New! DATA BLOG: Grade inflation?

Earlier this month, the OfS published a new release of degree classification data, concluding that the growing proportion of the first and upper second class degrees awarded cannot be fully explained by factors linked with degree attainment. Specifically, the new analysis finds that in 2017-18, 13.9 percentage points’ worth of first-class degree attainment is unexplained by changes in the graduate population since 2010-11, an increase of 2.4 percentage points from the unexplained attainment in 2016-17. So we have it – grade inflation.

So, we’ve fished some unfiltered HESA data out of our archives, updated it, and looked at the distributions between first, second and third-class honours in engineering. And it seems that engineering paints a very different (worse?) picture than the sector as a whole. We award a notably higher proportion of firsts and, at a glance, a commensurately lower proportion of 2nd class honours. The proportion of 3rd class honours/pass awarded has come into line with the all subjects over recent years. It varies by engineering discipline, but nowhere is the proportion of firsts lower than for all subjects.

You might think, then, that high-level degree awards in engineering (firsts plus upper-class seconds) were nothing to write home about. But in 2016/17, at 77.3%, the proportion of high-level degree awards in engineering was one percentage point higher than for all subjects (and the difference has fluctuated around the one percent mark for the past ten years).

A simplified index plot, where 1 (the central y axis) represents all subjects, shows the propensity of a first in engineering is consistently greater than for all subjects (where the longer the bar, the greater the over-representation). The over-representation of firsts in engineering has shown a notable reduction over the past ten years and, at 1.4, was at its lowest yet in 2017/18. The overrepresentation of third-class honours in engineering visible from 2007/08 to 2015/15 has now been eliminated. You can see from this analysis that the over-representation of firsts is in fact greater than the combined under-representation of 2:1s and 2:2s.

So, what does this tell us? That the rise in higher degree classifications doesn’t apply to engineering? The number of high-level degrees in engineering has increased from 10,180 in 2007/8 to 18,690 in 2017/8, an increase of 83.6%. Proportionally, this has risen from 62.7% of all degree awards in engineering to 77.3%. That’s just marginally less proportional growth than the 14.9 percentage point difference for all subjects. But we are making progress.

Here’s the rub, who’s to say that rises in high-level degree classifications (which, sector-wide, cannot be explained by the data readily available – not my data) is necessarily a problem per se, or that is signals grade inflation? There are many reasons – not accounted for in the OfS statistical models – for degree outcome uplift, not least the massive expansion of student numbers in the last 20 years (leading to a less socially constrained pool of students); greater awareness of student support needs; the increased cost of higher education to students; more incentivised and focused students; and improved teaching in both schools and universities. Further, there is evidence that market forces; course enrolments; progression rules (e.g. progression from BEng to MEng requires achievement of marks for the first two or three years of study suggesting a minimum 2:1 standard, and therefore likely transfer of the best students away from the BEng); and the marking processes adopted by different subject areas impacts the proportion of upper degrees between subjects.

The evidence of improvement in teaching (and the development of pedagogy in UK universities) is much stronger than the evidence for grade inflation. As a discipline, this is what we must celebrate. Higher education (HE) is the gold standard in the delivery of engineering skills in the UK and has a strong international standing and reputation.

Let’s face it, the assumption that institutions need to account for grade inflation rather than educational improvement is perverse. Instead, let’s talk about and encourage innovation in teaching, learning and assessment, precisely what our New Approaches to Engineering Higher Education initiative (in partnership with the IET) aims to do. Earlier this year we launched six case study examples for each of the six new approaches, evidencing that the required changes can be achieved – are already being achieved – and we now want other institutions who have been inspired to come up with new approaches of their own to showcase their work at a New Approaches conference at the IET in November. More details will be circulated shortly.

Attribution: EPC analysis of HESA Student Qualifiers Full Person Equivalent (FPE) using Heidi Plus Online Analytics service.

Bid to host EPC Congress in 2020 or 2021


Proposals are invited from higher education Engineering departments to host the Engineering Professors’ Council Annual Congress in 2020 or 2021.

‘Hosting the 2018 Engineering Professors’ Council Congress was a great way to showcase the University’s work to a wide range of experts in the field as well as to the professional bodies in engineering.  Our staff and students gained a lot from explaining their approach to engineering education and research, and we were also able to explore new collaborations to broaden the reach of our engineering activities.  We were delighted to welcome the EPC to Harper Adams and hope that other universities taking the opportunity act as the venue for the Congress will gain as much from the experience as we have.’
David Llewellyn, Vice-Chancellor, Harper Adams University (hosts of the 2018 Annual Congress) 

The Annual Congress is the flagship event in the EPC calendar, an opportunity for engineering academics from across the UK to come together to explore policy and practice and to network.

Download guidelines.

Download the form for submitting a proposal.

Each year, Congress is hosted by a different institution: 

The Congress usually takes place in April or May and lasts two days with a reception on the evening before the Congress formally starts.

  • 2016: The University of Hull hosted Congress as a prestigious addition to its preparations as European City of Culture. 
  • 2017: Coventry University hosted taking the opportunity to demonstrate the city’s close associated with transport engineering and manufacturing. 
  • 2018: Harper Adams University displayed its cutting edge status as a leading centre of agricultural engineering including automated farming and a range of off-road vehicles. 
  • 2019: UCL is host for this year’s congress where its proximity to the seat of Government has allowed an amazing line-up of high-profile speakers on a range of policy issues at a time of historic challenges. 

The host institution nominates a Congress Convenor who will become a member of the EPC Board for up to three years (2019-21 for the 2020 Convenor; 2020-22 for the 2021 Convenor) and who, with guidance from the EPC executive team, will lead the organisation of the Congress, including determining the themes and scope for the Congress, and the speakers and events. 

We are inviting bids to act as host for either of the next two years. You can specify one year or the other or apply without choosing a year. We will not select the same host for both years.

Download guidelines.

Download the form for submitting a proposal.

To submit a proposal, complete the form here and email it to Johnny Rich, Chief Executive, at 19thJune 2019. Johnny can also be contacted at the same address or by phone on 078-1111 4292 to discuss any aspect of Congress or the proposal process. 

What is expected from the host

The host institution (host) would be expected to provide:

  • an academic of suitable standing to act as Convenor and other staff resource as necessary to assist planning the Congress;
  • suitable function rooms such as a lecture theatre and smaller break-out rooms, as well as space for networking;
  • catering for the Congress;
  • possibly accommodation, particularly, for early career staff delegates to the Congress who may be provided free accommodation in student residences;
  • management of the Congress during the event;
  • financial accountability in accordance with the financial arrangements (see below).

There will be some support from the EPC executive, but it is advisable to ensure that the host can provide conference support staff as the smooth running of the Congress will primarily be the Convenor’s responsibility.

The Congress usually attracts up to 100 delegates, but the numbers have grown in recent years and the host should be able to provide for 150.

Selection process

The process for selection as host involves submission of your proposal to the EPC Board, which will conduct a vote. The basis for its decision is entirely at its discretion, but they will take into account issues such as the nominated Convenor, the suitability of the facilities, the arrangements for costs, the geographical suitability (although the EPC is keen not always to be restricted to big centres of population), the suggested activities such as Congress Dinner venue and other attractions, and other arrangements to ensure the smooth running of the Congress.

