Funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering the EPC’s Engineering Ethics toolkit was recently launched – containing a range of case studies and supporting articles to help engineering educators integrate ethics content into their teaching. EPC Board member and Professorial Teaching Fellow, Mike Bramhall, at The Engineering and Design Institute (TEDI-London) has incorporated three of the case studies from this recently produced toolkit into TEDI’s BEng (Hons) in Global Design Engineering. Mike and two of his students, Stuart Tucker and Caelan Vollenhoven, gave a presentation at this year’s EPC Annual Congress about their positive experience teaching and learning with the case studies. In this blog, Mike reflects on how and why he incorporated these resources.

The BEng (Hons) Global Design Engineering programme was launched in our brand new institution – TEDI-London – in September 2022. The programme is a blended mix of online learning integrated with project-based learning. Through this project-based learning approach and working in partnership with industry, our students will create and contribute to solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the 21st century and be equipped with the skills employers need from future engineers. Within these real-world projects, students work in teams and consider the ethical, environmental, social, and cultural impacts of engineering design. These issues are important for an engineer to understand whilst working with society. This importance is highlighted in the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence and Commitment (UK-SPEC: 4th edition) with accreditation bodies identifying ethics as one of the core learning outcomes and competencies in engineering programmes. The Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes in engineering standards (AHEP: 4th edition) reflects the importance of societal impact in engineering. To meet AHEP 4 our programme learning outcomes have been mapped against all required outcomes. The Engineer and Society outcomes include:

To help students understand some of these issues whilst working on their design projects we chose three case studies from the Engineering Ethics Toolkit:

Choosing to install a smart meter

Smart homes for older people with disabilities

Solar panels in a desert oil field

We converted key parts of these case studies to be compatible with our virtual learning environment and incorporated them into one online learning node. To support students in their development of ethical thinking, each case study focuses on different parts of ethics for engineers:

  1. Everyday ethics
  2. Ethical reasoning
  3. Ethical analysis

Students are guided through the case studies in small chunks and asked to reflect upon each ethical issue. In this way students are not overwhelmed with too much information all at once. Eventually students are asked to incorporate their reflection into an end of year Professional and Personal Portfolio, explaining and evidencing how they have met each of the AHEP learning outcomes. The image below shows an example of a reflection task.

We asked the students to go through the online node individually prior to a class session in which staff then facilitated small-group discussions on each of the case studies. For example, for the Smart Meter case study we suggested that one group could look at being ‘for smart meters’ and another group ‘against smart meters’, using ethical issues and judgement in their decision making. Other issues arose during these discussions such as sustainability, data security, risk, and equality, diversity & inclusion. Some of the student comments are shown below:

On a high level, installing a smart meter is being portrayed as the decent thing to do in terms of the environment however it is just an instrument to monitor usage.
One way to be good to the environment is to be careful with your energy usage, e.g. switching off lights, only having heating and hot water when required so installing effective timers/thermostats in parts of your home where you need it.
Security & privacy: Who can see your consumption data and what can they do with it? The meters are all connected to the central wireless network, called the Data Communication Company (DCC). Concerns are that this network could be ‘hacked’ into. They may see a pattern of no-usage and provide opportunity for theft.
As first year undergraduate engineers we now have an insight and awareness of ethics and the responsibility of engineers in society.
Breaking down the case studies into a more interactive format and in manageable chunks made it easier for students, to stop us being overwhelmed – making it perfect for discussion in small groups.

We could put our thoughts on ethics into our end of year Portfolios – mapping against the AHEP requirements

These comments show how broadly and deeply students were able to engage with the ethical concepts presented in the case studies and apply them to their future work. As our course progresses, we intend to use more of the case studies, and map them appropriately against particular projects that students are working on at each level of the programme.


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Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development.

Author: Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers (University of the West of England, Bristol).

Case-study team: Wendy Fowles-Sweet; Maryam Lamere; Prof. Lisa Brodie; Dr Venkat Bakthavatchaalam (University of the West of England, Bristol); Dr Abel Nyamapfene (University College London).

Keywords: Education for Sustainable Development; Climate Emergency; Net Zero; Sustainable Development Goals.

Abstract: The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency, along with all regional councils in the West of England. In order to meet the regional goal of Net-Zero by 2030, sustainability education has now been embedded through all levels of the Engineering Curriculum. Current modules incorporate education for Sustainable Development Goals alongside citizen engagement challenges, where engineers find solutions to real-life problems. All undergraduate engineers also take part in immersive project weeks to develop problem-based learning around the Engineers without Borders international challenges.


