Give extra maths or dropouts will rise, says engineers body

April 20, 2001

Universities should provide additional maths and science tuition to engineering students or risk higher dropout rates and dumbing down, industry regulators said this week.

The Engineering Council said growing numbers of first-year undergraduates lacked the basic maths knowledge demanded in engineering courses. Scientific knowledge is important in disciplines such as chemical engineering.

It blamed changes in A-level syllabus and universities accepting entrants with poor or even no A levels in a bid to meet widening participation targets.

Andrew Ramsay, council director for engineers' regulation, said many students needed extra maths and science tuition in pre-first-year foundation courses. The government, he said, should give universities more money for these courses.

Mr Ramsay warned that failure to provide this tuition could result in many more people dropping out in their first year. One in eight drops out at present, he said.

It could also mean many more engineering degrees becoming devalued by employers. They were already unhappy with the quality of some engineering graduates, he said. Only a third of the 4,000 engineering courses listed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service were accredited by the council.

Mr Ramsay said: "Widening access will lead to undergraduates who are not prepared for the depth of knowledge an engineering course demands. Universities unwilling to recognise the importance of a good grounding in science and maths will continue to risk high dropout rates or dumbing down."

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