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.

    ‘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.


    Engineering Engineering: a provocation

    A recording of this event is now available to view at Recent events (epc.ac.uk). A new paper which seeks to challenge assumptions and practice around Engineering higher education and the talent pipeline was presented by Prof Kel Fidler CEng HonFIET FREng, former Vice Chancellor of Northumbria University and former Chair of the Engineering Council.

    The EPC is grateful to him for inviting us to share his paper with our members in advance of the webinar we will be hosting on Tuesday 6th July 2021 which will follow up on some of the issues he raises with Prof Fidler himself and a panel of experts. (Click to attend.)

    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.

    Few can boast so rare a pedigree of accomplishments in Engineering higher education in the UK as Prof Fidler. And, having scaled the heights, there are few people better placed to take an overview of whether we’re doing well enough at what really matters.

    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.


    Please feel free to comment below or in the Engineering Academics Network LinkedIn group.

    Chi Onwurah MP Webinar Summary

    In case you missed it, here is a short summary of Chi Onwurah MP’s speech from the EPC’s Congress 2021 webinar series. A recording of the event is available at Recent events (epc.ac.uk).

    Chi began her speech by recounting that she entered politics for the same reason she entered engineering – “to make the world work better for everyone.” She is also proud to be an MP, Shadow Minister for Digital Science & Technology and a Chartered Electrical engineer with over twenty years of experience. Her engineering degree has “taken [her] all over the world” and has helped her with policy decisions in Government, such as HS2 and Broadband deployment.

    However, although she was proud to be an engineer, Chi spoke honestly about the difficulties she faced with her engineering professors. Having been taught “in an environment replete with racism and misogyny”, Chi was thankful that the “engineering departments of today are different.” Even so, she noted that many women engineering students “still report widespread bullying and harassment.”

    One of Chi’s main topics was a discussion centred on the ethics of engineering. Speaking about her own personal experiences within the field of Communications Technology, she has seen it develop from “boring but useful” to “exciting but exploitative.” Engineering departments should be asking “what responsibility do engineers have?” when engineering is involved in ethical topics. There is too much of an “underlying assumption” that engineering is a “purely technical, objective” discipline, despite it taking place in a “political, regulatory and ethical framework.”

    Drawing again on her own experiences, Chi has seen first-hand “the consequences of decades of oil extraction,” while working in Nigeria. She also paid tribute to the various engineering professional bodies and the importance of creating an “ethical framework and values to address the harm as well as the good [that] engineering does.”

    Diversity and inclusion within engineering was another important topic of discussion. Chi recalled that when she entered Imperial College in 1984, “12% of Engineering students were women.” Shockingly, almost forty years later, the figure has reached 14%. At a rate of half a percentage point per decade, it would “take until 2741 to reach gender parity.” Speaking frankly, Chi noted that “Diversity is not an optional add-on. It is an economic imperative.” It is essential that we “[make] use of the talents of everyone” in order to “build a more prosperous economy.” We must also remember that low participation in engineering cannot be blamed on women and minorities. “The sector has to own the issue, the challenge and the solutions.” As part of this, the ‘Equity in STEM Education Report’ was launched last year by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diversity and Inclusion in STEM (chaired by Chi). Although the report focused on schools, Chi felt that much of it could be applied to higher education.

    Indeed, the Government must provide “more support and incentives for diversity and inclusion” as well as ensuring access to STEM education “for those currently excluded.” The COVID Schools Catch-up Plan could have been an opportunity for this, unfortunately the funding for it is “totally insufficient.” There is a major skills shortage in Engineering, and the age profile of engineers and technicians “means it’s getting worse.” In the future, Net Zero technology could be used to “drive the next generation of British exports.” Investment into “sustainable manufacturing methods and engineering” could be a crucial tool in developing “a new industrial economy whilst safe-guarding our planet.” This presents an opportunity “that will inspire and forge a new type of engineer.”

    Chris Skidmore MP Webinar Summary

    In case you missed it, here is a short summary of Chris Skidmore MP’s speech from the EPC’s Congress 2021 webinar series. A recording of the event is available at Recent events (epc.ac.uk). To read the full text of the speech, please click here.

    From an engineering family, Chris personally recognises that “engineering at its essence [is] about problem solving […] the day-to-day reality of making things […] work.” He was also keen to recognise that “the need for a better world” seems more urgent than ever, given current global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat of climate change. Recognising the vital role of research in combatting the pandemic, he called it “our guiding light out of the tunnel.” Obvious examples of this research include vaccination programs and treatments for COVID-19.

