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

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: 19th June 2019

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 j.rich@epc.ac.ukby 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.

Reflections on REF

As the dust settles on REF 2021, former EPC President, Prof Sarah Spurgeon, looks back at the process from her insider perspective as an Engineering sub-panel member and interdisciplinary advisor
Looking in the rear-view mirror
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

REF 2021 is finally over, and the results are out. Whether we were involved as individual researchers, collating submissions for our institutions or involved directly in the assessment panels and sub-panels, we all have a moment to take breath before the next cycle commences.

For the whole REF process, the increased selectivity of outputs combined with a requirement to submit all staff with significant responsibility for research has impacted across all submissions. This meant that for Engineering, the category A headcount rose from 5,279 in 2014 to 7,750 in 2021, a massive 47%. For the Engineering sub-panel, REF 2021 saw another significant and specific change: four individual Engineering sub-panels in 2014 (12. Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering, 13. Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials, 14. Civil and Construction Engineering, and 15. General Engineering) were combined into one single sub-panel (12. Engineering) for REF 2021. This led to a significant decrease in the number of impact case studies submitted across Engineering (from 621 to 483, -22%) and a significant decrease in the number of submissions (from 138 to 88, -36%). 

A key driver for the move to a single sub-panel was to give a single picture of the health of the discipline of Engineering across the UK. This picture was harder to obtain previously when, for example, depending on the way in which Engineering units are constituted across different HEIs as either unified Engineering units or disciplinary units, this could impact whether teams in the same disciplinary area were submitted to one of the more themed sub-panels or to the General Engineering sub-panel. REF 2021 certainly succeeded in this aim, facilitating a perspective of Engineering impacts and environments across whole institutions in a unified manner. 

Who can fail to be impressed by statistics showing such a high level of overall quality of Engineering research, with 91% of outputs assessed as being at least internationally excellent, with over 87% of the volume-weighted impact results judged to have very considerable or outstanding reach and significance and with over 85% of the volume-weighted environment results judged to demonstrate vitality and sustainability conducive to producing research of internationally excellent or world-leading quality? 

Interdisciplinary research

The assessment of interdisciplinary research (IDR) has been another area of change for the 2021 exercise. An underpinning principle of REF is that all types of research and all forms of research output across all disciplines shall be assessed on a fair and equal basis including interdisciplinary and collaborative research. 

The independent review of REF 2014, chaired by Lord Stern, noted concerns within the research community regarding IDR where it was perceived to have been disadvantaged at assessment. The lower proportion of IDR submitted relative to what might have been expected suggested low confidence within the community of fair treatment for IDR. It is the case after all that the Units of Assessment (U0A) around which REF assessment is built are entirely discipline-based. From the outcomes of Lord Stern’s review, it was recommended that structures should be implemented to support submission and assessment of IDR in REF 2021.

Consequently, Professor Dame Athene Donald was appointed to Chair what was called the REF Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP). This was an excellent choice as Dame Athene Donald is well known for her interdisciplinary research contributions as well of course for her absolute commitment to inclusion. It was perceived by IDAP that the main issues for the assessment of interdisciplinary research arise around output assessment. Interdisciplinary work underpinning impact case studies was perceived to have had no issues in REF 2014 while the Environment Statement provides an opportunity to discuss a unit’s approach to interdisciplinary research without including specific metrics. IDAP produced a clear definition of what interdisciplinary research was, and indeed what it was not, and how it might be distinguished from a simple case of cross-referral. 

Champions or advisors

A further strand of work related to how the actual assessment should be carried out. Lord Stern had recommended champions but it was felt by IDAP that this did not convey the right message – interdisciplinary work should not need championing by individuals so much as to be judged on a level playing field. 

IDAP therefore recommended that each main panel should have a least one member with interdisciplinary research experience and each sub-panel should recruit at least two people identified as interdisciplinary advisors and for the Engineering sub-panel, I was one of the appointed interdisciplinary advisors. IDAP also decided that to support these main panel and sub-panel interdisciplinary advisors, networks should be established with whom IDAP would interact. It was felt that this network would provide a forum for discussion and support during the process of interdisciplinary research assessment.

These recommendations were made in 2019 and I can confirm that the network proposal worked extremely well initially. I had the opportunity to take part in network meetings across all main panels to discuss interdisciplinary research and to explore any boundaries between disciplines while developing a network of peers across a diverse community of units of assessment to support the assessment of interdisciplinary research in the Engineering sub-panel. 

Unfortunately, Covid hit and this networking could no longer continue as planned. Covid regulations did not facilitate networking in the same way and indeed all of those involved in the research assessment were busy not just with the assessment but also frequently with day jobs that had also became increasingly complex. So the aspiration with regard to networking around IDR which showed so much promise initially was greatly reduced in scope. I hope it will be able to develop to maturity in any future exercises.

IDAP stated that, for the purposes of REF, the definition of interdisciplinary research is that which is understood to achieve outcomes (including new approaches) that could not be achieved within the framework of a single discipline. Interdisciplinary research features significant interaction between two or more disciplines and may move beyond established disciplinary foundations in applying or integrating research approaches from other disciplines. 

Originality, significance and rigour

As for any output, disciplinary outputs were assessed against the generic criteria of originality, significance and rigour. In addition to this, IDAP provided guidance to sub-panels that originality and significance can be identified in one, some, or all of the constituent parts brought together in the work, or in their integration; they do not need to be demonstrated across all contributing areas or fields. This is important. It means that the originality does not need to be in, for example, an engineering method, but can be in the application of an established method into a new domain. 

In terms of observations on submissions to the Engineering sub-panel with respect to interdisciplinarity, the range of research disciplines was wide and there was extensive evidence of interdisciplinarity. Indeed, there was a welcome increase as we might have expected in the number of interdisciplinary outputs submitted. It was notable that there was inconsistent use of the IDR flag by HEIs. Some HEIs used the flag extremely liberally, whereas others didn’t flag any outputs as IDR. Some units may have left the decision with regard to the IDR flag with the individual academics who wrote particular outputs which again didn’t favour a consistent approach.

Accompanying statements

The 100-word statement that can accompany any output submitted to the Engineering sub-panel is a useful mechanism not just to assist panels in seeing the significance of an output but also to contextualise interdisciplinary research. 

For REF 2021, our Engineering sub-panel considered that the nature of the discipline was such that the significance of an output may not be fully evident within the output itself. They therefore invited factual information to be provided (maximum 100 words) that could include, for example, additional evidence about how an output had gained recognition, impacted the state of the art, led to further developments or had been applied. Some HEIs did not take advantage of this opportunity. If the 100-word statement continues into future exercises I would encourage all colleagues to use it and to apply the rules for use, otherwise the information will be ignored.

Calibration 

Calibration across sub-panel members, different sub-panels as well as main panels is an important factor in the research assessment process. For outputs, impact case studies and environmental statements, extensive calibration took place, and this calibration was particularly important for interdisciplinary research. 

In all cases the main panel calibration sample included items from across all the sub-panels, including a selection of interdisciplinary outputs. These items were then also included in our own sub-panel calibration exercises. 

This really ensured there was a shared understanding of standards for assessment across the process. There is a general view that the material covered by all the sub-panels in main panel B is becoming ever more interdisciplinary, and this makes it far easier to recognise quality across multiple disciplinary boundaries. 

An Engineering taxonomy

In terms of output allocation, the Engineering sub-panel used an extensive taxonomy that was published in the sub-panel working methods. To those of us involved in REF assessment for the Engineering sub-panel, I think mention of this taxonomy will cause us to smile for some time to come. 

It came about for the very best of reasons. The sub-panel started by merging together the areas described across the original four sub-panels from ref 2014 and then sought to merge this information into a coherent single taxonomy. This taxonomy was then taken back out for consultation to the Engineering community. This caused the taxonomy to grow again. 

With hindsight and probably as would be expected for a first attempt, this taxonomy wasn’t optimal and I’m sure it’s something that will be looked at for future Engineering research assessment. 

It became the means by which outputs were allocated and indeed the means by which interdisciplinary boundaries were identified. Sub-panel members took on different elements from within the taxonomy to define their own expertise whilst submitting units identified elements from the taxonomy to associate with an output. This information was used to algorithmically allocate outputs to individuals ensuring outputs with interdisciplinary aspects were allocated to the right individuals. 

I think most of us would agree that interdisciplinarity is inherent in Engineering and it was felt and found that the sub-panel had the appropriate membership and processes in place to enable us to robustly assess most of the interdisciplinary work using the taxonomy to ensure outputs were allocated to the right individual sub-panellists. 

The fact that we had the right expertise is reinforced by sub-panel data showing that only 442 outputs were cross-referred out of sub-panel 12 from a total of 18,282 outputs (less than 3%). In fact, 324 of these outputs were cross-referred to other sub-panels in response to a direct request from the submitting HEI and only a further 120 (less than 1% of the total number of outputs) were cross-referred to provide additional guidance for assessment of interdisciplinary research. 

Reflections

The outcomes for Engineering as reported earlier were fantastic. Interdisciplinary research was found to have become mainstream in our sub-panel as we would expect. Perhaps disappointingly, there is no specific data on interdisciplinary research as a result of the sub-panel assessment; issues with inconsistent use of the interdisciplinary flag by the higher education institutions were unhelpful in this regard. 

The taxonomy, with further work, could be another approach to deliver this in the future. The sub-panel received outputs spanning the full breadth of Engineering, ranging from the highly theoretical to applied output, but we observed a high proportion of theoretical outputs were submitted. Does this indicate that interdisciplinary research outputs are still perceived as a greater risk in terms of assessment when compared with a strong theoretical paper with a robust 100-word statement supporting wider application in potentially interdisciplinary contexts?