The host institution must be a member of the EPC. We would particularly welcome joint proposals from separate institutions to host jointly, such as two engineering departments at separate universities in the same city.

Financial arrangements

The suggestion for the financial arrangement between the EPC and the host forms part of the proposal. The EPC will seek to minimise its risk and, if possible, would like to generate a surplus from the event to contribute to its own in-house costs in running the Congress. However, the quality of the event and its appeal to members will be of greater weight in selecting the host institution.

That said, it may be helpful to provide as guidance the following arrangement that has been used in the past. The EPC would hope that the host would aim to meet at least this arrangement:

Costs may be divided into three categories as follows:

  • ‘External costs’: ie. costs that will genuinely have to be met, such as catering, external venue hire, student ambassadors, etc. The EPC would guarantee all these external costs and, if necessary, would pay them up-front. In any case, the EPC would be liable for these costs.
  • ‘Internal costs’: such as staff who are already employed by the host. The host would guarantee these costs and, in the event that registration income was insufficient to meet them, the host would be liable for them.
  • ‘Internal fees’: where the only cost to the host is a notional price that it sets internally – room hire, for instance. Once the two types of costs above have been met from revenue, 75% of any remainder may be used to defray the host’s internal fees and the other 25% will be due to the EPC to defray our internal costs and fees. After the host’s internal fees have been met, any surplus would be split equally.

The proposal should make it clear whether the host proposes to manages the bookings process and receive the registration fees or would prefer this to be handled by the EPC. If the host receives the fees, after the Congress it will be expected to provide a full account of income and expenditure (outlining the categories of expense as above, if that model is used). If the EPC receives the fees, the host may invoice the EPC for costs in accordance with the agreement. In either case, the host will be expected to agree with the EPC a full budget for the Congress at the earliest opportunity (and before substantial Congress planning) and would not be entitled to incur costs on behalf of the EPC outside the agreed budget without separate agreement.

While the host will be responsible for setting the registration fees and packages for delegates, these must be agreed in advance with the EPC. These should not include a more than 10% increase on equivalent packages for the previous year. A significant number of places for early careers staff (not more than 5 years in an academic post) should be made available at the lowest possible rate (including, ideally, some complimentary places).

In some years, the host has acted as a major sponsor of the event contributing to the costs or not passing on some or all of the costs it incurs. Any such support would be acknowledged and the EPC will seek to support the host’s objectives in sponsoring Congress. Any other sponsorship revenue will normally be retained by the EPC or used to offset the costs of running the Congress.

Media release: University engineers across the UK commit expertise and equipment to join coronavirus struggle

Tales are emerging of the many ways that universities across the UK have stepped up to beat coronavirus and Engineering departments in particular have been at the forefront, lending specialist equipment, resources and problem-solving skills.

96% of engineers surveyed reported that they and their colleagues had volunteered their skills and resources in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, deploying their efforts in local communities and on a nationwide level.

University engineering teams’ contributions have ranged from developing augmented reality headsets to jump-start the manufacture of lifesaving ventilators, using drones to deliver medical supplies to island communities, adapting diving masks into medical equipment, and inventing a molecular test and smartphone app that can tell people if they have Covid-19 in just half an hour.

For example, Swansea University engineers are leading a project using a blast of gas for rapid decontamination of ambulances, cutting cleaning time to under 20 minutes and minimising the risk to workers.

Ulster University engineers have been analysing call data from crisis helplines to show that distressed individuals are contacting crisis helplines for longer calls since the pandemic outbreak. This data is critical in showing the increased need for this helpline support while traditional face-to-face options remain unavailable.

At The University of Birmingham student engineers co-ordinated an online quarantine hackathon – Hack Quarantine – with over 2,500 technologists and scientists across five continents taking part. In the global initiative, participants around the world worked to invent solutions to problems created by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, many engineering departments have been collaborating to mass-produce hundreds of thousands of face shields and other PPE for NHS and other healthcare workers. The University of Hull alone produced and distributed over 21,000 and, by working with industrial partners, engineers at the University have increased output to over 70,000 per week – certified to the highest EU standards – to buoy up the national supply chain. 

A survey by the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) has highlighted the phenomenal scale of the sector response as teams of university-based engineers across all UK regions join forces with colleagues, students, industrial partners and frontline clinical staff to support both local and national Covid-19 initiatives.

Out of over 50 separate engineering departments that responded to the survey, all but two had been actively involved in Covid-19 response activities. Four out of five respondents had produced PPE, one-third had supplied or developed other medical equipment, one-quarter had provided specialist facilities, and over half had provided expert advice, analysis and engineering skills.

EPC President, Professor Colin Turner, commented:

“It is humbling to see so many colleagues across the country do what engineers do best: see a problem, get creative and do whatever it takes to solve it. Universities are the anchors of so many towns and cities and we take seriously our civic duty to offer up not only our world-class university engineering facilities and workshops, but also the expertise of leading engineering minds.

“Engineering academics, technicians and students aren’t just helping address our immediate crisis. Our skills and innovations will help get the nation back on its feet logistically, practically and economically. Engineers will be the keyworkers of the recovery.”


Notes to editors:

The EPC is the representative voice of over 8,000 academic staff working at all levels in UK Engineering departments, schools and faculties.

Our survey, which we opened to member for one week in April, received 56 responses from our 80-university membership.

There is a press resource, giving many more examples of the phenomenal contributions of our engineering academics and details of their press offices, on the EPC website.

For more information:   Johnny Rich 078 1111 4292,

Covid-19 media and member resource

University engineers donate expertise and equipment in coronavirus struggle

A survey by the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) has highlighted the phenomenal scale of the sector response as teams of university-based engineers across all UK regions join forces with colleagues, students, industrial partners and frontline clinical staff to support both local and national Covid-19 initiatives.

Out of over 50 separate engineering departments that responded to the survey, all but two had been actively involved in Covid-19 response activities. Four out of five respondents had produced PPE, one-third had supplied or developed other medical equipment, one-quarter had provided specialist facilities, and over half had provided expert advice, analysis and engineering skills.

Please see below for just some examples of the work shared with us during April. The brief summaries – listed by region – are accompanied by press contacts and links, where appropriate. Many staff have also been involved in university wide and community volunteering schemes. Please note that some respondents provided details but did not wish these to be made public; these are not included in this resource.

EPC members are invited to add further examples using the comments box below. Please do provide a media contact.

(L-r) Ed Lester-Card, Dr Chedly Tizaoui, Anthony Lewis and Dr Karen Perkins of Swansea University College of Engineering, with the demonstration ambulance used to test out their speed-cleaning procedure. Picture courtesy of Swansea University.

Yorkshire and the Humber

West Midlands


South West

South East


Northern Ireland

North East


East of England

East Midlands

Yorkshire and the Humber

The University of Hull has been leading a collaboration to develop and produce face shields to support the NHS and other healthcare organisations in the region. Over a two-week period in April, they produced and delivered 1,490 3D printed face shields within the University before partnering with an injection moulding company to produce 8,330 injection moulded headbands within 11 days and a further 25,000 within 16 Days. Mass production of the face shields is expected to produce between 35,000 – 70,000 per week to feed into the national supply chain.

Engineers have produced and distributed visors, initially by designing and 3D printing them, but have redesigned them for injection moulding, which is being undertaken by a local company, with the capability of producing 20,000 per week. These are being distributed to local hospitals and health care workers. The materials cost is being funded by crowdfunding (mainly alumni).

Media contact: Stella Harkness, Press Officer e: t: 07484 534322

The University of Sheffield has been mass manufacturing face shields, including 3D printing and disinfection. Around £60,000 worth of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, aprons and eyewear, has been donated by the University to front-line NHS staff treating patients with coronavirus, with significant donations from the Departments of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering has also provided Doncaster Royal Infirmary and Sheffield Teaching Hospital Trust with eleven powered respirators, while the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering has loaned a number of Polymerase Chain Reaction machines to the army for use in Covid-19 testing.

Engineers have joined the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, a £20 million investment to create valuable intelligence that could provide breakthroughs in how to fight this, and future pandemics. The expert consortium will work together to analyse rapidly the genetic code of coronavirus samples circulating in the UK. In doing so, they will provide unique cutting-edge intelligence about the cause of the disease to share with public health agencies, hospitals, regional NHS centres and the government to help combat the virus.

The University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has, as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium, produced augmented reality headsets programmed to enable skilled aerospace and automotive production line operatives to rapidly switch to the manufacture of 10,000 life-saving medical ventilators. It has also turned its recently opened R&D facility in North Wales into a production facility for the devices.

In the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; academics, technical and administrative staff and researchers are working together to produce the Covid-19 spike protein as rapidly as possible to enable their local NHS to widely deploy an antibody test. Meanwhile, researchers are working on developing RNA extraction methods for the high throughput extraction of viral RNA from patient samples to help with the detection of Covid-19.

The Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering is working with academic colleagues to develop models to help the NHS Sheffield Trust, and the Sheffield City Council to effectively allocate resources.

Professor Vanessa Speight, from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, has acted as co-chair on a working group at the Virtual International Research Summit on Covid-19. The group looked at the potential to recover Covid-19 genetic material from wastewater to give an indication of the level of infection across the community, sharing best practice and identifying areas where more research is needed to increase confidence in estimates.

A website created by engineers at the University of Sheffield, has been made available to schools as a free resource for GCSE and A-Level physics students, allowing them to conduct virtual experiments and continue their learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Media contact: Meg C Holmes, Marketing & Communications Manager, Faculty of Engineering e: t: 07966 415653

West Midlands

The University of Birmingham has worked with medical colleagues to design and develop a disposable plastic ‘pop-up tent’ which creates a protective barrier between patients and healthcare professionals. The Disposable Resuscitation, Intubation and Nebulisation Kit Shield – or DRs INK Shield – is a compact device designed to cover the patient’s head, neck and shoulder area while treatments for Covid-19 are administered.

They are also working on a solution to improve the seal and fit of facemasks used in hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis and manufacturing hand sanitiser for local social care workers.

Engineering staff have been joined by students to 3D print protective visors for Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Meanwhile a University of Birmingham engineering student is leading on a huge global initiative in which participants around the world are working around the clock to combat issues created by the Coronavirus pandemic. The global online ‘hackathon’ called Hack Quarantine has over 2,500 technologists and scientists across five continents taking part.

Media contact: Rachel Ellis, Head of Marketing and Communications – Engineering and Physical Sciences e:


Cardiff University has been working very closely with the Welsh Government and industry and clinical partners to develop and test new mask materials and methods of decontaminating masks so they can be reused.  They have been involved in testing and manufacturing equipment for use by Public Health Wales.

Media contact: Amy Stackhouse, Head of Communications, College of Physical Science and Engineering e: t: 029 2087 9717

Swansea University engineers are currently leading a project for rapid decontamination of ambulances. Cleaning the vehicles by hand can take 45 minutes and is potentially dangerous to workers; researchers have developed a new system which could cut that to less than 20 minutes. The new system, using rapid release gases to penetrate all areas of the vehicle, has been developed by researchers and the University also provided space and lab access to carry out the tests. The technology could be used to decontaminate hospitals and schools.

Engineers have also been busy 3D printing visors and ventilator parts and formulating hand sanitisers.

Media contact: Kevin Sullivan e:

University of Wales Trinity St David (UWTSD) has been involved in the rapid development of a highly efficient 3D printed jet Venturi based respiratory support system to support patients with breathing difficulties.

The solution is the result of assessing and revisiting Post-Graduate project work undertaken within the School of Engineering which outlined the potential of the Venturi effect in gas therapy applications.

Engineers have also supported the development of 3D printed face shields supplied to local hospitals and assisted clinicians in the development of respiratory snorkel mask adapters for viral filters.

Media contact: Rebecca Davies, Executive Press and Media Relations Officer e: t: 07384 467071

Wrexham Glyndwr has been busy 3D printing.

Media contact: Sarah Collis, Corporate Communications Manager e:

South West

The University of Bath has been making face shields, eye protectors and medical gowns for the Royal United Hospitals, Bath. They have so far made over 50,000 A3 face shields and 10,000 A4 face shields free of charge and achieved BSI approval. They have also delivered to local GPs, care homes, pharmacists and the B&NES GP Hub, and shared their designs online. Additionally, they have helped a collaborator to provide over 80,000 pairs of eye protection.

Engineers have also created trolley enclosures to reduce cleaning time between patient appointments, and carried out research with the Royal United Hospitals to model and simulate whether one ventilator can be shared between two patients.

Media contact: Will McManus, Media and PR Manager e: t: 01225 385798

The University of Exeter is currently working with the local 3D printing community supporting PPE production in the city. The community identified 10 university 3D printers that were of use and these have been loaned out, until the end of May 2020 to support 3D printing of PPE for local healthcare needs in the city.

Engineers have also led a project to manufacture disposable face shields for the local healthcare community, including the RD&E. A team of volunteers has come together to contribute to this initiative in collaboration with the local business community in Exeter.

Large donations of PPE (FFP2, FFP3 and surgical masks, disposable aprons, disinfectant, hand sanitiser, alcohol wipes, goggles, safety glasses, disposable scrubs and PPE suits, and gloves) have been donated to the RD&E, RCH NHS Trust, Devon County Council, and Hospiscare.

Media contact: Press Office e:

3D printers at the University of Plymouth are being used to supply plastic frames for face visors in a city-wide initiative co-ordinated by Babcock engineering at Devonport Dockyard.

University of Plymouth’s Dr Antony Robotham has conceived a novel recyclable face shield that has been developed into a low-cost, high-volume manufacture product by Plymouth based Prestige Packaging. The frame and strap are made from a folding boxboard that is 100% recyclable, 100% compostable and made from FSC-certified wood products. The anti-fog, anti-glare, see-through visor is made from a type of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that is 100% recyclable and can be returned to the production cycle. The product has been assessed by BSI and is type approved for Covid-19 healthcare settings. Initial production will be 20,000 units per week with the potential to increase to 100,000 units per week.

Media contact: Alan Williams, Media & Communications Officer e: t: 01752 588 004

South East

The University of Brighton’s Advanced Engineering Centre has responded to an emergency plea from Manchester City Council to urgently provide scientific evidence to evaluate the efficiency of uncertified fluid resistant surgical masks required by frontline staff. The team devised an experimental test rig and procedures to mimic inhalation in order to measure the flow resistance of mask samples benchmarked against the performance of CE approved masks. The results showed a marked difference in filter efficiency between the samples sets and the control set allowing the masks to be ranked and prioritised. 

