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By Professor Peter Goodhew, Director of the UK Centre for Materials Education

"The accreditation of undergraduate degree programmes effectively forces universities to jump through industry's hoops. Industry is, on the whole, primarily concerned about the short term. The accreditation rules are largely set by the elderly: look at the average age of those put up for election to the Engineering Council - half of them are significantly older than 60 and are either retired or can see retirement looming. I have met almost no accreditor with a vision for the future of university education and unsurprisingly the whole process stifles innovation.

The accreditation process takes a huge amount of resource and time (of both the accreditors and the accredited). I recently estimated that a single accreditation visit costs about £100,000. Although this has to be amortised over about five years, it is still a large sum, particularly in the opportunity costs.

Almost no employers require CEng (or its US equivalent - ABET accreditation) so there is no real employability advantage to the student taking an accredited programme. The only motive I have ever heard expressed is the fear that recruitment might suffer if 'our' programme is not accredited while others are. Is the process of accreditation driving undergraduate quality up, as hoped for by the Engineering Council? I can see little evidence for this so far. I agree that we all want to make our profession more attractive to society and thus to potential students, but I remain unconvinced that this is the way to do it.

My advice to any head of a Materials department is to forget accreditation - leave your programmes un-accredited and see what happens. Spend the liberated time on revising your undergraduate programmes and your teaching methods and talking about our fascinating discipline in public."

Peter Goodhew, Autumn 2000.

  

» This article generated the following response from Dr Rik Brydson, University of Leeds

"I strongly agree with Peter's viewpoint. Effectively the Engineering Council has set up a scheme that will ultimately lead to the demise of Engineering in the UK." » more.

  

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This area of the website contains articles intended to stimulate debate amongst the Materials community. Some of the articles are deliberately provocative. Please feel free to express your own opinion, or suggest other topics for discussion. To do so, contact the UK Centre for Materials Education.

 

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