I’ve commented on the decrease in the number of submissions and the number of impact studies. For the Engineering community, we should continue to ask whether the changes for REF 2021 have inadvertently negatively impacted smaller units. 

For REF 2021 the minimum number of impact case studies to be submitted per unit of assessment was two. In general, the number of impact case studies is one case study plus one further case study for each 14.99 FTE in a UoA. This rule applies for the first 105 FTE returned in a UoA. After that one further case study is required per 50 FTE returned. The word limit for the environment statement is given in Table 1. The size of different units of assessment to the Engineering panel varied from less than 10 to more than 400. 

A hypothetical unit with 10 FTE would need to submit two impact case studies and would have 8,000 words to describe the research environment. Another hypothetical unit with 300 staff would need to submit 12 case studies and have 21,600 words to describe the research environment. So, for an increase in staff numbers of 30x, the required number of impact studies increases by 6x and the research environment description increases by 2.7x. 

This has the potential unintended consequence of giving larger UoAs a better chance to be selective than smaller UoAs have. This may be a consequence of an assessment that seeks to assess, among other things, vitality and sustainability. Further analysis is certainly required of the impact of nonlinearity in reporting versus size of UoA which I am sure EPC will be looking at in greater depth in the coming period.

Number of category A FTE staffWord limit for environment template
1-19.998,000
20-29.998,800
30-39.999,600
40-49.9910,400
50-69.9911,200
70 or more12,000 plus 800 further words per additional 20 FTE

Table 1 Word limits for the unit-level environment template

Another area for the future which EPC has already highlighted in its response to the Future Research Assessment Programme consultation is the need for REF submission systems to be evolved to support processes around interdisciplinary research identification and allocation for assessment, particularly for large sub-panels like Engineering. There are good algorithmic and data analysis approaches to help with this and such innovations may help us in collecting robust data particularly on interdisciplinary outcomes. 

In conclusion, we should acknowledge that the colleagues on our Engineering sub-panel did a fabulous job for our community in what were unusually difficult circumstances. We can all have confidence in the outcomes.

Professor Sarah Spurgeon OBE FREng is Head of Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at University College London, a member of the EPC Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer (RIKT) Committee, and a Sub-panel 12 Engineering Member and Interdisciplinary adviser for REF 2021.

Why communication is a critical tool for any engineer

People rarely choose engineering because of their communication skills, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a vital part of the tool box. Professor Lucy Rogers explains.
Image by Anete Lusina, Pexels.com

Do you remember what made you choose your career? For me, I liked maths and physics, logic and problem-solving. Engineering was an obvious choice.

To me, a spade was a spade. I wasn’t very good at picking up on the social skills that seemed to come naturally to many. I wanted to know how machines worked, not how people worked.  I disliked parties and mingling with those I didn’t know. The “no seminars discussing the deeper meaning of a poem” and the “no essays giving your opinion on a character’s thought processes” also made engineering more appealing.

Job descriptions led me to believe that if I put my head down, did the work and wrote a report about it, then I would be rewarded and acknowledged for my efforts.

I was wrong.

As a young graduate engineer, I noticed that I wasn’t getting acknowledged for my efforts. People didn’t quite seem to understand what I was saying. I wasn’t getting the exciting opportunities.

I remember one day my boss’s boss bumping into me on the shop floor. He was tall, fizzing with energy and wearing very polished, non-PPE black shoes. He asked what I was doing. 

My brain exploded. What should I say? That I was actually on my way to the toilet? No, not that. I could tell him about the experiments, the reports, the meetings, the good the bad … and as I stumbled and mumbled and muttered my way through a very incoherent explanation, I could see his eyes glaze over – and he rushed off on his way. I never got to speak to him again.

I realised communication was a critical skill for an engineer. 

Why think if we can’t share our thoughts?

Why work on small projects when, if we work together, we can work on the bigger ones?

Why have the best idea in the world, if the world won’t listen to us?

Over the last twenty years I have sought out opportunities to learn and improve my communication skills – from public speaking and storytelling to cartooning and stand-up comedy.

These improvements helped me become a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the IMechE. And they also led to other opportunities – such as being a BBC TV judge on Robot Wars and to becoming a RAEng Visiting Professor of Engineering: Communication and Creativity at Brunel University, London.

As an independent innovation consultant, and as a Visiting Professor, I have seen many presentations and read many reports. I have seen why the public’s perception of engineers is that we’re not great at communicating. This is also confirmed in industry – with the IET’s Skills survey saying that they find it difficult to find people with good technical AND communication skills.

I am pleased to see that the Engineering Council’s AHEP 4 has strengthened its commitment to communication skills, by adding in:

M17: Communicate effectively on complex engineering matters with technical and non-technical audiences, evaluating the effectiveness of the methods used.

M16: Function effectively as an individual, and as a member or leader of a team. Evaluate effectiveness of own and team performance.

Communication, is just a skill. Sadly, it is not rocket science – as I am sure, if it were, that would appeal more to many of us.

As engineers, we know we can learn technical skills.

Communication is just the operating system for humans.

We can learn that.

We have to learn that.

Over my engineering career, I have come up with three main principles with regards to communication skills:

Visibility

If you are not seen or heard, your work will not be seen or heard.

Clarity

Share your knowledge clearly and be succinct. Tell your audience only what they need to hear.

Insight

Understand what your audience needs to know by listening and using feedback.

Focus on these and…

When we speak, they will listen. 

When we explain, they will understand. 

And when we motivate, they will be inspired.


Prof Lucy Rogers PhD CEng FREng FIMechE (@DrLucyRogers) is an independent innovation consultant and RAEng Visiting Professor at Brunel University, London. She has distilled her communications knowledge into online, self-guided courses that she is licensing to universities to assist with the new AHEP4 rules. More details at www.comscourses.com or contact her at support@comscourses.com

EPC responses to OfS Consultations

After an opinion-gathering exercise among our members, the EPC has published its responses to two consultations from the Office for Students, summarised here by Chief Executive Johnny Rich. They are on proposed changes to Student Outcomes and TEF (use the links to find the full responses).

These are among the most important regulatory changes we have faced since the formation of the OfS and the EPC felt it was important to respond comprehensively. There was a third consultation on metrics, which the EPC considered outside the scope of its representative role.

Student Outcomes

  • We are concerned the proposals will damage access. This is important to the EPC as a greater diversity of engineers is good for those who enter the profession, good for engineering and good for society.
  • Contrary to the aim of raising standards, the proposals may lead to grade inflation.
  • Rather than raising educational standards through incentives based on outcomes, the need for outcomes may become an excuse for admitting the students who need education least to get good outcomes. This would drive down standards. 
  • The proposals are incompatible with the forward-looking and flexible model of HE envisaged by the government in its proposals for the Lifelong Loan Entitlement. As such, the proposals are not fit for the future. 
  • The proposals will duplicate or sometimes be at odds with other regulatory frameworks for certain courses, such as Engineering which is subject to strict regulations for accreditation. 
  • The proposals estimate the value of higher education too narrowly.
  • The proposals will damage efforts to diversify engineering, particularly in terms of gender balance, but other characteristics too. 
  • By using a poor proxy measure for educational quality, rather than attempting to measure learning gain, the proposals value outcomes that are beyond universities’ direct control over the standard of the education provided.
  • By seeking to penalise universities for offering courses with supposedly poor outcomes, the proposals may inadvertently make courses with good outcomes, such as Engineering, less viable.
  • The proposals may discourage educational innovation.
  • The proposals create incentives in opposition to the government’s mission to level up. This is a policy area where higher education – and Engineering, in particular – can effect real change, but only if they are not penalised for doing so. 

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

Many of the concerns above also related to the TEF proposals, but there were also a number of other key points to make.

  • Given the proposals for student outcomes baselines, it is not clear what distinctive purpose TEF serves in spotlighting teaching excellence. 
  • We are unconvinced that a system of badges is a sufficiently nuanced representation of an institution’s reputation, which should be viewed in terms of good and bad, but in terms of having a reputation FOR something. The proposals are too reductive to achieve that.
  • The proposals for TEF are not likely to improve its previous poor record of usefully informing student choice. In order to be informative it would need to be more granular, but a more detailed TEF would be less appealing and therefore less useful.
  • There’s a similar inherent contradiction in the proposed periodic cycle of the TEF exercise: in order to be useful it needs to be frequent, but in order for its useful to come close to the burden involved, it needs to be infrequent.
  • The 3-band Gold, Silver, Bronze approach to TEF is unhelpfully heuristic. That is to say, a TEF band does not provide anyone with good information, but rather the band is used *instead of* good information. 
  • The proposed fourth band – “requires improvement” – serves no positive purpose as it undermines reputation without providing any information about what improvement might be required.
  • This is particularly damaging as the TEF band will be institution-wide, even when an institution may have pockets of excellence whose staff, students and graduates will be unjustly tarred with the same brush of inadequacy. 
  • By failing to represent the experience of international students properly, the TEF exercise will misrepresent excellence in certain parts of the sector – such as Engineering courses, in particular, where they comprise an especially significant proportion of students. 
  • We are concerned that the proposals will further undermine foundation years – a critical pathway to access and successful student outcomes, particularly in Engineering. This is especially troubling when foundation year funding is under threat from government proposals.
  • Student insights is important, but they need the framework to provide points of reference so they can be comparative and useful. 
  • We are concerned that the proposals both for TEF and student outcomes will be unfair to smaller specialist providers in Engineering and other disciplines. 

The EPC calls on the Office for Students to abandon its regulation plans for student outcomes and instead to adopt measures of ‘learning gain’ and ‘value added’.

In both consultation responses, the EPC was clear that these would give a more direct and useful measure of educational quality – both baselines and excellence – and would incentivise desired outcomes rather than unintended consequences. Learning gain is not easy to measure, but as the hundreds of pages of these consultations demonstrate, it’s not as if the OfS has found an easier or better alternative. 

Welcome to the Engineering Ethics Toolkit

EPC President Prof Mike Sutcliffe introduces an ambitious new initiative to ensure engineering education is a force for good.

Engineering can have significant impact on society and the environment, both positive and negative.  Harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society that works for everyone require us to navigate complexity, uncertainty and challenging ethical issues.

Understanding ethical issues and behaving in an ethical manner underpins other behaviours such as inclusivity and sustainability, ensuring that individual practitioners, professions and organisations are globally responsible. To maximise positive impact these behaviours must become instinctive – golden threads running through everything that engineers think and do.

The EPC Board considered its own ethical responsibility – including representing our members’ views, supporting good practice and as an organisation – at its retreat in January 2020.  This led to the clear action for the EPC to promote engineering ethics more proactively and adopt clear ethical positions.  A key aspect of this is enabling the embedding of ethical best practice into the UK engineering higher education curriculum through creation of an ‘Engineering Ethics Toolkit’.

There is growing advocacy for bringing engineering ethics to the fore in engineering programmes – alongside technical skills – as we equip future engineers with the skills and mindset they need to succeed.  At the policy level, this is evident in three general areas:

  1. The UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence and Commitment (UK-SPEC; 4th edition) and accreditation bodies identifying ethics as one of the core learning outcomes and competencies in accreditation documents;
  2. The inclusion of more descriptive competencies that expand on the understanding and practical application engineering ethics; and 
  3. The Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes in engineering (AHEP, 4th edition) standards reflecting the importance of societal impact in engineering.

Today we are pleased to launch the first milestone in the development of the EPC’s Engineering Ethics toolkit – a range of case studies and supporting articles to help engineering educators integrate ethics content into their teaching.

Today we are pleased to launch the first milestone in the development of the EPC’s Engineering Ethics toolkit

This will allow engineering students to be able to identify ethical issues, exercise ethical thinking and use ethical judgement within their projects and coursework.  

Producing this first phase of the toolkit has been a fabulous team effort – the high priority placed on creating this exemplified by remaining on track and producing a high-quality resource despite the challenges faced from Covid-19.  Everyone has done an amazing job. 

This would not have been possible without the generosity and support of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Engineering Council with whom they are partnering.  As chair, Raffaella Ocone (Herriot Watt) is doing a wonderful job of guiding us – getting us off to a flying start with her previous trailblazing work on embedding ethics into the curriculum. And Sarah Jayne Hitt (formerly NMiTE) is doing an absolutely fabulous job of keeping us focussed, on track and producing high-quality resources informed by best practice.    

This achievement is a wonderful example of how, as engineers, we work most effectively when we work together to design effective solutions – a team I enjoy working with and am proud to be a part of.

We hope you find these resources for embedding ethics into the curriculum useful.  Do let us know how you get on and keep an eye out as we continue to expand these resources into a more comprehensive toolkit for engineering educators.

The EPC Crucible Project

Booking for this online event is now open at: bit.ly/EPCCrucibleProject

16 February 2022

Agenda*

9.30 Welcome and introduction

  • Prof Andy Alderson, Sheffield Hallam University and Chair of EPC Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer Committee

9.35      Keynote: Igniting the Crucible

  • Prof John Perkins CBE

9.50      University – Industry linkages and engagement in the 4th Industrial Revolution: Evolution of best practice

  • Prof John Patsavellas, Senior Lecturer in Manufacturing Management, Sustainable Manufacturing Systems Centre, Cranfield University

10.20    Break

10.25    Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

  • Dr Nikita Hari, Dyson Institute of Engineering & Technology (Chair)
  • Dr Mike Murray, University of Strathclyde
  • Dr David Hughes, Teesside University and Dr Steve Jones, Siemens
  • Jake Godfrey, IET
  • Gareth Thomson, Aston University
  • Prof Simon Barrans, University of Huddersfield

10.55    Panel discussion

11.25    Break

11.35    Graduate employability and recruitment

  • Dr David Hughes, Teesside University (Chair)
  • Dr Corrina Cory, University of Exeter and Mr Nick Russill, TerraDat Geophysics Ltd and Steve Senior, Signbox Ltd.
  • Dr Salma Alarefi, University of Leeds
  • Dr Lisa Simmons and Mr Scott Pepper, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Bob Tricklebank, The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology and Sue Parr, University of Warwick
  • Dr Becky Selwyn, University of Bristol

12.05    Panel discussion

12.35    Lunch break

13.30    Knowledge Exchange

  • Dr Adrienne Houston, Managing Director Eurovacuum Products Ltd, RA Eng Visiting Professor University of Birmingham (Chair)
  • Prof Sa’ad Sam Medhat, IKE Institute
  • Dr Tom Allen, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Ben Ricketts, NMiTE
  • Prof Wayne Cranton and Alex Prince, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Kendra Gerlach, Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering and Justin Shaw, ExpertFile

14.00    Panel discussion

14.30    Break

14.35    Research

  • Dr Rob Deaves, Senior Principal Engineer, Dyson (Chair)
  • Prof Philipp Thies, University of Exeter
  • Prof Balbir S. Barn, Middlesex University
  • Dr Matteo Ceriotti, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Grazia Todeschini, King’s College London
  • Graeme Knowles, Dr Jane Andrews & Robin Clark, Warwick Manufacturing Group

15.05    Panel discussion

15.35    Break

15.40    Universities’ and business’ shared role in regional development

  • Dr Sarah Peers, New Model Institute for Technology & Engineering (Chair)
  • Prof Matt Boyle OBE, Newcastle University
  • Dr Mark Corbett, Teeside University
  • Mr Peter Gough, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Amer Gaffar and Dr Ian Madley, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Prof Tony Dodd, Staffordshire University

16.10    Panel discussion

16:40    Closing remarks

  • Prof Andy Alderson, Sheffield Hallam University and Chair EPC Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer Committee
  • 17:00    Ends

    *Subject to change

    Crucible Project: template and style guide

    Thank you for preparing a case study for the EPC Crucible Project.

    Outlined below is the case study template and the style guidelines to which we ask you to adhere in the interest of consistency and clarity. Sticking to these rules makes presenting the case studies simpler for us and increases the impact for our members.

    Firstly, an important note to consider – these case studies are aimed principally at engineering academics and administrators (including early career staff) who may be seeking to establish academia-industry collaborations of their own. You should therefore not assume detailed prior knowledge and while you may write in a formal, academic style, you should remember that the purpose is to provide accessible exemplars which may be replicated or adapted.]

    Template

    Case Study Title (in bold and title case)List of authors in order of relative contribution to the work with the main author placed first in the list [include titles and affiliations e.g., Prof John Smith (University of Sheffield)].

    [For the main body of the submission please try to answer the following questions:]
    • What is the case study about?
    • What were its aims?
    • How did it come about and/or how was it set up?
    • Who did it involve? (e.g., collaborating parties)
    • What were the outcomes?
    • Are there any evidential outcomes?
    • What lessons were learned, or reflections can you provide? What might you do differently?
    • Are there any further resources available that are relevant to this project and might help others learn from it? 
    [Note: you do not need to use these exact questions as headings in your submission, your headings/sub-headings can be different to fit better with your submission – as long as they follow the formatting and style guidelines provided above]

    Document Type and Images

    Please submit your case study as a Word document (.doc or .docx).

    Submit any images (including charts, tables and diagrams) separately as high-resolution .jpg / .tif / .png / .pdf / .eps files (we will not accept gif files). Do not embed images in the text. Use colour if possible as these images will be published online as provided.

    Please clearly indicate where in the paper an image should be inserted, by using square brackets and the filename, for example [image: picture_1.jpg] in italicised text. For any images submitted, authors must confirm copyright ownership or “cc” in those that do and confirm that they are happy to grant the EPC an unlimited licence to reproduce these materials for academic, non-commercial purposes. If lifted from elsewhere (and these images are under the Creative Commons licence), a clear reference should be supplied immediately underneath the title.  

    Formatting

    Do not include MS document templates or complex formatting, such as coloured subtitles.

    Use italics only for:

    • Image titles and any image reference.
    • The titles of publications, including newspapers and academic journals.
    • Quotations of more than three lines – indented, no speech marks.

    Use bold only for:

    • Headings, which should be in sentence case but be the same font size as the rest of the text; they should not be enlarged or underlined. No numbering should be used for headers (except in bullet point lists).

    Do not use italics or bold to give extra emphasis to individual words.

    Style

    Use Arial 11pt font for all submission content.

    Any headings should be in bold and sentence case with two line spaces before and one line space after. Any sub-headings should be both bold and italicised in sentence case, with one line space before and after. No other heading formats should be used. In the rest of the text, please avoid putting a double space after one sentence and before the next.

    Use endnotes, not footnotes. The standard format is: First and Second Name of author, Title, Year of publication, page number. Where an endnote is marked in the text, use an Arabic numeral (1,2, 3) in square brackets, for example [1], not i, ii and iii in superscript after the full stop. This should suffice for references, but if a bibliography is essential, use the Harvard referencing system.

    Bullets or Arabic numerals are acceptable for any lists.

    In text, numbers from one to nine should be written in full (except when it is a percentage or a reference to an endnote) but use numerals for numbers above this.

    Quotations under three lines need single speech marks. Do not use speech marks to give extra emphasis to individual words.