Engineering Education for Sustainable Development

The environmental and health impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss are being felt around the world, from record high temperatures, drought, wildfires, extreme flooding, and human health issues (Ripple et al., 2020). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that urgent action is required to mitigate catastrophic impacts for billions of people globally (IPCC, 2022). The UK Government has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, with a 78% drop in emissions by 2035 (UK Government, 2021). Following IPCC guidance, regional councils such as Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority, have pledged to reach Net Zero at an earlier date of 2030 (Bristol City Council, 2019). In parallel, UWE Bristol has embedded this target within its strategic plan (UWE Bristol, 2019), and also leads the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), an Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (UWE Bristol, 2021b). All UWE Bristol programmes are expected to embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within curricula (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2021), so that higher education degrees prepare graduates for working sustainably (Gough, 2021).

Bourn and Neal (2008) draw the link between global sustainability issues and engineering, with the potential to tackle complex sustainability challenges such as climate change, resource limitations, and extreme poverty. The SDGs are therefore particularly relevant to engineers, showing the connections between social, environmental, and economic actions needed to ensure humanitarian development, whilst also staying within planetary boundaries to support life on earth (Ramirez-Mendoza et al., 2020). The engineering sector is thus obligated to achieve global emissions targets, with the work of engineers being essential to enable the societal and technological change to reach net zero carbon emissions (Fogg-Rogers, L., Richardson, D., Bakthavatchaalam, V., Yeomans et al., 2021).

Systems thinking and solution-finding are critical engineering habits of mind (Lucas et al., 2014), and so introducing genuine sustainability problems provides a solid foregrounding for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in engineering. Indeed, consideration for the environment, health, safety, and social wellbeing are enshrined in the UK Specification for Professional Engineers (UK SPEC) (Engineering Council, 2021). ‘Real-world’ problems can therefore inspire and motivate learners (Loyens et al., 2015), while the use of group projects is considered to facilitate collaborative learning (Kokotsaki et al., 2016). This aligns with recommendations for creating sustainability-literate graduates published by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA and Advance HE, 2021) which emphasise the need for graduates to: (1) understand what the concept of environmental stewardship means for their discipline and their professional and personal lives; (2) think about issues of social justice, ethics and wellbeing, and how these relate to ecological and economic factors; and (3) develop a future-facing outlook by learning to think about the consequences of actions, and how systems and societies can be adapted to ensure sustainable futures (QAA & HEA, 2014). These competencies are difficult to teach, and instead need to developed by the learners themselves based on experience and reflection, through a student-centred, interdisciplinary, team-teaching design (Lamere et al., 2021).  

The need for engineers to learn about the SDGs and a zero carbon future is therefore necessary and urgent, to ensure that graduates are equipped with the skills needed to address the complex challenges facing the 21st Century.  Lamere et al., (2021)describe how the introduction of sustainability education within the engineering curriculum is typically initiated by individual academics (early adopters) introducing elements of sustainability content within their own course modules. Full curricula refresh in the UWE Bristol engineering curricula from 2018-2020 enabled a more programmatic approach, with inter-module connections being developed, alongside inter-year progression of topics and skills.

This case study explores how UWE Bristol achieved this curriculum change throughout all programmes and created inter-connected project weeks in partnership with regional stakeholders and industry. 

Case Study Methods – Embedding education for sustainable development

The first stage of the curricula transformation was to assess current modules against UK SPEC professional requirements, alongside SDG relevant topics. A departmental-wide mixed methods survey was designed to assess which SDGs were already incorporated, and which teaching methods were being utilized. The survey was emailed out to all staff in 2020, with 27 module leaders responding to highlight pedagogy in 60 modules, covering the engineering topics of: Aerospace; Mechanical and Automotive; Electrical, Electronic, and Robotics; Maths and Statistics; and Engineering Competency.

Two sub-themes were identified: ‘Direct’ and ‘Indirect’ embedding of SDGs; direct being where the engineering designs explicitly reference the SDGs as providing social or environmental solutions, and indirect being where the SDGs are achieved through engineering education e.g. quality education and gender equality. Direct inclusion of the SDGs tended to focus on reducing energy consumption, and reducing weight and waste, such as through improving the efficiency of the machines/designs. Mitigating the impact of climate change through optimal use of energy was also mentioned. The usage of lifecycle analysis was implemented in several courses, especially for composite materials and their recycling. The full analysis of the spread of the SDGs and their incorporation within different degree programmes can seen in Figure 1.


