning experience and outcomes for apprentices; the need for closer collaboration between employers and learning providers like universities; the importance of building recognition as a professional engineer into the pathways of apprenticeships; and the financial sustainability of degree apprenticeships.

Professor Mike Sutcliffe, chair of the EPC’s degree apprenticeships working group that authored the report, commented:

“The UK has a desperate shortage of engineering skills. Degree apprenticeships could be a game changer in meeting that need and encouraging people from many new and diverse backgrounds into the sector. However, that will only happen if we get them right.

“Degree apprenticeships are still in their infancy, which is why the EPC feels it’s important to highlight some inconvenient truths while it’s still relatively easy for everyone to get behind a programme of helping them realise the potential.”

Professor Jonathan Seville, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Education & Skills Committee, welcomed the report:

“At the Royal Academy we embrace the EPC’s positive approach in striving to ensure the success of engineering degree apprenticeships, which offer an exciting new route into a career in engineering. Their success is important for the nation, for employers, for the engineering sector and, most of all, for learners themselves. The EPC’s reflections and recommendations provide an important input for Government and a stimulus to all stakeholders, including the Academy, to continue to participate in the discussion.”

The report Experience Enhanced: improving engineering degree apprenticeships is available here. An EPC blog post can be found here.

REF 2021 full EPC member consultation

The UK’s HE funding bodies have set out detailed arrangements for REF 2021 and are seeking views from subject communities on the draft Panel criteria publication developed by the REF expert panels.

They are also calling for responses on key aspects of the Guidance on submissions publication, which they have developed with advice from the expert panels, including the equality and diversity, and interdisciplinary research advisory panels.

The EPC is running a full consultation on this important opportunity to provide feedback. Please complete our survey to share your views. The documents are available on the REF website.

This is a somewhat technical consultation in parts, but the detail has enormous repercussions for all of us working in research (or in universities more generally) and, when a consultation is as detailed as this, it means there’s a real opportunity to influence the small things that make a big difference. You can answer the questions quickly in about ten minutes, but to do it thoroughly is likely to take about half an hour and there’s no upper limit if you want to provide full feedback. We hope you’ll take the opportunity to make a difference to this important consultation.

Please complete our survey to share your views. Deadline for responses is 28 September.

If you find the survey format doesn’t give you the opportunities to express your views in the way you want, please feel free to email your thoughts to the EPC Executive.

Please note that there are funding councils led consultation events for individuals from higher education institutions on:

  • 14 September: Edinburgh
  • 20 September: London
  • 26 September: Leeds

Venue details will be provided in due course.

Registration is now open to individuals from higher education institutions with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research but places are limited to a maximum of two participants per institution. You can register by Wednesday 5 September: 

There will also be additional events for specific groups during the consultation period. Booking information will be available on the REF website.

  • Equality and diversity
  • Research users
  • Institutions new to the REF

There are also webinars planned with each of the main panel chairs. Main panel B is on 11th September (pm). Booking details aren’t available yet but will be posted here.

Guest blog: Does a career in engineering pay?

By Kate Webster, the Engineering Council

Engineering students at university are in the ideal place to learn and develop – encouraging them to become professionally registered puts them on a path to continue that development throughout their careers.

Despite the continuing skills shortage, not all engineering students go on to work in engineering, perhaps because of the high profile on campus of financial services and consulting firms, or a lack of information about what engineering roles are available. Among respondents to the Engineering Brand Monitor, pay was the second most important factor when deciding upon a career – the most important was it being something they were interested in. Yet only 20% of 11-19 year olds could accurately identify the broad salary range for graduate engineers, with three in five choosing a pay band that’s considerably lower than the average.

Professionally registered engineers earn higher average salaries in every industry sector and at all levels of seniority than those who’re not registered, according to a recent salary survey; the difference in the Chemical and Pharma/Medical sector is almost £12,000 a year. Importantly, registrants make a commitment to maintaining and enhancing their competence that both helps make them better engineers and ensures that employers, clients and the public can feel confident in their expertise.

Engineers looking to start their career need qualifications, credibility with employers, international mobility, access to development opportunities, contacts and networks. As they work towards achieving academic qualifications, professional registration can support them with all these aspects of employability, offering an independent assessment of their competence that can improve their career prospects and increase their earning potential. Achieving registration is simplest for those with accredited qualifications, but is open to any practising engineer who can demonstrate the required competence.

Joining one of the professional engineering institutions is a first step towards professional registration and brings its own benefits. Student membership is usually free and students can join more than one institution, if it’s relevant to their interests or area of study. Membership can offer exposure to careers in engineering and access to professional networks, supporting students in finding the right engineering field for them and securing a job. When a student/graduate engineer’s ready to think about professional registration, their institution will be able to support them and advise on the best way forward.

Working towards professional registration provides a framework for professional development and is a structured way to develop competence in areas including communication and inter-personal skills, management and leadership. These can be as important as technical engineering skills, particularly when working in inter-disciplinary teams. Registrants tell us that registration has increased their credibility, helped them gain promotion or win more business, and the commitment registrants make to work in an ethical, sustainable way is likely to become increasingly important as technology advances.

Encouraging your students to consider professional registration could help point them towards an career in engineering, give them a framework for lifelong learning and boost their earning potential. For more information, see the Engineering Council’s guide to making the transition from student to professional is available online (or in hard copy, from marketing@engc.org.uk).

EPC Equality, Inclusion and Diversity policy statement agreed by AGM


The EPC is an inclusive organisation that is fully committed to the principles of fair treatment and to valuing diversity. We recognise that by encouraging equality and diversity in all our activities, we can be more effective in achieving our objectives as an organisation. We further recognise that we should encourage equality, inclusion and diversity more widely to promote a better society for all. The EPC’s goal is to ensure that our commitment to equality, inclusion and diversity is embedded in all working practices with all members, with the EPC Executive and with all other stakeholders. These principles apply in any EPC-related context, such as at meetings or events and in recruitment.

Chief Executive invites EPC to influence Engineering Council review of UKSPEC

At this year’s EPC Congress, Alasdair Coates’s invited the EPC – as the representative body of engineering in higher education – to input to the current review that is being undertaken of UKSPEC. Following a representative EPC consultation Professor Sarah Spurgeon, EPC President, submitted a formal response to the consultation, thanking the Chief Executive of the Engineering Council for his invitation.

To summarise the position of EPC:

1. We wholly support and endorse the current UKSPEC.

2. We strongly and collectively assert that the current problems with accreditation may be wholly attributed to inconsistent implementation of UKSPEC across the Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs). Indeed, inconsistency across different panels from the same PEI were also flagged as a serious concern. Our consultation heard many examples of panels focussing upon issues that are nothing at all to do with UKSPEC.

We hope very much that the current review will tackle this problem to ensure we can all work in a supportive environment to render engineering educational provision fit for the future.

A document that reports the outcome of our consultation can be found here.

If you would like to input into the review of AHEP, please email accreditation@engc.org.uk directly.