Media contact: Mr Philip Mills, Senior Press Officer, t: 01273 644756

Canterbury Christ Church University has been supporting 3DCrowdUK visor initiative coordinating visors to end users and hub for disinfecting cleaning, fabrication and distribution of 3D printed visors for care homes and NHS.  The science and engineering section has also donated Laboratory personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, laboratory coats, aprons and eyewear to front-line NHS staff.  The engineering team is working with Canterbury Hospital consultant on prototyping for health professionals low cost inclusive PPE respiratory system to support acute phase operation of COVID19.

Media contact: Melissa Cleary, Assistant Director and Head of Corporate Communications e:

The Open University has produced hand sanitiser and PPE for Milton Keynes Hospital and engineers have undertaken specialist research and modelling.

The Open University’s Toni Gladding has been involved in writing national health and safety guidance of international interest for the waste industry. This guidance has been key in keeping the waste collection sector moving and continues to be important in the re-opening of household waste recycling sites.

Media contact: Bridgette Honegan, Media Relations Manager e: t: 01908 659258

The University of Portsmouth has produced visors for a local hospital and developed prototype respirators.

Media contact: Professor Peter Kyberd, Head of School of Energy and Electronic Engineering e:

The University of Southampton is using drones to connect Isle of Wight to the mainland.

Their towing tank 3D printer has also been used to produce face masks straps and face visor brackets as part of the “Southern Hampshire Covid-19 face visors…non front line medical” initiative.

Media contact Prof. Jim Scanlan, Head of Computational Engineering and Design Research Group e: t: 02380 592369


The University of Edinburgh is using 3D printing to make headbands for face shields, with students and research, technical and academic staff producing them in laboratories and their own homes. They are also making fully laser cut shields. They have donated thousands of shields made in this way to local health and social care providers including hospitals, a hospice, a dental practice, and a housing association.

Engineers are working with other academics, NHS clinical staff and collaborators at Heriot Watt to investigate the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and mitigation effectiveness of PPE. They have found that wearing face coverings can significantly lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission. The study is available as a preprint.

Engineers are are also working on the development of a pipeline that will enable rapid-response manufacture of bespoke items that could be requested by clinical engineers in a health emergency.

An engineering-led team has won funding from the Chief Scientist Office to design, build, and clinically evaluate some new designs of 3D-scanned-and-printed reusable facemasks for keyworkers in frontline services. The project involves collaboration with clinicians, a virologist and an entrepreneur.

Members of the University are also part of the SRPe Engineering in Response to Covid-19 working group.

Media contact: Edd McCracken, Head of News e:

Edinburgh Napier University has been busy 3D printing.

Media contact: Luigi La Spada, Assistant Professor in Electrical and Electronic Engineering e: t: 07584 100162

The University of Glasgow has provided testing equipment, donated a PCR machine to the Lighthouse testing facility in Glasgow and enrolled students to assemble their 3D printed visors for the NHS in Glasgow.

Engineers are also developing a point-of-care diagnostic test that could be used in the community to trace infections and detect more cases than with centralised testing facilities.

Media contact: Ross Barker e:

Northern Ireland

Queen’s University Belfast’s (QUB) engineers sought to quickly design a good-quality face shield which could be produced in reasonable quantities and meet the requirements of NHS staff and other key workers who may be exposed to the virus in their line of work. The design is made from separate parts which can be manufactured through laser-cutting flat polymer sheeting and assembled without adhesive.

The face shield was developed in consultation with senior NHS staff and provides distinct advantages over standard issue face shields. Thousands have been delivered to various key workers at the Royal Victoria, Mater, Belfast City, Ulster, Antrim Hospitals, SW Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, St John’s Ambulance, Care and Nursing homes, NI Hospices and NIFRS, among others.

Media contact: Suzanne Lagan, QUB Comms e: t: 02890 975292

Ulster University is analysing call data from crisis helplines, from pre-Covid-19 dates to current Covid-19 lockdown dates. Their work has shown that distressed individuals are contacting crisis helplines for longer calls since the pandemic outbreak. This data is critical in showing the increased need for this helpline support while traditional face-to-face options remain unavailable.

Engineers have also mass-produced visors, incubation covers, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) masks, and sanitisers; as well as providing ventilator parts and diagnostic system 3D parts; and undertaken systems analysis and calibration tests.

Plus, they are developing apps for contact tracking and antibody testing and a near-infrared test system for Covid-19 monitoring.

The University’s Prof Maurice Mulvenna sits on the Department of Health’s Science and Technology Advisory Group (STAC) Behaviour Change Group (BCG) in Northern Ireland. Prof Jim McLaughlin is on a Government led – UK Rapid Test Consortium report to PHE and Minister of Health. The School of Engineering has been key to Northern Ireland Covid-19 modelling and exit strategy.

Engineers are also involved in community projects to help school children with maths and physics projects.

Media contact: Lee Campbell, PR Manager e: t: 028 9036 6295

North East

The University of Sunderland has designed and developed a door opening device to reduce the spread of the virus via touching door handles.

Engineers have also designed, clinically trialled, 3D printed and distributed face masks.

Media contact: Roger O’Brien, Head of AMAP e: t: 0191 515 3888

Teesside University has completed preliminary work on 3D printing PPE equipment for healthcare professionals and batches of PPE have been produced by two industrial partners in Gateshead and Ripon and sent to Sunderland Royal Hospital and a Medical Practice in Spennymoor.

Engineering labs will also be used to test flow and pressure drop measurements of a disposable face mask in collaboration with an industry partner who is aiming to produce up to 3,000 masks per week within two months.

Media contact: Prof. Nashwan Dawood, Associate Dean e: t: 07879 888080


Brunel University London engineers are part of a consortia working on a molecular test and smartphone app that can tell people in half an hour if they have Covid-19.

Staff and students are part of the wide-scale 3D printing effort for Guys and St Thomas’s and engineers have also been using workshop space and personal 3D printers to produce PPE visors and components to repurpose ventilator equipment for the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals.

Electronic and Electrical Engineering staff have researched how Coronavirus can be identified automatically from sick patients’ lung X-rays using artificial intelligence (AI) while Computer Science staff and students have been simulating virus transmission, hospital utilisation and post-lockdown scenarios.

Media contact: Joe Buchanunn, Senior Media Relations Manager e: t: 01895 628821

A University of Greenwich engineer has designed a face shield for essential workers who still have to commute in public. The design ethos is to “embrace the change” rather than “respond to emergency” and so the design is among the first of its kind that considers a balanced approach to facemasks products. It fulfils the basic functions of a normal face shield which we see 3D printed on the television, but was designed as an item of fashion, comfort, durability, hygiene, and customisation.

Mohammed Elsouri will personally be supplying 5 free hand-made masks at his own cost, and the rest at material cost for his local neighbourhood delivery drivers and grocery shops initially.

Media contact: Kate Johnson / Phil Cox, Media, Head of Department e: / /

Kingston University is producing face protection for local organisations and has provided PPE to local surgeries and to the local hospital.

Media contact: Rob Patterson e:

Queen Mary University of London has 3D printed new and innovative design visors, developed to be rapidly produced and with most components reusable.

Engineers are also supporting projects to enhance the effectiveness of contact tracing and monitoring of symptom development and have also provided consumables and reagents for academic testing elsewhere in the University.

Media contact e: t: 07970 096 188

TEDI-London has loaned their 3D printers to the charity HEROES for their SHIELD project to make PPE equipment for the NHS.

Media contact: Helen Merrills, Director of Communications e: t: 07878 871480

University College London is providing PPE – including 3D printing of face visors – and hand sanitisers to UCLH, Royal Free NHS and other NHS trusts as well as numerous specialist offerings elsewhere.

A team of UCL engineers has developed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aid in partnership with UCLH clinicians and industry partners Mercedes F1. The team has now manufactured 10,000 “UCL-Ventura” devices which have been delivered to the UK Department of Health and are now being used in over 40 hospitals in the UK. To help meet international need, they have released the designs and manufacturing instructions for free to governments, industry manufacturers, academics and health experts across the globe. The designs have been downloaded over 1,800 times in 105 countries.

UCL Engineering has led a consortium of partners brought together by Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub to launch a new platform to provide global access to viable medical and protective equipment designs to aid Covid-19 response around the world.

Teams from UCL Computer Science are also working on tracking Covid-19 using online search – work that has been included in the first PHE health surveillance report on Covid-19. They are also working on resource allocation and flow models.

Researchers are compiling a database of chest x-rays and CTs to construct automated image analysis algorithms and are leading on image database work.

The UCL Biochemistry Department has also provided equipment for the Covid testing centre at Milton Keynes and has repurposed funds to support their Vax Hub partner, Sarah Gilbert’s team at Oxford University.

Derek Hill from the Department of Medical Physics is part of the Independent Regulatory Advisory Group working with the MHRA to define a regulatory approval process for rapidly manufactured ventilators for Covid-19, and to support the teams designing novel ventilators to navigate this process.

The UCL Engineering Engagement team, led by Elpida Makrygianni, is working to support children of keyworkers and other pupils by providing one to one STEM tutors. Engineers are also contributing to STEM Learning, Tomorrow’s Engineers and Engineering UK initiatives.

Media contact: Mark Greaves, UCL Media e:

East of England

The University of East Anglia has supported the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with provision of PPE for key workers including mass producing hand gel and face visors.

Engineers have designed and developed a door opening device to reduce the spread of the virus via touching door handles and have developed and tested components to allow snorkel masks to be used for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and non-Invasive ventilation.

Media contact: Julie Schofield, Head of Business Partnerships e:

University of Hertfordshire has manufactured face shields, donated all of their departmental PPE, and supplied their Life & Medical Sciences colleagues with all their appropriate solvents to manufacture hand sanitiser for distribution through PHE Hertfordshire.

They are also in discussion with DSTL Porton Down to identify whether any of their biodetection technology can be rapidly adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Media contact: Media Relations Manager e: t: 01707 281269

East Midlands

University of Derby has been 3D printing visors and providing mathematics teaching resources to support home-schooling children.

Media contact: Rosie Marshalsay, Head of Corporate Communications e:  t: 01332 591942 / 07920 235586          

University of Nottingham has designed a PPE face shield with CE approval that they are 3D printing at scale for healthcare workers. Engineers have also donated a range of PPE equipment to the Nottingham NHS Trust and have advised on PPE testing and guidelines.

PhD students have provided community support for those isolated.

Media contact: Katie Andrews, Media Relations e:

How will the probable collapse in international student numbers as a result of coronavirus affect UK Engineering departments? We’ve crunched the numbers.

We’ve all seen the higher education and national media coverage on the uncertainty around this year’s university admissions following the cancellation of exams and the extended UK-wide lockdown. The worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 has triggered widespread concerns about the impact on international students – the UK is among the sector leaders when it comes to the international student market, attracting tens of thousands of people to its universities every year.

Hopes for growth in this area on the back of Brexit were high, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government announcing last year its aim to grow the number of international students in the country by a third, supported by a new post-study work regime aimed at enhancing the flow of international students. While Gavin Williams has conceded that it’s “realistic” that we should expect international student numbers to fall, a recent QS survey has found that only one in seven overseas graduates and undergraduates due to study in Britain still plans to come. Meanwhile, research from the British Council indicates that half of young people in India and Pakistan who have applied to study overseas say they are “not at all likely” to change their plans. And a London Economics study predicts that around 120,000 international students will not appear, who would otherwise be expected to. Even if they want to come, just getting on flights would be a challenge right now.

Universities UK estimates that the exposure on international fee income could be as much as £6 billion – and that’s before you add the knock-on economic contribution of international students to universities and local communities. With international recruitment such a key factor in many university’s financial strategies, there’s already close scrutiny of those universities for which tuition fee income is a critical component of their overall income and especially those which derive a larger proportion of their university tuition fee income from international students than from home students.

The EPC thought it might be helpful to look at the dilemma of international enrolment through the Engineering lens to help you engage fully with the flurry of activity around the health of this year’s international enrolments within your university.

As we know, Engineering is heavily dependent on overseas enrolments. In 2018/19, nearly one in three (32.4%) enrolments in Engineering and technology were from outside of the UK, nearly double the proportion across all science subjects and far greater than the one in five across all subjects. At postgraduate level, well over half (59.4%) of Engineering and technology enrolments were international last year. It’s about one in four at undergraduate (24.3%) and first degree (25.4%) levels.

As you might expect, it varies by discipline at both undergraduate and postgraduate level from 27.5% and 27.6% in Broadly-based programmes within engineering and technology and General engineering, respectively, to 48.6% international enrolments in Naval architecture. Table 1 shows the distribution of international and UK enrolments at postgraduate and undergraduate levels of study within Engineering and technology in 2018/19.

Understanding the shared international burden on Engineering is helpful, but a more nuanced approach to Engineering within your university is probably needed. Do you know, for example, how dependent your university is on tuition fee income in general and non-UK students in particular? And how does this relate to Engineering?

This information is publicly available through the latest Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) finance data which gives some indication of which universities are most dependent on fee income and – coupled with HESA student data at subject area [i] level – tell us which of our members are most exposed to a loss of international student income. So, we’ve created a basic reference table so EPC members can take a look. Below are some of the key questions it raises.

Is your university dependent on tuition fee income?  

Download the spreadsheet

Is your university dependent on international students?

Where international fees are pivotal to your university strategy (meaning your senior leadership, planning and finance teams are almost certainly all over this), you might already be aware of your department’s role in this. What proportion of your university’s students come through Engineering? Further, is your international student enrolment dependent on Engineering?

Is the Engineering department dependent on international students?

What proportion of your university’s students come through Engineering? Is the university dependent on the Engineering department?

Download the spreadsheet

This is a double-edged sword for Engineering: yes, you’ve got a direct funding gap; no, you’ve still got problems given the inevitable pressure to cut costs and the higher international fees being widely understood to offer a surplus that supports high cost courses or loss making activity elsewhere (notwithstanding the likely loss of research income, especially among universities who work closely with business).

What if – at a glance – your university has a diverse income stream, and/or a good balance between domestic and international enrolments? Then you might need to flip the above questions on their head and ask if the Engineering department is more (or less) dependent on international enrolments than the university as a whole? If enrolments are heavily international in Engineering when, in general, they are not at your university, then this could be a problem. It might be timely to check it’s on the radar and to ensure that you and your Engineering colleagues are part of the discussion and the solution.

Is international student enrolment dependent on Engineering?

If Engineering enrolments are not internationally dependent while those of your colleagues in other subjects are, should you be looking to prop up the other subjects with extra home recruitment?

After all, in times of recession local demand can increase, and what about mopping up those UK students who might otherwise go abroad to study? Or, with the whole sector at risk, is now really the right time to make a dash for bums on seats (even within the 5% cap that the Government has now announced for English universities)?

Acknowledging the heterogeneity of Engineering departments within their wider environments, it would be careless to assume international students are homogenous. So, where do our international students come from?

They come from China – at least in (significant) part. You probably recall last summer’s media headlines of a 32 per cent rise in accepted applications from China, contributing to the new record of students accepted from outside the EU. China is also the major exporter of HE students to Engineering (and has been for many years).

Is the university’s international enrolment dependent on Asian students?

Is the Engineering department’s international enrolment dependent on Asian students?

Download the spreadsheet

And in Europe (remember that – for now – the finances for students from the EU are still equivalent to home students) compare HESA’s Non-UK Domiciled Student FPE dashboard (above) with Google map’s covid-19 map ( and you’ll see a reliance of Engineering on some parts of Europe worst hit by Covid-19. And from a European perspective, this disruption to the international student market comes at the worst possible time in terms of the uncertainty we were already facing, because the sector has no clear idea about how Brexit would have impacted EU student numbers even without Covid-19. 

Is the university’s international enrolment dependent on European students?

Download the dataset

Is the Engineering department’s international enrolment dependent on European students?

Of course, the Google map clearly shows how countries have been affected to different degrees by the virus and by lockdowns and we should expect that normality will resume in some countries sooner than others. Could this lead to international students preferring other HE destinations of choice, not least Canada, Australia and USA, or could we simply defer our international recruitment?

How we cope with recruitment problems now may determine how we deal with what we hope might be potential capacity problems later. 

[i] JACS subject area 9 – Engineering and technology

Attribution: HESA HEIDI+ Non-UK Domiciled Student FPE dashboard, analysis of HESA Finance Record 2018-19 Table 1 and HESA Student Record Full Person Equivalent (FPE) v1. Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited. Neither the Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited nor HESA Services Limited can accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from data or other information obtained from Heidi Plus

EPC’s continued response to Covid 19

Thank you to those members who responded to our latest Covid-19 initiative; a survey to gather details of the activities undertaken by engineering departments and academics in helping the national response to the Covid-19 crisis. The intention is to share this among members to build the sense of community, to acknowledge public-spiritedness and to encourage good practice. It is also hoped that we may be able to issue a press release highlighting the good work undertaken by colleagues in order to show the contribution that engineers and universities make to society.

In the meantime, the EPC has provided the following summary of the Government’s range of measures to protect students and the higher education sector from the impact of coronavirus. Members might also like to follow some of the links under further reading for further information.

Government university bailout

New measures to protect students and universities and to stabilise university admissions this autumn were announced by the Education Secretary on 4th May. Full details are here. The headlines of the offer include:

  • The introduction of temporary student number controls for 20/21. English providers will be able to recruit full-time, domestic students by no more than 5% above their forecasts.[i]
  • Government discretion to allocate an additional 10,000 student places (of which 5,000 are already ring-fenced for nursing, midwifery or allied health courses to support the country’s vital public services).[ii]
  • Advance payment (this academic year) to universities of £100m of QR funding.
  • Advance payment (of the second term payment in the first term of the academic year 20/21) of circa £2.6bn of SLC tuition fee payments to help manage cash-flow problems (there will be no payment in Term 2 this year).
  • Re-stating access to Government business support packages, available to higher education providers among others, including business loan support schemes (worth circa £700m according to the OFS).
  • Clarity about how providers should access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme including that any grant from scheme should not duplicate other sources of public funding where these are being maintained, such as UK home student tuition fees.
  • Re-stating of existing processes available to higher education providers among others (worth £100m this financial year) where the DfE will consider purchasing assets, such as land and buildings from suitable vendors where they can be used for new or expanding schools and colleges.
  • Inviting providers to use existing funds (totalling £46m across April and May) to boost their hardship funds for students in financial difficulty.
  • Reminding of the earlier announcement that UKRI-funded PhD students whose studies have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive further support, including additional grants of up to six months.
  • Commitment to a working group on sustainability issues for the UK’s world-class university research (led jointly by DfE and BEIS).
  • Indication that the Government will intervene further only as a last resort, where they find there is a case to do so, and only where they believe intervention (in the form of a restructuring regime) is possible and appropriate.
  • For students there will also be a new UCAS ‘Clearing Plus’ process this summer which will match students to courses.


  • Universities will be held to account for their admissions numbers through the student finance system.
  • A new temporary OfS condition for registered higher education providers in England, allowing OfS to intervene if universities and colleges act in ways which puts at risk students’ interests, or the stability or integrity of the sector. A consultation on this includes, but is not limited to, conduct relating to the 2020 admissions process and has wide ranging implications. The full consultation is here and closes at noon on 26th May.
  • which includes new rules to restrict destabilising behaviours such as use of unconditional offers at volume and that higher education providers will not put undue pressure on students.
  • That access to the business support schemes, reprofiling of public funding and student number controls should be sufficient to help stabilise most providers’ finances and that should certainly be the first port of calls for providers.
  • Where further action is required, this will come with attached conditions.
  • Providers will use the cashflow benefits appropriately, taking significant steps to improve efficiencies and manage their finances in order to avoid cashflow problems further down the track.
  • Any grant from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme should not duplicate other sources of public funding where these are being maintained, such as UK home student tuition fees.
  • Students who want to go to university, and meet their entry requirements, are able to access HE
  • All providers and their creditors will behave responsibly.
  • Universities will develop their own proposals to build an efficient, effective and sustainable research and development system, focused on driving recovery.
  • University research will continue to support the UK’s economic recovery following the crisis.

Further reading

Achieving stability in the higher education sector UUK proposal to government for a balanced package of measures to maximise universities’ contribution to the economy, communities and the post virus recovery (10/04/20)

Strengthening and enhancing UK public services in response to Covid-19 Million Plus proposals that flesh out and elaborate Achieving stability in the higher education sector (28/04/20)

The government’s Covid-19 support package for universities Wonkhe article (04/05/20) on the package of support to stabilise universities in the wake of Covid-19

Response to the Government’s new package of support for higher education institutions HEPI’s initial response to the announcements from the Department for Education and the Office for Students on support for institutions in the current crisis.

Government set to cap university admissions amid Covid-19 chaos Guardain article response (04/05/20) citing Alistair Jarvis, Chris Husbands, and Nick Hillman.

[i] The exact level of the student number controls and “certain, specified” exemptions will be set out in the coming days.

[ii] Note that the Education Secretary’s letter to the OfS in January asked it to prioritise funding through the teaching grant to STEM and specialist subjects.

Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and Congress

I doubt it will come as any surprise that, under the circumstances, the EPC executive has reached the difficult decision that the Annual Congress should be postponed in the interests of the health of the delegates, the speakers and the wider population.

We sincerely regret the inconvenience, but feel sure that you will understand why we feel this is the most responsible course of action. We hope to announce the new dates as soon as possible. We are exploring options later in the year between September and November and intend to confirm them before 26th March 2020.

All registered delegates have already been informed (with instructions and remaining registered or applying for a refund) and many of our speakers have kindly agreed to make themselves available if possible for the Congress when it is rescheduled. We’re particularly pleased about that as we are extremely proud of the strength, balance and expertise of our line-up of speakers and we are eager to try to keep the programme unchanged as far as possible.

