‘Engineering Engineering: A Provocation’ Webcast Summary

(Please note – A full summary of the ‘Engineering Engineering: A Provocation’ webcast will be available soon.)

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.


Please stay tuned for the full summary of the ‘Engineering Engineering: A Provocation’ webcast.

Engineering Engineering: a provocation

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 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.

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. 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)

Brexit impact on UK’s engineering education sector

Exploring EU student and staff experience

We are pleased to announce the publication of the EPC’s joint study with UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education on the experiences and perceptions of European (EU) engineering students and academic staff in UK universities.

The findings of Brexit impact on UK’s engineering education sector: Exploring EU students and staff experiences shine a spotlight on the importance of the long history of collaboration and shared purpose with the UK’s direct geographical neighbours to advancing excellence in engineering and engineering research. The research demonstrates that the readiest and most promising opportunities are in preserving and strengthening existing relationships, exploiting geographical proximity, to further research collaborations.

Drawing on surveys, interviews and data analysis, the independent research was conducted to support an evidence-based approach to the recruitment and retention of European talent into UK engineering education, research and practice through understanding the concerns and expectations of European students and academic staff.

The views expressed within were made at a particular point in time before the EU and UK negotiators reached an agreement on 24 December 2020. The interviews were conducted before the General Election in December 2019 and due to covid-19, the surveys were delayed to June 2020.

Financial barriers threaten the future of engineering EU student recruitment

While a UK engineering education is still attractive to a majority of EU students, at different levels of study, interview and survey data support the idea that EU undergraduate students who started degrees after June 2016 were taking the opportunity to study engineering in the UK as a ‘last chance’ before changes to fees, funding and visa requirements. Being eligible for home fee status and financial support from the UK’s Student Finance were among the most important factors when making the decision to study engineering in the UK.

Of our survey sample, only one in five students – including 8% of undergraduates, 23.8% of Integrated Masters, 16.7% of postgraduates and 28.6% PhDs – would have applied to a UK university today if they were not eligible for a student loan or full scholarship. According to these findings, the announced changes in tuition fees, access to student finance and visa requirements for courses starting in academic year 2021/22 might be expected to have a severe impact on the recruitment of EU engineering students.

EU academics forewarn an engineering “brain drain”

Brexit consequences for EU engineering academic staff are far-reaching. Academics reported that four years of uncertainty around a UK-EU deal has already negatively impacted collaboration with European partners and access to funding: since the Brexit referendum outcome, there are cases where UK partners were excluded from EU-funded research proposals with well-established and new EU partners. Moreover, Brexit has exacerbated EU nationals’ perceptions of not feeling welcome in the UK.

Whereas EU engineering academics agree that the UK’s universities provide the resources and opportunities for career progression and research leadership, only one third of survey respondents would have come to the UK if they had had to make that decision today. Freedom of movement, access to research funding and being afforded equal rights with British citizens will be key to informing their decision to remain in the UK – or to leave – in the near future.

Discouraged by research funding difficulties and worried by uncertainties in securing their rights to live and work in the UK, EU engineering academics said they may consider leaving the UK to seek jobs on the Continent, mainly in their home countries or in Switzerland, Germany and France, as they believe “all the engineering opportunities are in the EU”. As shown in an analysis of HESA data, this “brain-drain”, as one EU academic put it, could be particularly damaging for engineering research: one in four research-only engineering academics is European, of which 75% are on fixed-term contracts.

A fractured pipeline for the UK engineering workforce

One third of EU academics surveyed came to the UK initially to study as undergraduate and/or postgraduate engineering students before becoming academics. Many EU students plan to stay in the UK after graduation to work as engineers. However, changes to study conditions and the UK’s points-based immigration system are seen as heavy barriers to EU nationals. They are likely to have a negative impact not only on student and academic staff recruitment, but also on the UK’s engineering research and innovation base, and on its much-needed, diverse and talented workforce.

Given a historical reliance on European engineers in the UK workforce, the skills pipeline might be compromised if they no longer regarded the UK as an attractive place for prospective and existing graduates and for academics to pursue their future career plans.

Recommendations

The findings shine a spotlight on the importance of the long history of collaboration and shared purpose with the UK’s direct geographical neighbours to advancing excellence in engineering and engineering research.

While the opportunities to develop new partnerships with countries outside the European Union are desirable and welcome, it would be inadvisable to develop these at the expense of well-established relationships within closer reach of the UK. The research demonstrates that the readiest and most promising opportunities are in preserving and strengthening existing relationships, exploiting geographical proximity, to further research collaborations.