Figure 1 Number of Engineering Modules in which SDGs are Embedded


Project-based learning for civic engagement in engineering

Following this mapping process, the modules were reorganized to produce a holistic development of knowledge and skills across programmes, starting from the first year to the final year of the degree programmes. This Integrated Learning Framework was approved by relevant Professional Bodies and has been rolled out annually since 2020, as new learners enter the refreshed degree programmes at UWE Bristol. The core modules covering SDG concepts explicitly are Engineering Practice 1 and 2 (at Level 1 and 2 of the undergraduate degree programme) and ‘Engineering for Society’ (at Level 3 of the undergraduate degree programme and Masters Level). These modules utilise civic engagement with real-world industry problems, and service learning through engagement with industry, schools, and community groups (Fogg-Rogers et al., 2017).

As well as the module redevelopment, a Project-Based Learning approach has been adopted at department level, with the introduction of dedicated Project Weeks to enable cross-curricula and collaborative working. The Project Weeks draw on the Engineering for People Design Challenge (Engineers without Borders, 2021), which present global scenarios to provide university students with “the opportunity to learn and practice the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering design”. Critically, the challenges encourage universities to develop partnerships with regional stakeholders and industry, to provide more context for real-world problems and to enable local service learning and community action (Fogg-Rogers et al., 2017).

A collaboration with the innovation company NewIcon enabled the development of a ‘design thinking’ booklet which guides students through the design cycle, in order to develop solutions for the Project Week scenarios (UWE Bristol, 2021a). Furthermore, a partnership with the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) has enabled students to take part in the Inspire outreach programme (Fogg-Rogers & Laggan, 2022), which brings together STEM Ambassadors and schools to learn about engineering through sustainability focussed activities. The DETI programme is delivered by the National Composites Centre, Centre for Modelling and Simulation, Digital Catapult, UWE Bristol, University of Bristol, and University of Bath, with further industry partners including Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens (DETI, 2021). Industry speakers have contributed to lectures, and regional examples of current real-world problems have been incorporated into assignments and reports, touching on a wide range of sustainability and ethical issues.

Reflections and recommendations for future engineering sustainability education

Students have been surveyed through module feedback surveys, and the project-based learning approach is viewed very positively. Students commented that they enjoyed working on ‘real-world projects’ where they can make a difference locally or globally. However, findings from surveys indicate that students were more inclined towards sustainability topics that were relevant to their subject discipline. For instance, Aerospace Engineering students tended to prefer topics relevant to Aerospace Engineering. A survey of USA engineering students by Wilson (2019) also indicates a link between students’ study discipline and their predilection for certain sustainability topics. This suggests that for sustainability education to be effective, the content coverage should be aligned, or better still, integrated, with the topics that form part of the students’ disciplinary studies.

The integration of sustainable development throughout the curricula has been supported at institutional level, and this has been critical for the widescale roll out. An institution-wide Knowledge Exchange for Sustainability Education (KESE) was created to support staff by providing a platform of knowledge sharing. Within the department, Staff Away days were used to hold sustainability workshops for staff to discuss ESD and the topics of interest to students.  In the initial phase of the mapping exercise, a lack of common understanding amongst staff about ESD in engineering was noted, including what it should include, and whether it is necessary for student engineers to learn about it. During the Integrated Learning Framework development, and possibly alongside growing global awareness of climate change, there has been more acceptance of ESD as an essential part of the engineering curriculum amongst staff and students. Another challenge has been the allocation of teaching workload for sustainability integration. In the initial phases, a small number of committed academics had to put in a lot of time, effort, and dedication to push through with ESD integration. There is now wider support by module leaders and tutors, who all feel capable of delivering some aspects of ESD, which eases the workload.

