!New! DATA BLOG: EPC engineering enrolments survey results

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EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey

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

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

Stable enrolments, changing distribution

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

Summary findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Degree apprenticeships

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

Undergraduate enrolments compared with 2017-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections

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

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

International Baccalaureate: the perfect preparation for engineers?

This blog has been written for the EPC by Henry Coverdale, Director of Post 16 Education at King Edward’s School in Birmingham. Henry was the author of one of the posters presented at the EPC Recruitment & Admissions Forum this month. 

“Our narrow education system, which encourages early specialisation, is no longer fit for purpose in an increasingly interdisciplinary world.”
Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society.

With offers as they currently stand, International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma candidates are less likely to enrol on STEM courses at university the students with other qualifications (HESA).

This is a tragedy on three fronts: firstly, Engineering desperately needs more undergraduates with the sort of skills that the IB provides. The fact that every IB graduate has studied Maths and a Science, while also tackling humanities, literature and a foreign language, makes them ideal for the ethically difficult and creative problems that will face society in the future.

Secondly, IB graduates do fantastically well at university on STEM courses. They are more likely to be awarded a ‘good degree’ than an A level contemporary and, critically for STEM, they are also twice as likely to embark on further study after the completion of their first degree (HESA).

Finally, IB graduates are disproportionately women, if engineering departments were to actively seek out IB candidates it would be a pathway to some superbly creative and scientifically minded young women in schools, which would help to develop diversity in Engineering.

If Engineering departments were to be proactive in recruiting IB students, it would encourage more schools to take the plunge and offer this brilliant qualification, which would improve the calibre of British engineering students no end.

“More schools must adopt the IB – students shouldn’t be forced to narrow their options so early”
– Naomi Climer, President of the Institution for Engineering and Technology

The first, and arguably most important, place to start is reexamining the maths requirements for entry, especially now that the IB maths course is changing to create ‘applications’ courses that should be of particular benefit to engineers and economists. The IB Higher Level Maths course is internationally regarded – up there with Singapore Maths school-leaver qualifications – and it is the one subject where the UCAS points equivalent to A level Maths really doesn’t stack up. Research suggests that Higher Level Maths grade 6 is at an A* grade, with a 4 being approximate to an A at A level. As such, universities examining their Maths requirements could be an excellent start to encouraging more IB students to follow engineering careers. Perhaps, even (following Warwick University’s lead) either Maths or Physics at Higher Level is sufficient, given the other skills IB students arrive with.

If the UK is to tackle its uncertain future from a position of strength, with a workforce able to tackle problem solving in a creative and interdisciplinary way, it is imperative that more pupils are able and encouraged to take the IB diploma at 16. University engineering departments demonstrating they value the depth and breadth of the diploma would be a great step in the right direction. As David Willetts, former Minister for Universities and Science, has pointed out, universities are uniquely placed to influence Sixth Form curriculum decision-making.


This blog reflects the views of the author. The EPC does not have a stated position. To add your view to the debate, please comment below.

Applications open for RAEng Engineering Leaders Scholarship

Are your students the next generation of engineering leaders?

Undergraduates who are leaders, or act as role models in your institution or their community should be encouraged to apply to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Engineering Leaders Scholarship (ELS) scheme.

Some of the previous recipients of the scholarships have mentioned that without the opportunity to explore the opportunities that the funding provides (£5,000 to put towards career development activities) they may have turned their back on engineering and pursued finance, consulting or other professions.

Other recipients have met senior engineers that have acted as mentors or provided advice during their scholarship which in some cases has turned into a graduate job post-graduation.

Each year of the three years that students are part of the programme they will attend an annual networking weekend along with around 100 other ELS scholars from all over the UK.

Applications are welcome from all talented undergraduates who meet the criteria but for those of you at Post-92 universities if you could raise awareness with your students and encourage them to apply as they are less likely to apply to the scheme than undergraduates at either Russell group universities or other institutions that have been successful in the past.

Jacqueline Clay, the University Programme Manager at the Royal Academy of Engineering is more than happy to speak with any of you or your students so please get in touch for more information els@raeng.org.uk

More information on the Engineering Leaders Scholarships can be found here.

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

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

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

UCAS data highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a new breed of ‘supergrads’

Creating a new breed of ‘supergrads’

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

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

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

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

Employer-led, not employer-dominated

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

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

Failing brand

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

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

EPC calls for change

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

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

Guest blog: Does a career in engineering pay?

By Kate Webster, the Engineering Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hammermen Award, the Mongol Rally and Mental Health

In May at the EPC Annual Congress 2018 at Harper Adams University, we announced the winner of this year’s Hammermen Student Award, generously sponsored by the Hammermen of Glasgow in recognition of the outstanding achievement of an engineering student.

This year the award was given to Jonathon Glen of our hosts Harper Adams not only for his exceptional academic work, but also for his achievements as part the the Harper Adams community and his greater contribution to agricultural engineering.

By way of an example of just what an outstanding individual Jonathon is, we asked him what he would do with his prize money. The answer was that  he intended to drive to Mongolia to raise money in aid of mental health in farming. 

We asked him to tell us more and this is what he wrote for us. Please follow this link to support him.

Nothing will quite synthesize four years of engineering learning at Harper Adams University quite like planning and executing a charity rally that will cover over 15,000 miles, through 22 countries, in less than 8 weeks.

This year Alan Walker and I are taking part in the Mongol Rally to raise money for the Kettering General Hospital Charity Fund and the Farming Community Network (FCN). However, we are taking this one step further. Mongolia is not finish line. Once we have driven through Europe, the Middle East, central Asia and the Pamir Highway to get to Mongolia, I am going to drive back again in our Mk1 Mazda MX-5.

Planning something like this it may appear like a job for a travel agent, but the challenges we are facing require us to go back to first principles. What are we trying to achieve? What don’t we know and how do we find out? What are the variables and how to we manage them? How are we going meet our deadlines? How do we manage the inherent risks?

I find myself asking all these questions but not for the first time. I believe that our ability to create this adventure has come from the fundamental skills learnt during our engineering degree.

This journey is more than a jolly halfway round the world. The charities that we are raising money for both resonate with us.

For Alan, it is a way to give back to the health trust that saved his grandmother’s life. For me it’s about trying to make a difference in the agricultural community.

Suicide in agriculture kills nearly three times more people than work place accidents. As well trying to raise £5,000 for the FCN who are a charity that support members of the agricultural community who are suffering from mental health issues, I am documenting my emotional and mental journey in #MyMentalJourney and sharing it with the world to highlight the importance of talking about one’s own mental health. (See video here. and follow us on Twitter.)

I have been there, like so many others and so documenting a journey as mentally demanding as the Mongol Rally is the perfect platform to do this. All this will be wasted if we can’t get the word out so please spread the word and we thank you for your support.

 

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EPC Equality, Inclusion and Diversity policy statement agreed by AGM


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

New Approaches to Engineering HE: The Six Facets


New Approaches to Engineering Higher Education is on ongoing initiative that the EPC is running in partnership with the IET, with Professor John Perkins presiding as Chair. The aim is to encourage innovation in the sector’s approaches to policy, pedagogy and practice.

The initiative was launched in May 2017 at a landmark conference held at the IET in London on innovative approaches to the teaching of engineering in universities in the UK and globally.

One year on, the EPC hosted a round table meeting, at which the EPC, IET and senior HE stakeholders – including several vice-chancellors – met to take soundings on what we are calling ‘the Six Facets’ of innovative engineering higher education.

In the Autumn of 2018, we hosted a further round table of stakeholders with a national policy perspective. Chaired by IET Chief Executive Nigel Fine and hosted by Stephen Metcalfe MP, Government Envoy for the Year of Engineering, the workshop was an opportunity for MPs, leading industry figures and academics to talk through some of the challenges that need to be addressed in order to create a successful engineering skills pipeline between schools, universities and industry that suits the needs of businesses, educators, students and the UK as a whole. A summary of the main points raised as well as recommendations for policymakers, industry and academia to take on board that were put forward in the meeting is available here.