“[Since Brexit] it feels it will become more difficult to get grant applications to work with our direct geographical neighbours. We’re looking at a lot of partnerships with India at the moment, with Mexico. This is really good but traveling to India and Mexico is by far more difficult than interacting with people from Europe. (…) It makes these kinds of collaborations very difficult, actually. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about people and unless you interact in person, at least every once in a while, with researchers, things just don’t happen. It makes things much more difficult”.

To reinforce its leading role in engineering innovation, the UK’s new strategy should promote inclusive and mutual agreements in granting access and funds to research collaborations with European partners; support student and staff interchange between the UK and the EU; and facilitate purchase and distribution of specialised equipment and technology.

The post-Brexit agreement to secure participation, and access to funds, by UK-based researchers in Horizon Europe is beneficial. Further reassurance needs to be signaled by the UK Government to support the re-establishment of UK researchers’ leading role in European projects.

Rather than replacing Erasmus+, the new Turing scheme should expand on the UK’s participation by enabling engagement in European student exchange. This should be a springboard to wider international engagement in Europe and globally.

Barriers to EU engineering students and academic staff to study and work in the UK have a negative impact on the diversity of experiences and learning opportunities of UK nationals studying in UK universities. UK’s universities are among the most international universities in the world. Being part of a diverse and welcoming university environment was regarded as one of the most important reasons to study, teach and research engineering in the UK in this study and many other surveys. Without promoting this diversity, UK students will also lose important opportunities to engage with different ways of teaching, learning and research in engineering.

(…) we do have a lot of students here in universities who are coming from mainland Europe. We need that influx and the influence of people coming in with slightly different backgrounds and ideas to strengthen the courses here by adding that aspect of variety. As we’re making sure that we do keep those opportunities would be very beneficial. (…) having to limit that in just the UK might reduce our impact and ability to push the boundaries of research”.

Notes to editors:

  1. “Brexit impact on UK’s engineering education sector: Exploring EU students and staff experiences” is a Royal Academy of Engineering funded project by UCL Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) and the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC).
  2. A more detailed report can be downloaded below.

What is Engineering? Subject coding: HECoS, JACS and engineering, an unofficial guide

If you follow the HE data environment, or even just the policy headlines, you’ll probably have noticed that a new subject coding system – the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) – has now been fully implemented. HECoS replaces the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) shared by UCAS and HESA and commonly used across the sector; the detail behind what official statistics consider subject, subject group, subject line, or discipline. Luckily for us, Engineering features distinctly in both JACS and HECoS.

But first more techy background. The HECoS vocabulary (refined to version 9 currently, despite its appearance in open HESA data for the first time in the latest, 2019/20, data series) is confusing for most, and a minefield for the uninitiated. Although the codes are randomly generated and have no inherent meaning in themselves, for the purposes of analysis, each code is grouped into subject areas at a few levels of detail – the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH). And although we are advised that CAH can be applied against both the old (JACS) and new (HECoS) coding frames with caution, disappointingly this does not allow for consistent analysis.

So, what does this mean for Engineering? In short, you will continue to be able to see patterns of application, acceptance (UCAS) enrolment and other student population data (HESA) for the engineering labels you recognise, plus a new bioengineering classification:

  • mechanical engineering
  • production and manufacturing engineering
  • aeronautical and aerospace engineering
  • naval architecture
  • bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering
  • civil engineering
  • electrical and electronic engineering
  • chemical, process and energy engineering
  • others in engineering

Aside from the change in the order in which they’re typically presented, aerospace becomes aeronautical and aerospace engineering; electronic and electrical becomes electrical and electronic engineering; and bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering gets its own line. Plus, for general engineering, you now need to think in terms of engineering (non-specific).

But this is not just semantics. Quite apart from the change in culture and practice in course coding at source, some fine jiggery pokery means apparently like-for-like comparisons are not so. Not least, the new bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering courses have come from elsewhere, including elsewhere in engineering. Combinations within engineering have also been (more accurately) absorbed.

And at a discipline-by-discipline level:

  • general engineering exports courses to medicine, physics, geography and architecture, not to mention those that the new engineering (non-specific) imports from other subjects.
  • mechanical engineering passes numerous course codes across to production and manufacturing engineering as well as (naval) architecture and physics.
  • electronic and electrical engineering notably redistributes robotics and cybernetics to production and manufacturing engineering and virtual reality engineering to computing. It also helps to populate the new bioengineering classification.
  • civil engineering and aerospace engineering are truer to form but send a few JACS codes off into other engineering disciplines (and physics for aerospace).
  • production and manufacturing engineering exports nothing (but remember it’s quite an importer from other engineering disciplines at least).
  • chemical, process and energy engineering appears at a glance to be least touched by the changes.

