Report urges engineering to concentrate on fresh materials

But niche learning may not play well in jobs market, expert warns

November 21, 2013

Engineering degrees need modules that deal with some of the “eight great technologies” trumpeted by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, a report has argued.

According to the report by the publicly funded UK Commission for Employment and Skills, undergraduates should be taught more about 3D printing, plastic electronics and advanced composite materials. Such content would teach them about the emerging technologies vital to the future of the aerospace and car manufacturing industries.

If provision in these areas is not stepped up, the UK risks skills shortages in areas vital to economic growth, it adds.

Matthew Harrison, director of education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, welcomed the recommendations but warned universities not to go too far and develop degrees solely focused on the three areas, as research suggested that graduates needed a broader skills base.

Employers recruited those who have studied the core disciplines of mechanical, civil, electrical and structural engineering, he said. The same was not true for graduates of specific niche courses.

“We have found that employment is more challenging for these graduates because they come out with a particular speciality and sometimes struggle to find the right job,” Professor Harrison said.

He added that all manufacturing and aerospace degree courses already contained materials modules, including work on composites. Engineering departments should work with their industrial advisory boards to extend and enhance that content, he said.

The UKCES report also suggests that specialist master’s courses in the three fields could be developed.

Professor Harrison said that such courses already existed and argued that engineering departments had a good track record of reacting to employer needs by establishing specialist postgraduate courses in new areas.

“That solution is nothing new,” he said.

holly.else@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations