Sheffield seeks head of multidisciplinary engineering education strategy

New building to offer shared facilities, broad-spectrum view for booming faculty. Plus the latest higher education jobs and appointments

January 9, 2014

With work already under way on a new £80 million engineering building at the University of Sheffield, the institution is now hunting for an individual to lead the cross-disciplinary approach to teaching that will be central to the new department (closing date for applications is 31 January 2014).

The search follows a “sustained” period of growth in the subject at the university over the past five years, according to Mike Hounslow, pro vice-chancellor for the faculty of engineering. Sheffield’s student numbers in the field have increased by 50 per cent over the period and its engineering research income is now greater than that of the University of Cambridge.

This growth has meant that the university could afford to invest in teaching, so Professor Hounslow and his team took the opportunity to create a new vision for the engineering department.

“We came to the view that we weren’t doing as much [through] practical education as we wanted to. We felt that we could give [students] more,” he said.

Typically, existing engineering laboratories are not large enough to accommodate modern-day class sizes, and lab sessions are expensive to run. To address these issues, Professor Hounslow and his colleagues considered how they could design new facilities starting from scratch.

They decided that the laboratories in the new building – which will house 20,000 sq m of teaching facilities and is due to open in 2015 – would not be focused on individual degree programmes, but would serve as common facilities for many courses.

The new post of head of multidisciplinary education in engineering will bring this vision to life. The appointed individual will sit on the faculty executive board and report directly to Professor Hounslow.

“The individual we are looking for will have a real commitment to laboratory-based education for engineers, the capacity to lead his or her own teams and connect at a variety of levels throughout the university to make sure we are delivering what is needed,” he said.

“He or she will be charged with leading a team of people who have to be experts in the education that they are providing, but also able to work with each of the departments to ensure that it is the right education for that particular discipline.”

The focus on multidisciplinary study is driven by the fact that in the world of work, engineers must practise across a variety of disciplines. Professor Hounslow explained: “For the good of the student, they need to see a broader spectrum.”

Different engineering degree programmes share common subject areas. Fluid mechanics, for example, is central to mechanical, chemical and civil engineering. “From an efficiency point of view we are going to have one set of facilities for fluid mechanics and use it for three engineering disciplines,” Professor Hounslow said.

Although blurring the lines between engineering disciplines is not new, the scale of the Sheffield project sets it apart, according to Professor Hounslow. “We will be able to accommodate 5,000 students in this building, well over 1,000 of whom could be engaged in practical activity at any one time.”

Talent search: other engineering vacancies

University of Liverpool
The Faculty of Science and Engineering is looking for three academics to fill roles as lecturers or senior lecturers in industrial design.
Closing date for applications: 31 January 2014
Click here to view the full job description and to apply for this role

Cardiff University
Cardiff University will hire a research chair in the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering as part of the Sêr Cymru Research Chairs initiative supported by the Welsh government.
Closing date for applications: 17 January 2014
Click here to view the full job description and to apply for this role

University of Limerick
The University of Limerick is now inviting applications for its Bernal chair in biopharmaceutical process engineering. The Bernal Project is a €52 million (£43 million) project focused on developing areas including pharmaceutical science and engineering.
Closing date for applications: 30 January 2014
Click here to view the full job description and to apply for this role


Cranfield University has appointed leaders for its two new academic institutes.

Leon Terry, professor of plant sciences, has taken over as head of the Cranfield Soil and AgriFood Institute, while Fiona Lickorish, an expert in horizon scanning and futures, is leading the Institute for Environment, Health, Risks and Futures (IEHRF). Jason Weeks, who has more than a quarter of a century’s experience as an environmental toxicologist and risk analysis expert as well as extensive business practice in the aquaculture and environmental sectors, has also joined the IEHRF as professor of environmental risk analysis.

Fiona Devine has been named head of the University of Manchester’s business school. Professor Devine, a professor of sociology, has served as acting head of the school since September 2013.

Kevin Warwick is to become deputy vice-chancellor for research at Coventry University. Professor Warwick, who will join Coventry in April, is currently professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading. His new role will encompass overseeing and developing Coventry’s research programmes and activities.

Leeds Metropolitan University has made Karen Middleton, chief allied health professions officer for NHS England, a visiting professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.

The University of Bristol has promoted a senior academic to the post of deputy vice-chancellor. Guy Orpen, presently pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise, has been at Bristol since 1979, when he was appointed to a lectureship in inorganic chemistry.

John Elmes

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