Of course, this is a summary, not a detailed mapping. The takeaway is that, despite what the CAH titles may belie, these are not like-for-like mappings and are not comparable. To this end, the chart below shows UCAS accepted applicant data for 2019/20 and 2020/21 by CAH3 in engineering and its equivalent JACS3. There are clear differences between the CAH and JACS 2-year pairings, whilst the 2-year trends for most are broadly similar, albeit less pronounced by CAH.

Click on the chart to expand

The chart and underlying data / trends are also provided in a spreadsheet we’ve prepared to help you map in detail, should you want to do so.

A list of HECoS CAH codes (at levels 1 and 3) aligned to each JACS subject group can be found in the Summary JACS to CAH pivot worksheet. The reverse mapping is provided as Summary CAH to JACS pivot. The full version 1.2 HECoS Lookup, identifying each JACS subject group, course code and label (which relates to this season’s HESA data series but expires at the end of July) by HECoS code, label, CAH1, 2 and 3 is also provided, including summaries of their mapping category and relation (see remaining tabs for mapping and definitions).

Further support documentation available on the HESA website.

Data Blog: Become an expert in UCAS engineering data in ten steps

Spoiler: there is no data in this data blog! Instead, we bring you a mixed media UCAS engineering data masterclass to share what we’ve learned about the tools available this year while looking to analyse it.

You may already know that you can access engineering data using MS Power BI at discipline level on the UCAS website. If not, let me excite you.

You can quickly and easily produce headline tables and charts filtering UCAS applications and acceptances profiles for engineering, drilling down into a host of variables including the cohort’s gender, age and where they are from.

Below are EPC’s engineering focused instructions, coupled with a brief video tutorial to walk you through visually.

Don’t worry, an analysis will follow. In the meantime, if you discover any more UCAS self-service details, options or top tips, please do post a comment below.

And if you’d like to be involved in the development of the interactive data analysis tools planned for EPC online, please contact us.

Click to watch this 12 minute guide

Masterclass step-by-step guide

1. Go to UCAS.com and scroll down to Data and Analysis. Select Undergraduate statistics and reports and then End of cycle data resources. Alternatively, go directly via this link.

2. By selecting either Acceptances, Applications or Offers you can filter acceptances and main scheme applications, offers and offer rates for engineering.

Top tip: These all seem to lead to the same place, where there is a check box to choose from again in the top right hand corner.

Top tip: You can filter the chart by engineering but for better detail in linked charts and tables, leave the filter on all and click on the engineering colour in the key or in the chart itself.

3. Once you’ve homed in on engineering, you can filter or drill down by

  • Domicile
  • Age group
  • Gender

Top tip: We couldn’t find an export or copy functionality, so if you want to copy a whole crosstab into another document or report, you may need to resort to the downloadable datasets (see 7. Below).

4. By selecting Unconditional offers you can view unconditional offers (18-year-olds) by type of offer (direct unconditional, conditional unconditional, other unconditional or conditional component) and proportion.

Top tip: This includes English, Welsh and Northern Irish applicants only.

5. Technical notes and definitions are available above in the help section of the dashboard.

Top tip: You won’t get far this year without deciding whether to identify engineering using JACS3 – available at discipline (detailed subject, sometimes known as subject line) level which is available for 2007-2020 – or its replacement subject coding scheme, HECoS (detailed subject, sometimes known as CAH3, which is available for 2019-20 only. These aren’t comparable and the latest HESA data is only available by HECoS. If you want to know the details, a quick engineering guide and an unofficial engineering mapping spreadsheet is available here.

6. If all of this is too much, EPC members can download the headline applications and acceptances data from the EPC website.

Top tip: This is a password protected members page. If you are an EPC member and don’t know your password, please contact us.

7. Or, if you’ve got the bug, even more data is available (for home students) if you’re prepared to download some datasets. A full list of datasets, variables and combinations available can be found here.

Top tip: This is also your reference guide if you want to understand which of the many datasets you need to download to undertake your own analysis.

8. Using the datasets, you can filter applications (including applications type) and acceptances (including acceptance route) by engineering by:

  • Ethnicity
  • Disability
  • POLAR4
  • IMD
  • UK region
  • Provider region
  • School type

Top tip: If you want to access headline engineering data on all (not UK only) select provider region.