    Any phrases that have accompanying acronyms should be written out in full the first time, with the acronym in brackets afterwards.

    For the word ‘universities’, in general, use a lower case first letter. When writing about a specific university, use a capital letter and check how the institution styles itself. For example, it is the University of Oxford but Oxford Brookes University.

    Give academic disciplines a capital letter and write them out in full, so it is ‘Mathematics’, not ‘maths’.

    Although ‘z’ and ‘s’ are often interchangeable, please use the ‘s’. For example, it is ‘organised’ not ‘organized’.

    EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey Results 2021/22

    The results of the 2021 EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey are now available. Watch the launch presentation, view the slide-deck, or read the summary blog.

    Headlines

    Firstly, a huge thank you for member 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; and is the only place you can gain this insight, long before official sector enrolment data for 2021/22 is available.

    We are delighted to return to a full survey in 2021, following an abridged version last year to respond to the initial challenges of the pandemic. What’s more, member engagement was up even on pre-pandemic levels with approximately half of our member universities submitting a survey – covering nearly 200 discrete disciplines at 40 universities. Coverage was also consistent with pre pandemic, with circa 30K enrolments covering all countries and regions of the UK.

    This transports us to headline engineering enrolments holding at pre-pandemic levels, despite reported EU enrolments being (unsurprisingly) distinctly slashed. Post-graduate enrolments are up (dominated by international / Russell Group), first degree home distributions – including at discipline level – are remarkably similar to 2019/20 (a strong home market) and other undergraduate enrolments are down.

    This leads us to a couple of really interesting insights…

    While a stable non-EU (overseas) market sounds good during a pandemic in which international travel has been seriously impeded, early indications are that the international undergraduate cohort has increased outside of engineering. In engineering, however, and coupled with the realisation of the expected drop in EU enrolments, we’re seeing a contracted overseas market overall. With engineering a dominant international player in UKHE, what does this mean? Could it be an early sign of saturation with the rest of the sector ready to close in, or is there more subject nuance here at a time where engineering cannot readily be studied remotely without compromise on the kit that makes our courses more expensive to deliver in the first place?

    What about the foundation degree and degree apprenticeship enrolments? Taking a contraction of enrolments in our survey of approximately 20% as an early indicator of the health of the other undergraduate market, why should engineering be shrinking in this area when UCAS are simultaneously reporting apprenticeships to be more popular than ever? Reminded annually that market forces aren’t the only factor at play in changes to enrolments, we should consider if this is a discipline response to the funding uncertainties, or maybe a lack of capacity for innovation in the context of moving teaching and learning online?

    Electrical engineering is one to watch in this space; approx. 1 in 3 Degree Apprenticeships and 1 in 4 Foundation degrees are in Electrical, electronic and computer engineering and this appears to be growing (despite declining elsewhere). Another discipline of interest is IT, systems sciences and computer software engineering with enrolments increasing at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The AI phenomenon?

    Many more insights are available in our findings, including in relation to regional, female and part-time enrolments. If you wish to dive deeper into this this year’s outcomes, EPC members can view the presentation slide deck, or watch the launch recording. As always, we would appreciate your views on the value of this work.

    Recruitment and Admissions Forum 2021 webinar series

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

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

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

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

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

    Book your tickets now.

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

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

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

    Book your tickets now.

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

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

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

    Book your tickets now.

    Inspiring tomorrow’s engineers

    Following her appearance at our ‘Engineering engineering’ event in July, we were keen to get Dr Hillary Leevers, CEO of EngineeringUK, to share her views on the power of outreach.

    Hillary Leevers
    Hillary Leevers: “It’s vital we take an open and experimental approach to developing outreach, testing content and delivery with target audiences, and, ideally, involving them in the planning.”

    It’s our ambition at EngineeringUK to inform and inspire young people and grow the number and diversity of tomorrow’s engineers to meet the needs of the UK now and in the future.

    And we’re very clear that achieving this ambition requires the concerted, collective effort of organisations and individuals with a shared interest in ensuring that all young people can make an informed choice about whether to pursue an engineering career.

    Our analysis of the annual Engineering Brand Monitor shows that young people who know more about what engineers do are more likely to perceive the profession positively and to consider a career in engineering. Furthermore, young people attending a STEM careers activity in the past 12 months were over 3 times more likely to consider a career in engineering than those who had not.

    Yet, even pre-pandemic, only about a quarter of 11- to 19-year-olds surveyed reported having attended such an activity and we know that careers experiences have been limited over the pandemic.

    Worryingly, nearly half of young people surveyed said they know little or almost nothing about what engineers do and many of them see engineering as complicated and difficult as well as dirty. Beyond that, while key influencers of young people hold positive views about engineering, fewer than half of STEM secondary school teachers and under a third of parents are confident in giving engineering careers advice.