This case study outlines several methods for integrating ESD within engineering, alongside developing partnership working for regionally relevant real-world project-based learning. A recent study of UK higher education institutions suggests that only a handful of institutions have implemented ESD into their curricula in a systemic manner (Fiselier et al., 2018), which suggests many engineering institutions still need support in this area. However, we believe that the engineering profession has a crucial role to play in ESD alongside climate education and action, particularly to develop graduate engineers with the skills required to work upon 21st Century global challenges. To achieve net zero and a low carbon global economy, everything we make and use will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered, which will require close collaboration between academia, industry, and the community. We hope that other engineering educators feel empowered by this case study to act with the required urgency to speed up the global transition to carbon neutrality.


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Bristol City Council. (2019). Bristol City Council Mayor’s Climate Emergency Action Plan 2019.

DETI. (2021). Initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation.

Engineers without Borders. (2021). Engineering for People Design Challenge.

Fiselier, E. S., Longhurst, J. W. S., & Gough, G. K. (2018). Exploring the current position of ESD in UK higher education institutions. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 19(2), 393–412.

Fogg-Rogers, L., & Laggan, S. (2022). DETI Inspire Engagement Report.

Fogg-Rogers, L., Lewis, F., & Edmonds, J. (2017). Paired peer learning through engineering education outreach. European Journal of Engineering Education, 42(1).

Fogg-Rogers, L., Richardson, D., Bakthavatchaalam, V., Yeomans, L., Algosaibi, N., Lamere, M., & Fowles-Sweet, W. (2021). Educating engineers to contribute to a regional goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Le Développement Durable Dans La Formation et Les Activités d’ingénieur.

Gough, G. (2021). UWE Bristol SDGs Programme Mapping Portfolio.

IPCC. (2022). Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – Summary for policymakers. In Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, WGII Sixth Assessment Report.

Kokotsaki, D., Menzies, V., & Wiggins, A. (2016). Project-based learning: A review of the literature. Improving Schools.

Lamere, M., Brodie, L., Nyamapfene, A., Fogg-Rogers, L., & Bakthavatchaalam, V. (2021). Mapping and Enhancing Sustainability Literacy and Competencies within an Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum Implementing sustainability education : A review of recent and current approaches. In The University of Western Australia (Ed.), Proceedings of AAEE 2021.

Loyens, S. M. M., Jones, S. H., Mikkers, J., & van Gog, T. (2015). Problem-based learning as a facilitator of conceptual change. Learning and Instruction.

Lucas, Bill., Hanson, Janet., & Claxton, Guy. (2014). Thinking Like an Engineer: Implications For The Education System. In Royal Academy of Engineering (Issue May).

QAA and Advance HE. (2021). Education for Sustainable Development.

Ramirez-Mendoza, R. A., Morales-Menendez, R., Melchor-Martinez, E. M., Iqbal, H. M. N., Parra-Arroyo, L., Vargas-Martínez, A., & Parra-Saldivar, R. (2020). Incorporating the sustainable development goals in engineering education. International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing.

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Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Authors: Dr Sarah Junaid (Aston University); Professor Mike Sutcliffe (TEDI-London); Jonathan Truslove (Engineers Without Borders UK); Professor Mike Bramhall (TEDI-London).

Keywords: Active verbs; Bloom’s Taxonomy; learning outcomes; learning objectives; embedding ethics; project based learning; case studies; self-reflection; UK-SPEC; AHEP; design portfolio; ethical approval checklist and forms; ethical design.

Who this article is for?: This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to integrate ethics into the engineering and design curriculum or module design. It will also help prepare students with the integrated skill sets that employers are looking for.



Engineering can have a significant impact on society and the environment, in both positive and negative ways. To fully understand the implications of engineering requires navigating complex, uncertain and challenging ethical issues. It is therefore essential to embed ethics into any project or learning outcome and for engineering professionals and educators to operate in a responsible and ethical manner.

The fourth iteration of the Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes (AHEP) reflects this importance to society by strengthening the focus on inclusive design and innovation, equality, diversity, sustainability and ethics, within its learning outcomes. By integrating ethics into engineering and design curricula, graduates develop a deeper comprehension of the ethical issues inherent in engineering and the skill sets necessary to navigate complex ethical decision-making needed across all sectors.



There is growing advocacy for bringing engineering ethics to the fore in engineering programmes. At the policy level, this is evident in three general areas:

  1. UK-SPEC and accreditation bodies are identifying ethics as one of the core learning outcomes and competencies in accreditation documents.
  2. The inclusion of more descriptive competencies that expand on engineering ethics.
  3. The fourth iteration of AHEP standards reflecting the importance of societal impact in engineering.