But not by combinations of those together. Those you can analyse multivariately are:

  • Domicile
  • Gender
  • Age group

Top tip: This dataset is one of several which exceeds MS Excel’s row limits making rookie analysis tricky. Remember, for a basic look at distributions, you don’t need to download the dataset as it can be explored via the UCAS website.

Top tip: It’s pretty quick and easy to use the online UCAS tool to check your subject totals tally back to the published figures. Note though that some of the overall totals across all subjects published by UCAS vary a little between their outputs, probably due to their rounding policy.

8. You can also consider main scheme offers by discipline, and unconditional offers for engineering as a whole.

9. There is other data at all-subject level you might find useful including Clearing plus, 18-year-old population estimates, post-result grade increases, and entry rates.

10. Phew! Well done for getting to the end. Any queries? Do feel free to contact us.

Policy summary, February 2021

It has been a busy start to the year for HE policy and politics, despite the roll-out of a third UK lockdown at the start of the year – significantly impacting campus presence and face-to-face teaching and cancelling summer level 3 exams again this summer across all UK administrations.

After numerous delays, the government FE white paper has now been published, alongside an interim response to the Augar Review and the Pearce review of the TEF. A summary of these and other “live” policies are outlined below.

  • Skills for Jobs FE white paper

The Skills for Jobs white paper presents the government’s post-compulsory skills agenda, setting out plans to boost quality, parity of esteem and take-up of higher technical qualifications at levels four and five. “Kitemarked” qualifications will be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) based on the institute’s employer-led standards for higher apprenticeships. The triangulation will be completed through full alignment to T levels, enabling progression from T levels to HTQs.

The range of options at post-16 and post-compulsory will be showcased by a modest injection into careers advice through improvements to the national careers service website and further rollout of local careers hubs.

From 2023, funding for non-kitemarked qualifications will be reduced and a new IfATE/OFS system for assessing quality beyond initial qualification approval will be applied to all technical education providers. This will include apprenticeships, which are also targeted for expansion, through funding for smaller employers to offer apprenticeships, greater ease for larger employers to transfer their apprenticeship levy funds, and the publication of salary returns data for apprenticeships.

The lifetime skills guarantee, and lifelong loan allowance announced by the Prime Minister last September, intended to allow more flexible use of student loan entitlement over a lifetime, will be implemented from 2025. Aligned with this is a signal of future funding to support development of more modular, flexible higher education provision and credit transfer in 2021-22.

Prior to this (in summer 2021) there will be funding for a further eight Institutes of Technology charged with offering high quality higher technical STEM provision in all areas of England.

  • TEF report

Dame Shirley Pearce’s Independent Review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) called for clarity of purpose (and name) and improvements its metrics and their statistical application, transparency, relevance and balance (read burden). Pearce recommended greater granularity within four aspects – Teaching and Learning Environment, Student Satisfaction, Educational Gains, Graduate Outcomes – and a more nuanced rating system.

Pearce noted the need for broader input metrics, accounting for regional differences. Within Educational Gains, she noted an ambition for each university to demonstrate how, within their own particular mission, they articulate and measure the educational outcomes and learning that they aim to provide for their students.

A subject-level exercise was also recommended for inclusion in the provider-level assessment to inform ratings at provider rather than subject level.

  • Government’s response to the TEF report

The Government “mostly agreed” with the Review’s high-level recommendations and has responded by abandoning the subject level TEF exercise. Instead, they have asked OfS to develop a “revised and invigorated” provider-level TEF which will run not on a one-year cycle, but every four to five years, with the first group of assessments completed and published by 2022. Where the government didn’t agree with the recommendations was in its insistence that the TEF’s secondary purpose was to inform student choice. Furthermore, emphasis on ‘Student Satisfaction’ was rejected in favour of ‘Student Academic Experience’.

Unsurprisingly, driving out low quality provision permeated the Government’s vision for the new TEF (name unchanged) within a wider quality regime which will “apply across all providers, not just those at the lower end (where the OfS is consulting on plans to introduce a more rigorous quality baseline)” – see below. Four award levels will replace the existing bronze, silver and gold, where the new bottom category will capture those providers failing to show sufficient evidence of excellence and who need to improve the quality of their provision. The introduction of Limiting Factors is mooted, such that a provider should not achieve a high TEF rating if it has poor student outcomes.

A consultation on future iterations of TEF is expected in due course, including measures beyond

just earnings (including a reliable measure of educational gain) taking account of regional variations and flexible modes of study. There is a useful ONS Evaluation of the statistical elements of TEF which might guide this, at least in part.

