The new Engineering Council was launched today amid warnings of a shake-up in engineering degrees that will lead to some courses losing their accreditation.
The director general of the new council, now a single voice for 39 engineering bodies, said that a high priority will be to improve university courses. Students must take an accredited course if they want to pass professional exams later on.
Many engineers see the relaunch of the council as a new dawn for their profession. They hope that their public voice will be louder and their status will grow to the level of doctors and lawyers.
Mike Heath, director general, said: "We now have a single voice for the profession. We have felt undervalued in this country for generations."
The council will speed up changes to engineering degrees. In the past, different branches of engineering have been tackled by different institutions. It will publish its report on standards, including academic education, in late autumn.
Mr Heath said: "We hope to overcome the worrying variability of standards among universities. We have to be very much tougher in the accreditation of these courses. And it may mean we have to turn to universities and say 'yours is not sufficient'."
Alec Broers, head of the engineering department at Cambridge University and vice chancellor designate, is expected to call today for engineering degrees to take at least four years and to be made more interesting. He also wants to see entry standards raised "considerably". But David Bonner, honorary secretary of the Engineering Professors Council, said requiring that graduates have either an MEng or a BEng plus a masters degree would be "of great concern to us because of the need to attract students to our courses".
The relaunch of the council follows a major reassessment of the profession by former chairman Sir John Fairclough in 1993.