The Academy’s activities in education and training tackle the strategic challenge of creating a system of engineering education and training that satisfies the aspirations of young people while delivering the high calibre engineers and technicians that businesses need.
The Academy works with partners to ensure that more young people study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in schools, FE colleges and universities, where we enrich outcomes by bringing real-world engineering practice into the student experience. The Academy is working to encourage more people, especially young women and people from a wider range of backgrounds, to work as engineering technicians, graduate engineers and engineering researchers.
The Academy’s education activities are organised into four strands: education schemes for professional development, 5-19 education, FE & HE and education policy.
Professional Formation Schemes
In higher education the Academy concerns itself with enhancing the skills pipeline into industry by ensuring that engineers graduate with the skills that are required for economic recovery and growth. Our flagship programme – the Visiting Professors scheme – is a recognised exemplar of effective practice of experience-led engineering education where leading practitioners enrich the engineering education with the latest industrial technology and practices. This scheme is very much focussed on problem-based learning pedagogy. The focus is currently on a Visiting Professor scheme in Innovation, which supports the development of an innovation-driven economy for the UK. Support is maintained for other Visiting Professor schemes in engineering design, sustainable development, systems engineering and building engineering physics. Our 200+ Visiting Professors currently in post each reach some 100 to 150 students per year.
The Academy has also committed to enhancing the formal engineering education that students receive at university by enabling them to undertake extra-curricula personal development activities through its Engineering Leadership Awards and Advanced Awards. Every year these highly sought after awards are supporting around 40 undergraduates with Advanced Awards and a further 300 with Standard Awards. Award holders frequently go on to attend the Executive Engineers Programme of development training which has run every year since 2000.
A number of high technology industries require specialist skills that are only available through the study of a Masters degree. The Academy has made a major investment in funding the study of specialist second degree courses aligned to two of these industries: energy supply and environmental technology. Two schemes: the Panasonic Trust Fellowships and Petrofac Fellowships for the Enhanced Graduate Engineer support some of the most competent and highly driven graduate engineers. Competition is intense with more than 200 applicants chasing the 12 awards supported by these schemes each year.
In addition to supporting the UK’s technical skills base, the Academy is involved in developing the industrial leaders who will drive these industries forward to achieve their full wealth creating potential. The Sainsbury Management Fellowship scheme plays a significant role in helping to develop the next generation of industrial leaders. The scheme’s alumni, the Sainsbury Management Fellows, count a number of chief executives, company directors and company owners amongst its membership. These individuals also support the Academy through participation in selection activities and as mentors to undergraduate students in receipt of Engineering Leadership Advanced Awards.
The Academy is also concerned with promoting full career development and the continued employability of engineers once they have entered industry through a number of privately funded programmes and the Engineering Professional Development Awards. Such initiatives very often involve the award of small value grants which more often than not help lever larger sums from employers and others.
Tomorrow’s Engineers is the Academy’s partnership with Engineering UK and the Lloyds Register Educational Trust which engages school pupils with hands-on engineering activities. In the last year, this partnership has funded more than 30,000 young people to engage with activities provides by Young Engineers, the Smallpeice Trust, The Engineering Development Trust (incorporating the Industrial Trust) and Primary Engineer.
Through funding provided by BAE Systems and the BG Group, the Academy is also working with teachers and pupils at more than 100 schools. This augments the STEPS at Work Programme which has provided one-day industrial placements for 1,300 teachers per year since 2005.
FE & HE
The Academy leads the engineering component of the HEFCE & HEFCW funded National HE STEM project. Three funding rounds for engineering activities in curriculum innovation, outreach, widening participation and diversity and educational research have resulted in more than 60 proijects funded in Higher Education Institutions in England and Wales. Two thirds of all projects involve employer input. The Academy has been actively supporting the broader HESTEM programme, contributing to delivery strategies and initiatives and activities led by the regional STEM partners.
The Engineering Further Education (EFE) project, which is funded by BP plc and supports teaching and learning in further education colleges. A new e-mentoring programme has been developed which sees engineering students supported by practicing engineers from industry. Contextualised maths resources to support teaching and learning at Level 3 have been developed to date and these are currently being trialled before being disseminated to the network of EFE colleges. A new CPD model has been developed. CPD for Practitioners by Practitioners will see a practitioner/teacher from a college being linked up with an engineer from local industry to deliver industrially relevant CPD within regional colleges. The project is currently working with 11 colleges nationally.
In addition, the teaching of engineering qualifications in the Further Education sector is being enhanced by Engineering lecturer CPD activity funded by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS).
The Academy’s work on education policy is augmented by E4E (Education for Engineering) which is our education partnership with the 36 professional engineering institutions. Over the past year E4E has had a particular focus on the Further Education sector. E4E members have worked with the Academy on the FE STEM data research. This has enabled unique input to Government consultations on future FE strategy and funding and the Wolf review of vocational education for the Department for Education. Currently, E4E is providing input to the National Curriculum review.
E4E continues to develop policy positions and press Government for action on key priorities to ensure an adequate supply of future technicians and engineers. These include improving the status of technicians, better careers education and guidance for young people, more specialist teachers – particularly in physics and mathematics, more subject CPD for STEM teachers and increasing the diversity of those who study STEM in post-16 education, in particular women, who make up less than 10% of the UK engineering workforce.
Current research in engineering education
In September 2013, the Royal Academy of Engineering launched a study to explore the role of educational quality in UK engineering academic selection and promotions procedures.
In any organisation, procedures for identifying and rewarding excellence drive improvements and change. In the university sector, research quality and contribution underpin the procedures, and the metrics for assessing these core aspects of academic performance are robust and widely-accepted. Less weight has been given to teaching quality and contribution, and metrics typically rely on proxy indicators such as student satisfaction scores. There is increasing recognition that the development and integration of reliable measures of educational excellence into the process of academic selection and reward is central to improving the quality of engineering education.
The study will examine the current UK approach to recognising and rewarding excellence in engineering education and, drawing on national and international exemplars of innovative practice, identify changes that can be implemented within engineering schools. Specifically, the study will address three key questions:
1. To what extent are educational factors considered in the selection, promotion and reward of engineering academics in the UK and what metrics are typically employed?
2. What examples of national and international good practice exist in the rewarding and celebrating of educational excellence in engineering academics that can be integrated into UK engineering schools?
3. On the basis of the study outcomes, what practical advice can be given to enable UK engineering schools to initiate and leverage support for improvements in procedures for rewarding excellence at all stages of the academic career?
The study will draw on an on-line survey of UK engineering academics and one-to-one interviews with senior university managers, engineering academics and research experts in the field.
The study will be led by Dr Ruth Graham and overseen by Academy Fellows and the Academy’s Standing Committee for Education and training.
All comments to: Rhys Morgan
Director, Engineering and Education