Heads of engineering departments fear that proposals by the Engineering Council to raise entry levels for honours degrees could devastate BEng courses.
The Engineering Council document Competence and Commitment, published in January, said that the entry level for honours engineering courses should be three C grades at A level or BTEC National with merit standard overall and some distinctions in areas related to the degree.
Engineering Professors' Council secretary, David Bonner, head of civil engineering at the University of Hertfordshire, says that the EPC welcomes many aspects of the Engineering Council's proposals but believes that there is much in the detail that will need clarification and development.
He says that if the "three Cs" proposal were implemented most BEng courses in the new universities and some in the old universities could collapse.
Even high quality engineering courses need the council's "seal of approval" for recruitment. "What could happen if the three Cs regime was implemented is that we would be turning away people who want to study engineering - they may not have three Cs but we are able to work on them."
The Engineering Council hopes that raising entry standards would help raise the quality of graduates, but the EPC contends that the engineering profession should instead concentrate on developing output standards in collaboration with the council and professional institutions. EPC argues that the ability to operate within defined output standards should determine entry standards.
The EPC is also alarmed by the Engineering Council's use of National Vocational Qualifications for defining competence. Dr Bonner says: "This is a big problem - for us it is an unproven concept. Knowing how to do something does not mean you understand it and NVQs have not proved that they engender deep understanding."
The EPC says that "competence" as currently defined by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications "is not a satisfactory basis for defining the professional capabilities expected of engineers, particularly at higher levels".