The Six Facets are common themes drawn from the papers presented to the New Approaches conference (the proceedings of which can be read here) that address fundamental problems: skills shortages; the shifting nature of engineering, the workforce and the demography of the student population; promoting inclusion and diversity.

While the EPC isn’t seeking to impose the Six Facets on anyone – that isn’t our role – we have identified these as key indicators of an innovative and adaptive response to today’s challenges. Universities can use them as a marker by which to judge their progress and as an inspiration for further development.

The Six Facets

Incorporating creativity into engineering: To reflect developing industrial needs and to attract a broad range of applicants, engineering programmes should enhance and emphasise the creative and innovative nature of the work of engineers. Although maths and science are important, they are a necessary but not sufficient part of the required skill set.

Broaden the diversity of students: The image of engineering means that women and ethnic minorities are far less likely to apply to study it. The emphasis (and the perception in schools of an emphasis) on maths and physics as a requirement to study engineering at top engineering schools also restricts access to the subject. This is especially true in physics where the proportion of female students at A-level is particularly low. Opportunities to increase the diversity of engineering students by proactive steps to address the image of engineering and the barriers to entry should be explored.

A strong emphasis on project work: Students engage and are enthused by authentic and relevant engineering experiences. In engineering, a primary vehicle for this is the design project. However, it is not sufficient that these are only in the latter years once sufficient grounding in theory is achieved. They should be from day one and spread throughout the degree programme to develop skills and encourage active learning.

Industry engagement in design and delivery: It is vital to work with industry to frame the skills graduates need and highlight to students their relevance and importance. This is particularly important to encourage students to enhance their transferable and employability skills.

Experience of the workplace for students: The formation of the professional engineer is a process; one that involves education, training and experience. In an ideal world these are not separated. It is incumbent on academics and industry to work together to develop programmes that bridge the separation between university and work in a way that provides equal opportunities for all students, regardless of background and career aspirations.

Greater interdisciplinarity: Modern engineering challenges and the global issues that most enthuse our current cohort of students will not be solved by any one discipline, but instead by teams of engineers from across the disciplines and non-engineers, bringing together their skills and expertise to create innovative solutions. We must prepare out students for this with appropriate experiences, such as undertaking complex projects in interdisciplinary teams.


There has been a lot of support for the work of the EPC and IET so far and we will now be looking for  exemplars from across the sector. If your work exemplifies one or more of the Six Facets, please contact the Chief Executive with your thoughts.

DATA BLOG: The state of engineering? Not too shabby

The supply of skilled engineers may not yet be being met by the education pipeline, but the evidence base required by the sector to make sound strategic decisions is met in abundance within the annual Engineering UK: The State of Engineering Report. Having worked with HE data for a very long time, I feel gifted to be presented with such a complete showcase of context, policy and data analysis covering the full engineering lifecycle.

I have lost count of how many university meetings I’ve endured where planners’ careful analyses of institutional data and sector benchmarks meet academics’ equally considered deliberations about definitions, interpretations and nuances in the data. Often, those on the ground delivering the programmes don’t recognise the student, staff or survey information presented to them, and the discussion descends into whose data is right, how to present it differently, and which upstream process has failed in order to bring us to here!

What this report gives us is a collective and comprehensive insight into each stage of the engineering skills pipeline. It’s a baseline, tried and tested over many years, and a practical springboard to more detailed analyses, specific research and, most importantly, evidence-based decision-making and strategy formulation. This is the coordination between activities and evidence – analogous to the sector’s explosion of engineering initiatives – which enable academics and policy-makers alike to navigate this complex landscape.

What this systematic presentation of evidence is not is common sector practice. It’s an engineering slam dunk. So, let’s practice what we preach and truly help ourselves to make best use of our resources as a community and tackle the skills shortage more effectively. Let’s take the evidence and continue the conversation.

To download the report, access supporting Excel resources which includes further detail not in the report and read a think piece by the EPC Chief Executive on why Engineering HE must deliver employability not employment visit the Engineering UK website (see p225).