    However, although we have come a long way thanks to research, future generations are yet to feel the “aftershocks” of the pandemic, both economic and otherwise. As such, the “need for research will always be one long campaign that never ends.” Crucially, one of the main points of Chris’ talk was that the UK’s current goal to spend 2.4% of its GDP on R&D by 2027 – may not be enough. He believes that at least 3% is needed in order to keep pace with the rest of the world and the “scale of change that is coming” in the next few decades.

    If the UK does not hasten its research spending, we will be facing a “widening gap in R&D” as many other major countries already spend a higher percentage of their GDP on research compared to the UK. Acknowledging the commitments of nations such as Germany and South Korea to invest in climate research, Chris called for a “definite timetable” for 3% – and later 3.5%.

    One of the “greatest barriers” affecting the ‘levelling up’ of the UK, is a skills deficit and low levels of productivity. No matter how much capital is invested, people are “the lifeblood of R&D”, as they provide the means to produce research and “translate its potential.” The link between research and the skills network that must be created to facilitate its expansion cannot be ignored.

    To do so would be a crucial misstep as “those that fail to invest in skills are the same who fail to invest in R&D, for they rely on short-term gains and not realising long-term opportunity.” The UK must invest in both its researchers and their research, and the idea of the UK as a ‘global science superpower’ “must be aligned with the ‘levelling up’ agenda if both are to truly succeed.” It is because of this that Chris has established the Lifelong Education Commission with Res Publica.

    Engineering has always played an important role of bringing to life the once impossible. Throughout history, engineers have been able to “transform individual lives by demonstrating how technological change can make people’s lives easier.”

    Such a concept is even more important today, given the growing challenges of climate change and the changes needed to achieve net zero. Perhaps we should remember that “we need not reinvent the wheel to move faster towards 2.4% or 3%…we just need to change the tire.”

    In the future, maintaining and strengthening the research partnerships the UK has joined will be highly important. Funding for research should be refined, perhaps using Horizon Europe as an example. Ambition will be needed “in spades” to meet the challenges of the future such as climate change and Net Zero – therefore this structure must be reviewed. Chris’ closing message was that “stability, security and sustainability should underpin any research strategy for a better future.”

    Engineering opportunity: letting down the drawbridge

    This week, the EPC published its report on the contribution to social mobility made by studying Engineering. Chief Executive Johnny Rich and Research Assistant Vicky Howell sum up the key findings.

    The starting point for the EPC’s new report Engineering Opportunity: Maximising the opportunities for social mobility from studying Engineering is that, on average, Engineering graduates go on to earn more than most other graduates. That fact won’t surprise anyone, but the report explores the story behind it and has wide implications for higher education policy and supporting social mobility.

    Compared to other subject areas, Engineering graduates do rather well financially. Starting salaries are already an average of £6,200 higher when compared to the median for all graduates and, by ten years after graduation, that’s risen to £11,700. 

    However, we also found evidence that engineering is not a sector in which these salary rewards are restricted to those who already had everything going for them. Even when you take account of characteristics such as prior attainment and socio-economic disadvantage, the salary premium persists. 

    In fact, when you look at students who entered Engineering with BTECs – a group which includes many disadvantaged students – their earnings boost is even greater than it is for the high-attaining A level students. Similarly, the data on getting a job and remaining in secure employment is also favourable.

    In other words, studying Engineering boosts earnings significantly, regardless of background, and so supports social mobility.

    So far, so self-congratulatory. However, our report goes on to acknowledge that Engineering may be a great social leveller, but as a discipline, we are not doing enough to make its advantages more accessible to the students from the very backgrounds who would benefit most.

    Just one in eight students in higher education comes from the fifth of areas with the lowest participation rates (Quintile 1 in POLAR4), but in Engineering the proportion is lower still at less than one in ten. 

    The reasons for this ‘drawbridge effect’ – where there’s a feast to be had, but only if you can get across the moat – are varied. 

    • Engineering is a demanding subject and so its entry requirements are often demanding too. High tariffs can not only exclude capable students with lower prior attainment, but can discourage them from even applying.
    • Because Engineering is not taught in schools, most people are as likely to think of ‘an engineer’ as someone who fixes a washing machine as someone who designs smart materials, builds spacecraft, or solves climate change challenges. This means Engineering tends to attract those who actually know an engineer in their family. In other words, it replicates its historical social profile.
    • Both outside the discipline and sometimes even within, Engineering is seen as sciency (whereas, in reality, it is often as creative and practical as it is technical and theoretical) and therefore Maths and Physics are often regarded as the appropriate qualifications. In an education system where stretched schools and colleges struggle to offer A levels in these courses and have neither the resources nor the teachers to offer every pupil the chance to do triple science (ie. Chemistry, Physics and Biology) at GCSE, then it’s no surprise this becomes a filter that favours the privileged.