    There is therefore a need to work more effectively to ensure that all young people, and their influencers, have a good understanding of the breadth and value of modern engineering and how to get into it. Outreach has an important role to play in this, but we must ensure that it works for the digitally engaged young people of today, especially those from groups that are under-represented in the engineering workforce.

    It’s vital we take an open and experimental approach to developing outreach, testing content and delivery with target audiences, and, ideally, involving them in the planning. 

    Taking an evidence-based approach to outreach includes identifying key messages that resonate with young people. As an example, our surveys have shown for many years that ‘having an impact’ and ‘being valued’ are important to young people when deciding upon a career, research last summer also found that the pandemic had made job security and availability more important to them

    STEM outreach should therefore convey the wide-ranging societal contributions that engineers make and the certainty of future engineering workforce needs, for example, supported by the government’s investments in infrastructure and for net zero

    With 100s of organisations delivering STEM engagement, we must work together to improve our approach to designing, delivering, and evaluating activities, as well as sharing our learnings and coordinating our work with one other.

    That’s why EngineeringUK is proud to have been invited to deliver the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code which gathered 140 signatories (including HEIs) in its first 9 months, all pledging to work together to increase the collective impact of our engineering-inspiration activities and ultimately the number and diversity of young people choosing engineering. 

    STEM outreach efforts must focus on measuring and increasing the impact of activity as well as its reach. As a community, we must cultivate a greater understanding of how engagement activities can affect positive change through robust research and a shared evidence base. 

    There are of course difficulties in evaluating the impact of outreach activities targeted at 11–14-year-olds on, for example, graduate entries. As an example, The Big Bang Fair supported by hundreds of organisations and orchestrated by EngineeringUK and which by 2019 welcomed 80,000 visitors, would need up to 10 years to see impacts on graduate entries. Nevertheless, our in-house and independent evaluations have shown that the Fair helps to inspire young people into engineering and provides them with information on how to get there. This evaluation also identifies how we can improve so we can iterate year on year and share our learnings. 

    STEM outreach works within a much wider eco-system that impacts on a young person’s choices. So, while we know that knowledge of engineering is a limiting factor, it is one of many, including opportunities to progress in key subjects, specialist teachers, confidence and so on. It could be that we make progress in one area – knowledge or appeal of engineering – but that other elements, such as supply of specialist teachers, limit progression.

    We’ve developed and published an impact framework to help describe this system, and are using it to help us articulate the changes we are trying to achieve and evaluate against them – and we are sharing it in the hope that it helps other organisations do the same. 

    It’s fair to say that the engineering community needs to work harder than ever to ensure that engineering is accessible to this generation of young people – for their own life chances and so that we have a diverse and insightful workforce that we need to innovate, improve societal and economic resilience and environmental sustainability.

    While STEM outreach is only one part of the system that will deliver this, I am convinced that the renewed community emphasis on working together to deliver impact alongside reach will achieve the results we seek.

    ‘Engineering Engineering: A Provocation’ Webcast Summary

    Prof Kel Fidler CEng HonFIET FREng, former Vice Chancellor of Northumbria University and former Chair of the Engineering Council, has published a new paper which seeks to challenge assumptions and practice around Engineering higher education and the talent pipeline. The EPC is grateful to him for inviting us to share his paper with our members.

    The paper itself, titled Engineering Engineering: A Provocation, offers Kel’s personal perspective and it does not represent the views of the EPC. Some of our members may agree with it wholeheartedly. Others may want to take issue with his findings and recommendations – but no one can reasonably deny that these are discussions worth having.

    As his polemical paper report makes clear, all is not roses in the garden of Engineering. We have the interlinked challenges of too little diversity among engineers and too few engineers to meet the social, environmental and economic needs of the future.

    Some of our best efforts to resolve these challenges have not yet created the change we want to see, and so it is right to reflect on what more – or what else – we might do.

    As anyone who knows him would expect, Kel has not held back in this ‘provocation’. Some people may disagree with his diagnosis of the problems and many will no doubt disagree with some of his proposed solutions, but that, surely, is the point of a provocation?

    As the voice of Engineering academics, the EPC shall hold its peace for the time being, but we welcome a no-holds-barred debate about what we can do better and, as consensus emerges, we will do our best to support and disseminate positive change. Kel’s contribution is intended to get the stone rolling down the mountain and, for that, we are grateful to him and we are delighted to encourage the ongoing discussion.

    During the ‘Engineering Engineering: A Provocation‘ webcast, each topic was addressed by leading experts on the issue, chaired by outgoing EPC President Prof Colin Turner. These included:

    • Elizabeth Donnelly, Chief Executive, Women’s Engineering Society

    • Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive, Engineering UK

    • Tom Sheldon, Senior Press Manager, The Science Media Centre

    • Prof Mike Sutcliffe, Deputy Dean, TEDI-London, and EPC President-Elect.

    In particular, the event aimed to examine four themes: the role of outreach in promoting engineering, how we might attract more women into engineering, the public perception of engineering and the distinction between design engineering and engineering science.