However, to translate the accreditation learning outcomes and their intentions to an engineering programme requires a duty of care by those responsible for programme design and development. The following are points for consideration:


Curriculum structure:

In the UK-SPEC (4th edition) guidance the Engineering Council states: “Engineering professionals work to enhance the wellbeing of society. In doing so they are required to maintain and promote high ethical standards and challenge unethical behaviour.”

In AHEP 4, students must meet the following learning outcome: “Identify and analyse ethical concerns and make reasoned ethical choices informed by professional codes of conduct”

So, when designing a new programme, ethics should ideally be built into the learning outcomes of the programme and modules at the early design stage and consistently be emphasised throughout. To ensure ethics are embedded, students should be required to consider the outputs of their project work through a societal or community lens, especially if they are undertaking projects with a practical delivery of ethics such as, say, designing for older people in care homes.

For existing programmes, ethics could be most readily introduced through a stand-alone ethics module. It is better, however, for ethics to be embedded across the whole programme, encouraging a holistic ‘ethical considerations mindset’ as a ‘golden thread’ across, and within, all student project work (Hitt, 2022). Minor or major modifications could be made to programmes to ensure that ethics is considered and emphasised, such as through the use of active verbs that embed critical reflections of design. For programmes with a large project-based learning component, ethical considerations should be required at the initial stage of all projects.


Learning and teaching activities:

In all efforts to embed ethics in engineering education, there should be a focus on constructively aligning teaching activity to learning outcomes. Examples include: employing user-centred design and/or value-sensitive design approaches and case studies for technical and non-technical considerations, using empathy workshops for ethical design, and ensuring ethical considerations are included in problem statements and product design specifications for decision-making. The use of self-reflection logs and peer reflections for team working can also be useful in capturing ethical considerations in a team setting and for addressing conflict resolutions.

A pragmatic step for programmes that use project-based learning is to encourage these ethical discussions at the beginning of all project work and to return to these questions and considerations during the course of the project. Reflecting on ethics throughout will lead to an ethical mindset, a foundation that students will build on throughout their subsequent careers.

One way of ensuring this for students is to complete an ethical scrutiny checklist, which, when completed, is then considered by a departmental ethics committee. The filter questions at the start of an ethics scrutiny submission would help determine the level of review required. Projects with no human participants could be approved following some basic checks. In some universities it has become policy for ethical scrutiny to be required for all group and individual project work such as problem-based learning projects, final year degree projects, and MSc and PhD research projects. For projects that collaborate with the Health Research Authority (HRA), it is a requirement that scrutiny is through their own HRA committee and it is good practice to put these types of projects initially through a departmental and/or university ethics committee as well. Having students go through this process is a good way of revealing the ethical implications of their engineering work.



Closing the constructive alignment triangle requires assessments that are designed to utilise learning and teaching activities and to demonstrate the learning outcomes. The challenging question is: How can ethics be evaluated and assessed effectively? One solution is through using more active verbs that demonstrate ethical awareness with outputs and deliverables. Examples where this could be applied include:

For more information on methods for assessing and evaluating ethics learning, see this related article in the engineering ethics toolkit: Methods for assessing and evaluating ethics learning in engineering education.



Using accreditation documentation to develop effective engineering programmes requires engaging beyond the checklists, thereby becoming more accustomed to viewing all competencies through an ethical lens. At programme design and module level, it is important to focus on constructively aligning the three key elements: learning outcomes written through an ethical lens, learning and teaching activities that engage with active verbs, and assessments demonstrating ethical awareness through a product, process, reflection and decisions.



Davis, M. (2006) ‘Integrating ethics into technical courses: Mirco-insertion’, Science and Engineering Ethics, 12(4), pp.717-730.

Gwynne-Evans, A.J, Chetty, M. and Junaid, S. (2021) ‘Repositioning ethics at the heart of engineering graduate attributes’, Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, 26(1), pp. 7-24.

Hitt, S.J. (2022) ‘Embedding ethics throughout a Master’s in integrated engineering curriculum’, International Journal of Engineering Education, 38(3).

Junaid, S., Kovacs, H., Martin, D. A., and Serreau, Y. (2021) ‘What is the role of ethics in accreditation guidelines for engineering programmes in Europe?’, Proceedings SEFI 49th Annual Conference: Blended Learning in Engineering Education: challenging, enlightening – and lasting?, European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI), pp. 274-282.


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Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

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