    For these reasons and many others, the Engineering drawbridge is in stubborn need of greasing. Interestingly, however, Engineering could be seen to have the potential to be more flexible than most subjects in its entry requirements, not less. The absence of Engineering from the school curriculum means that whatever prior attainment a student might have, it will only ever be a rough proxy for their capacity to succeed as an engineer. 

    This has implications for the minimum entry requirements the government is considering for access to English higher education funding. Any arbitrary cut-off tariff would have to relate to the students’ attainment in subjects other than the one they want to study. Not only would this limit social mobility, it would also undermine Engineering’s ability to recruit students to a subject area that is strategically critical in rebuilding the economy.

    Skills shortages in engineering are such that school-leavers alone cannot plug the gap. We need what Paul Jackson has described as ‘intersectoral mobility’ – people with experience in the workforce retraining in engineering roles. The drawbridge must be lowered for them too.

    The EPC report makes a range of recommendations, many of which would support social mobility both in and outside engineering. 

    Among these is a reminder that fair access is worth examining at the discipline level and that well-intentioned system-wide incentives and metric approaches may have unintended consequences at course level where the actual admissions take place. The recruitment challenges of access in Engineering, for example, may encourage institutions to dodge the difficulties by expanding courses with a better record of attracting POLAR Q1 students, even though they may ultimately have less good social mobility outcomes.

    Perhaps the most timely recommendation for the government to note relates to foundation years. These are the entry pathway for 12% of engineering graduates, including many of those BTEC-entrants and returners who not only gain most value themselves, but also repay most of their loans and are most important to attract for the sake of the economy. 

    The report states, “Foundation courses, ideally with minimal procedural transition into degree study, are more effective than other access courses [AHEDs] because the continuity of study in the same institution supports progression.” 

    By way of analogy, it compares the progression of students who start and complete an MEng with the smaller numbers who embark on a BEng and then decide to progress to Masters level. If you set the sights high for student with potential, they will achieve more than they thought possible to start with.

    The Augar Review set its gunsights on foundation years as being no more than a more costly alternative to HE Access diplomas. Whatever one thinks of the recommendations of Augar, most of them had their reasoning clearly demonstrated. The proposal on foundation years, however, seemed conspicuous by its lack of any evidential basis. 

    When the government responds fully to the Review later in the year, the EPC report (like the Policy Perspectives Nework) suggests that the best service to disadvantaged students, to Engineering and to the nation’s economic imperatives would be to expand foundation years rather than to axe them.

    Foundation years – and the opportunity they offer to transition into higher education in general, or Engineering in particular – are critical to lowering the drawbridge for entry and inviting disadvantaged students to the feast beyond. 


    For the most part, the data findings of the Engineering opportunity report relate to England only and not to the devolved nations. It is important to make it clear that this was a consequence of the availability of comparable data. We hope to undertake further research in other nations of the UK in future.

    Wanted: Members for the EPC RIKT Committee

    Vacancies on Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer (RIKT) Committee: Committee Members

    The Engineering Professors’ Council is the representative body for engineering in UK higher education. We aim to influence the policy landscape on education and research, and to support our members in their work. We work closely with government, professional bodies, funders, industry and other interest groups.

    The RIKT Committee has a focus on engineering research, enterprise, innovation and knowledge transfer activities at a national and international level. At our core we wish to achieve impact from the engineering research in the UK and raise opportunities for collaboration between industry and academia.

    We are looking to expand the committee by welcoming new members in some or all of the following areas:

    1. Industry-facing academics or academics active in research, innovation and knowledge transfer 
    2. Industry members to offer their insights and assist us in ensuring engineering research maximises innovation and knowledge transfer and impact
    3. Industry-based visiting professors (current and previous)

    Commitment required

    • 2-4 meetings per year, approximately two hours per meeting (currently on Zoom)
    • A keen interest in collaborating with the EPC with the aim of maximising opportunities for and the value from UK engineering research 
    • Some reading time external to the committee (usually approximately an hour per committee meeting, but sometime more)