In case you missed it, the OfS published the findings from the second subject-level pilot of the TEF in 2018-19 to coincide with the publication of the Pearce Review into the TEF.

  • Government’s (holding) response to the Augar Review

The Augar Review was the 2019 review of post-18 education and funding. For a summary in relation to engineering, see the EPC blog. In their much-delayed response to Augar, the Government stopped short of any serious funding reforms instead shoehorning these into further reforms to the higher education system to be consulted on in spring 2021 ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The current freeze on the maximum fee levels, and the threat of a huge cut in Home undergraduate fees, remains until then.

There is some recycling of policy in Skills for Jobs white paper (see above), including the lifelong loan entitlement, local skills improvement plans, the rollout of approvals for higher technical qualifications, and signalled plans for incentivising more modular and flexible delivery apply across higher education.

The Government also outlined its plan to realign teaching grant funding towards national priorities (through the introduction of a bid basis) including STEM, healthcare and specific labour market needs (see below).

  • Teaching Grant

The Teaching Grant letter announces an £85 million increase to the amount allocated through the main “high-cost subject funding” method for high-cost and “strategically important” subjects, including engineering. The London weightings in student premium and T funding will be ended from 2021-22, which is a big hit for London universities, particularly the big multidisciplinary ones who won’t benefit from an increase for small and specialist providers.

The budget for Uni Connect goes from £60m to £40 million, with the savings going on £5m for student hardship and £15m for mental health. Finally, capital funding for providers will be distributed through a bidding competition rather than a formula method, and students from the Crown Dependencies will be subject to home fee status and counted for funding purposes.

  • Quality and standards

Although there is, as yet, no formal response from the Office for Students on the recent quality and standards consultation, Government will to exert power over metricised HE “underperformance” permeates the policies of the day. Within these, OfS is asked to roll questions of standalone modular provision into its thinking on the development of the quality regime.

We are also promised a consultation on “further reforms” to the higher education system in spring 2021 which, along with “other matters”, may pick up on some of the missing in action proposals form Augar et el including the future of foundation years, reforms to student finance, minimum entry requirements. Hopefully all ahead of a final decision on quality and standards.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that the sector – which has pretty much unanimously called for the Quality Code to be retained – recognises the fatal undermining of the proposed approach to the government’s other levelling-up and social mobility agendas.

  • Post qualification admissions

Following the flurry of reviews of university admissions by UCAS, Universities UK, the Office for Students and DfE late in 2020 the latest, DfE, consultation is aimed principally at when students receive and accept university offers (not the wider assessment, admission or policy agendas).

The consultation presents two options which are predicated on removing teacher predictions from the system altogether in favour of on exam results. The first, “post-qualification applications and offers”, creates a longer application window by moving results dates forward to the end of July, and higher education term dates back to the first week of October. The second, “Pre-qualification applications with post-qualification offers and decisions” would mean applications being made during term-time (as now) but offers being made after results day.

DfE recognises that courses which require additional entrance tests, auditions and/ or interviews will also need to be accommodated in either system, somehow (cue the consultation).

The EPC is currently considering its response. DfE’s consultation runs until mid-May.

  • Brexit

The Turing Scheme – a replacement for the Europe-wide Erasmus+ now that its door is closed following the UK’s departure from the EU – was launched by Gavin Williamson earlier this month. Alongside this, the government has updated its International Education Strategy with a commitment to increase the amount generated from education exports, such as fees and income from overseas students and English language teaching abroad, to £35 billion a year, and sustainably recruit at least 600,000 international students to the UK by 2030.

The Turing Scheme is the UK’s global programme to study and work abroad. Website. EPC research (to be published shortly) conducted in partnership with UCL’s Engineering Education, highlighted many of the benefits of engagement in European student and staff exchange.

  • Free Speech proposals

The government has published proposals on academic freedom and freedom of speech as follows:

  1. Legislate for a Free Speech and Academic Freedom Champion to be appointed as a member of the OfS board with responsibility to champion free speech and investigate alleged breaches of registration conditions related to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
  2. Legislate to require a new OfS registration condition on free speech and academic freedom.
  3. Explore further the option of strengthening the section 43 duty to include a duty on HEPs to ‘actively promote’ freedom of speech (where section 43 relates to the 1986 Education (no 2) Act).
  4. Legislate to extend the strengthened section 43 duty to cover SUs directly.
  5. Set clear minimum standards for the code of practice required under section 43
  6. Introduce a statutory tort that would give private individuals a right of redress for loss as a result of a breach of section 43
  7. Wider and enhanced academic freedom contractual protections