For further advice on the Covid-19 outbreak, please see the guidance from the Government (see Coronavirus (COVID-19) – advice for higher education providers). 

EPC nominations for REF 2021 Engineering sub-panel


The Engineering Professors’ Council is a nominating body for the Research Excellence Framework and, as such, we have been invited to nominate members of the engineering sub-panel.

If you would like the EPC to nominate you – or you would like to propose someone to be nominated – you should find all the details you need below. If you have any questions, please contact the EPC Chief Executive Johnny Rich.

Please note that although the REF Team’s deadline for the EPC to submit our nominations is 3rd April 2020, the EPC has its own procedures to follow to ensure a fair and transparent process to decide who to nominate and so, any proposals must reach us by midnight on 13th March 2020.

What are the nominations for?

The EPC has already submitted its nomination(s) for the Engineering REF Panel during the 2017 nominations round. The EPC is now seeking to nominate individuals to be Output Assessors for the Engineering Sub-panel (12) with expertise in the areas of Music technology or Transport, railway engineering. The EPC will not nominate anyone who does not have demonstrable expertise in one of these areas.

How to propose someone for nomination by the EPC (including proposing yourself)

Please complete the form at this link ( no later than midnight on 13th March 2020. A summary of the information requested in this form can be found here. Please be sure to complete the information accurately and thoroughly as the details of your proposal will, if selected for nomination by the EPC, be passed on to the selectors without further editing.

If you are proposing someone else, please ensure that they know that you are proposing them and that they are able to attend the panel meetings. The meeting dates are available here.  

How the EPC will decide whom to nominate

The Research, Innovation & Knowledge Transfer Committee (RIKT) has determined the procedure for nominating and will decide whom to nominate. It is possible that several individuals will be nominated, but that may not be everybody who applies to be nominated, nor even everybody who applies to be nominated and meets the criteria.

RIKT will agree a selection panel of three senior academics representing a range of institutions, disciplines, backgrounds and experience. After the deadline (13th March) they will review the applications for nomination and assess how well they meet the EPC’s criteria and those of the funding bodies. The selection panel will then decide who to nominate, bearing in mind the need to maintain diversity across the range of nominees.

The following criteria will be used by the RIKT selection panel:

To be nominated by the EPC, any individual:

  • Must be research active with publications in the current REF period;
  • Should be known to Engineering Professors’ Council Board – ie. they should be able to demonstrate active engagement in EPC activities and be a member of staff at a university that is a member of the EPC;
  • Should have some of the following attributes:
    • Already served on an RAE/REF Panel;
    • Extensive experience of assessing research quality (e.g. chair of University Research Committee, internal University Research Assessor);
    • Evidence of awareness of REF requirements;
  • Should show evidence of unbiased support for the Engineering Higher Education Research Community (for example, having served on Education/accreditation committees of PEIs, Editors/Associate Editors of International Engineering Research Journals, etc);
  • Should have acted as an assessor for EPSRC or other major research funders.

Just because an individual meets these criteria, it does not mean they will necessarily receive an EPC’s nomination.

We would be particularly keen to nominate individuals from groups previously under-represented on assessment panels, including women, people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and people with disabilities.

Can I be nominated by more than one nominating body?

The EPC is one of a number of nominating bodies recognised by REF.

Regardless of whether the EPC is able to nominate them or not, we would encourage applicants to seek nomination from other nominating bodies without waiting to hear about the EPC’s intentions. Not only is there no limit on the number of nominations an individual can have, it is also likely to improve their chances if more than one nominating body has put forward their name.

What is the background to the selection of the REF Engineering Panel?

The REF is the system for assessing the quality and impact of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). It was first conducted in 2014, and replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The REF will be undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

The REF exercise will be completed in 2021 and the results will be used by the four funding bodies to drive their allocations of research funding to HEIs. It will also provide useful benchmarking information and reputational yardsticks, and provide accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate its benefits.

What does it involve to be on a REF expert panel? 

The REF will be undertaken through a process of expert review. HEIs will be invited to make submissions which will be assessed by 34 subject-based expert sub-panels, working under the guidance of four main panels. Further information on the role of sub panels can be found on the REF website.

Individuals who are nominated will need to confirm that they are willing and able to serve as a panel member, before their names and contact details are put forward.

A guide for research users taking part in the REF is available here.


We will treat any information supplied to us as confidential as far as possible and proposals for nominations will not be made public, however, the EPC reserves the right to make public the names of individuals that we do choose to nominate. That decision will be taken by RIKT.

Please also be aware that proposals for nominations will be circulated among the members of RIKT who are currently as follows: Nathan Gomes, University of Kent; Stephanie Haywood, University of Hull (EPC Vice-President); Simon Hodgson, Teesside University; Graham Howe, University of Wales Trinity St David; Barry Lennox, University of Manchester; Long-yuan Li, Plymouth University; Linda Newnes, University of Bath; Johnny Rich (EPC Chief Executive); Simon Rowland, University of Manchester; Alan Smith, Sheffield Hallam University (Chair); Sarah Spurgeon (EPC President); Tony Unsworth, University of Durham; Tanya Vladimirova, University of Leicester. On behalf of the EPC executive, Vicky Elston and Stella Fowler act as observers to the committee.

Further information

Further information about the REF can be found on the REF website at

To promote someone for nomination now, please complete the form before midnight, 13th March 2020.

!New! GUEST BLOG: Engineers Without Borders UK

Engineers Without Borders UK kindly facilitated the recent EPC Board Retreat discussions on Ethics. Here they tell us about the two design challenges they run at universities.

The Engineering for People Design Challenge reaches over 8,500 students across the world and aims to ensure that undergraduates are cognisant of their social and environmental responsibility when delivering engineering solutions. This is in response to the need to embed global responsibility into the education of those at university, so that the engineering community serves all people and our planet better than ever before. This is open to first and second years. 

The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge is for students in the last year of their bachelor or masters degree. It is a challenge that aims to promote innovation within the off grid industry. Students from Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda and the UK will be supported by nine off-grid industry partners through webinars, mentoring and feeding back on submissions. This challenge not only creates innovative designs, but fulfils a larger purpose by creating networks between students, academics and industry leaders in the hopes to accelerate progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 7.

If you are interested, here is the Project Based Learning guide we have for academics. It is a series of workshops that academics can facilitate to help students progress through the design process.

We have Engineers Without Borders UK societies at 27 universities in the UK and Ireland. If you are interested in supporting an existing Engineers Without Borders UK Chapter at your university or creating a new one please see here for more information.  If you are interested in one or more of these opportunities, please contact . 

To hear the latest updates please subscribe to the EWBUK newsletter here

New approaches to Engineering Higher Education


Featured Articles

The EPC has been working with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), academics and industry for over two years to encourage and support changes to how students are taught to become engineers. 

During this time, we have seen innovative courses that encourage project work, include industry whenever they can and work on increasing diversity.

Our recent conference (November 2019) showcased a wide range of case studies from universities, and the people within them, who have led the changes to create innovative and forward-thinking degree courses.

We have, with the IET, pulled together these case studies conference proceedings focus not only on the changes that have been made but also how they were achieved. Download the proceedings here.

In addition to the case studies, the day also included poster presentations from universities in the process of making some equally innovative changes to their engineering courses. The papers for these can be seen here:

Canterbury Christchurch University of Hertfordshire
Imperial College LondonUniversity of Sheffield
NMiTETEDI – London
University of Strathclyde

More information on our work to date is available here.

EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey 2019

Featured Articles

EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey Results 2019/20

Firstly, a huge thank you for your contributions to this year’s EPC engineering enrolments survey. 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 2019/20 is published by HESA.

This year saw challenges in our member engagement, with (temporary) pressures on staff and restructuring cited as the main reasons for non-completion this year. None-the-less, the data quality and coverage remain sound, with responses from over half of our members, covering £30,000 enrolled students, against an unprecedented 193 discrete discipline areas. We continue to work to make your involvement as easy as possible and are pleased that better EPC communication with you has almost eliminated the need for universities to make multiple submissions. Your support in this area is greatly appreciated.

The pattern of engineering enrolments


Postgraduate enrolments were dominated by Electrical, electronic and computer engineering this year. Postgraduate engineering courses saw a much higher proportion of overseas enrolments, especially within the Russell Group (which saw higher international enrolments overall). Overall, 2 in every 3 postgraduate engineering enrolments were international.

First degree:

Mechanical engineering remains the sector leader for undergraduate enrolments. Across all engineering disciplines, just under 1 in 4 of first degree enrolments were international in our survey.

Degree apprenticeships and foundation:

For the first time this year, undergraduate enrolments were returned against Degree Apprenticeship and Foundation separately to first degree undergraduates. Nearly 2,000 students were returned in this category. General engineering dominated the other undergraduate enrolments. This cohort was almost exclusively home students.

Focus on: other undergraduate enrolments

  • 27% of this cohort were enrolled on degree apprenticeships, and
    64% were enrolled on foundation programmes (some universities provided combined data for both). These were almost exclusively UK domiciled (90%).
  • The majority of enrolments on foundation programmes were in General Engineering.
  • Civil engineering dominated Degree Apprenticeships.
  • Other undergraduate programmes shared a lower than engineering average female: male ratio with < 1 in 5 enrolments being female (15.5% foundation and 19.4% degree apprenticeship).
  • More than 4 in 5 Foundation courses were in pre-92 universities.
  • More than 4 in 5 Degree Apprenticeships were in post-92s.
  • 83% of degree apprenticeships and 63% of foundation programmes returned were found in in English universities.
  • Again, only a handful of Degree Apprenticeships were reported at postgraduate level.

Focus on: Electrical, electronic and computer engineering

Enrolling at ¾ of responding universities, Electrical, electronic and computer engineering is a growth discipline in our survey. It also:

  • Dominated our postgraduate sample for the first time this year.
  • Closed-in on Mechanical, aero and production engineering at undergraduate level.
  • Was proportionally the singularly most internationally dependent discipline in our sample (accounting for more than 4 in 5 postgraduate enrolments in this discipline and 1 in 3 first degree enrolments) – nearly 1 in 3 international enrolments overall were in Electrical, electronic & computer engineering.
  • Had a lower than average female: male ratio in our undergraduate sample and a higher than average female: male ratio in our postgraduate sample.
  • Had a higher than average full-time population in our survey.
  • Reported only a handful of degree apprenticeships and foundation courses.

Last year, we were advised by our members that attracting Electronic and electrical engineering students continued to be challenging. What is going on here? Are these all computer engineering courses? Comments welcome!

Focus on women in engineering

Our survey suggests that recruiting from further afield increases female enrolments, particularly if you’re in the Russell Group… and enrolling postgraduates. Just over half of the women enrolled in our sample were at Russell Group universities and females were more dominant in the in this cohort at postgraduate level.

At discipline level:

  • General and civil engineering accounted for 1 in 3 of all home female enrolments.
  • EU females favoured Aeronautical and aerospace engineering, especially at postgraduate level.
  • Over half of first degree enrolments sampled in Bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering were female.
  • The proportion of international women enrolling in Mechanical engineering is half of the proportion of international men.

Enrolments compared with 2018-19

Overall, the levels of decline versus growth were quite uniform in the data, suggesting relative stability in the engineering sector again this year. Some growth overall was evident, with the other overseas postgraduate market, in particular, reporting substantial growth (as well as Russell Group postgraduate enrolments). Regional variations show greater growth than decline at undergraduate level except for in the North and Wales / Northern Ireland. At postgraduate level, enrolments in these regions appear stable with Scotland, the (South) East and London losing out.

At discipline level, the starkest disciplines are Mineral, metallurgy and materials engineering – which showed only growth – and IT systems sciences & computer software engineering, which had the most diverse change distribution in our survey.

General engineering witnessed the greatest net growth. Chemical, process and energy engineering witnessed the greatest net decline (followed by Mechanical engineering). Chemical, process and energy engineering has seen a decline in our survey in 2 of the last 3 years.


Of course, we know that recruitment and selection is made in the context of institutional strategies and targets, which do vary. For example, some of the fluctuations in numbers will be a conscious decision to reduce cohort size, rather than be based solely fluctuations in market.

Finally, we would appreciate your views on whether the value of this survey is greater than the burden to contribute to it? Engagement has been compromised by other factors this year. Is this just a blip? How can we help? Please share your own reflections below…

Further information

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

Recruitment and Admissions Forum 2019

The annual Recruitment and Admissions Forum took place at University of Wales Trinity St David’s new SA1 Swansea Waterfront development on 27th November 2019 convened by EPC Recruitment and Admissions Committee Vice Chair, Richard Morgan. Many thanks to UWTSD for hosting us this year (if you would like to discuss hosting in future, please contact us).

This year’s forum focused on an unprecedented insight into the latest engineering student demographic profile research, led by Dr Tim Bullough who gave us a whistle-stop tour through the findings of his Royal Academy of Engineering research project into entry qualifications and engineering.

The Forum started with an intriguing plenary outlining the key findings, including that:

  • Female students are less likely to drop out and they get better degrees on average. Also, pre-92 universities admit proportionately more of them.
  • At Russell Group universities, Engineering students fro m disadvantaged areas are three times more likely to dropout than students from more privileged backgrounds. In other pre-92 universities, they’re twice as likely, but at post-92 unis, the difference almost disappears.
  • Foundation degree students are twice as likely to drop out as traditional year one degree entry students.

We then enjoyed a full morning data hackathon – a deep dive into engineering student demographic profile entry requirements, enrolment, continuation and outcome patterns – enabling an evidence-based look at some of the most fundamental questions facing engineering admissions today.

The afternoon welcomed a range of speakers:

  • Graham Howe (UWTSD) outlined the MADE project: UWTSD’s innovative provision to enable those already in industry to study level 7 and MSE Engineering programmes.
  • Francesca Nichols (EDT) walked us through their approach to encouraging young people into STE(A)M careers.
  • The EPC’s own Stella Fowler launched the results of the EPC’s annual Engineering Enrolments Survey.

Finally our closing keynote speaker Eliza Kozman (Behavioural Insights Team) outlined a behavioural and evidence-driven approach to recruitment and admissions in engineering and STEM.

For delegates at the Forum only, the speakers’ presentations may be downloaded here (a delegate password is required). All members will shortly be able to access a summary of the results of the engineering enrolments survey in the members areas of the EPC website. If you have forgotten your password, please contact us.