By Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E.

World Expertise LLC

Falls Church , VA , USA



 Covering many facets of engineering education in the current global environment, this paper attempts to focus on developments and trends that are of particular relevance to engineering education in the Arab States Region. Overall trends in engineering and engineering education are noted, and particular attention is paid to developments in engineering education in the author’s home country – developments typical of those currently racing throughout the Western world. Recent reform movements in engineering education are covered, with particular emphasis on curricular developments. Broader issues such as international exposure for engineering students and education for entrepreneurship are also discussed. Much emphasis is placed on formal accreditation processes for engineering education, and guidelines for basic program content are provided. Assessment techniques are explored, as well as an exit exam approach. Regional agreements across national borders covering educational equivalency and cross-border practice are examined. Needs for continuing education and lifelong learning are described, along with descriptions of distance education approaches. Finally, readers are alerted to the need to consider adaptation of foreign approaches carefully, adapting relevant ideas only as appropriate for the local situation. A concluding section makes recommendations for the consideration of engineering educators in the Arab States Region.


A study commissioned by the Cairo, Egypt office of UNESCO


             Executive summary                                                                                           1

             Introduction                                                                                                       3

             Megatrends in engineering education                                                                  3

             Capacity building – engineers for developing countries                                         13

             Engineering education and accreditation in the United States                                 16

             Education of engineers for international practice                                                  20

             Developments in teaching and learning                                                                 29

             Technology in learning systems                                                                            31

             Developments in engineering education in the United States                                    33

             Enhancing engineering education in Europe                                                            39

             International experience for engineering students                                                  40

                  through distance learning techniques

             Entrepreneurship for engineering students                                                             45

             Global accreditation trends                                                                                   48

             International trends in engineering accreditation and quality assurance                   53             

             Guidelines for definition of necessary basic knowledge                                           61

             First professional degree                                                                                      66

             Outcomes assessment                                                                                         67

             Evaluation of distance education                                                                          72

             Industry – University interactions                                                                        74

             Cross-border engineering practice                                                                      75

             ABET substantial equivalency evaluations                                                           80

             It’s time to rethink engineering education conferences                                          84

             Foreign adaptation of US engineering education models                                        89

             Conclusions and recommendations                                                                      94

             References                                                                                                       95



 Developments in communications, travel and trade over recent decades have produced a global network of ideas, institutions, and economies. Engineering practice and its related technologies have become global in scope and scale. To be effective, today’s engineering graduate must not only be grounded in scientific and mathematical fundamentals, engineering principles and design, but must also have a global outlook and the broader skills to work in society in both home country and internationally. Engineering education is thus challenged to prepare a technically competent graduate, as it has done traditionally, and to add several dimensions of broadening – all within a program of reasonable length.

As engineering has become a more global profession, issues of quality assurance of engineering education programs have been amplified. Clients or customers in a given country or region want to be assured that the engineering being provided on products and services is of high quality – protective of the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. When some or all of the technical work is being done by foreign educated engineers, questions of quality assurance typically arise. Formal accreditation of engineering programs is today the standard by which such quality assurance is sought.

In response to the changing nature of engineering practice, and its globalization, engineering educators have been reforming their offerings. In the classroom, the emphasis is typically moving from ‘teaching’ to ‘learning’, where student centered active learning is seen as the goal. Modern technologies, particularly in computers and communications, are having major positive impacts on how the education is being delivered, and how students and faculty interact with one another. Broadening of the curriculum to include teamwork and communication skills, business and entrepreneurship elements, international dimensions, sustainable development, etc., is occurring throughout engineering education. In addition, outcomes assessment is replacing technique specifications in shaping the engineering curriculum and its evaluation.

  The topics that follow are all interrelated, and the reader is encouraged to continuously integrate the concepts while proceeding through the paper. References and appropriate web sites for further exploration of important topics are provided along the way.


 In 1982 John Naisbitt introduced a new technique of gleaning trends in our society in his best-selling book Megatrends – content analysis. He based his futurist predictions on a detailed analysis of what the news media were reporting, by taking time to connect individual events to begin to understand larger patterns. His premise was that the most reliable way to anticipate the future is by understanding the present.

  This section of the paper looks at recent and current events in engineering education at the international scale, as reported over the past three years in the International Engineering Education Digest, and attempts to connect them in ways that reveal megatrends in engineering education. From the rush of universities to get into for-profit distance education ventures, to the worldwide drive toward harmonization of degrees and their quality assurance mechanisms, to downturns in engineering enrollments due to student disenchantment with the profession, the topics repeated in the monthly issues of the Digest provide a pattern that helps to illuminate current megatrends, and to project them into likely future directions.

  Using three years of the International Engineering Education Digest as a data source, and with the luxury of hindsight, four major themes emerge from the world of engineering education:

Ø                  Changes forced by the fragile world economy;

Ø                  Student and professional mobility;

Ø                  The use of communications and instructional technology;

Ø                  The increasingly loud voice of the social imperative. 

These individual themes are complex enough, but when taken together they are intertwined, interactive, synergistic, and strike to the core of not only engineering education around the world, but also of higher education in the new millennium.

  The economy

  “An investment bank has made a deal . . . that will have it pay for one-third of the cost of a new chemistry building in return for a share of the profits from any spin-off companies in the next 15 years.  … The bank . . . is confident that it is getting a good deal, on the basis of its own expertise and experience in advising high technology and biotechnology companies” (Digest 18 December 2000).

  Presumably, the university’s confidence was equal to that of the bank.

  This Digest article captures the changing scene of higher education, where, in the face of decreased funding, universities are making more aggressive and complex business deals in hopes of shoring up resources.  The famous university in question, Oxford in the UK , has been strapped for funds as are sister institutions in the US , Ghana , Vietnam , Venezuela and Australia . 

  Since 2000 money has been exceptionally tight for higher education around the world.  As the world economy has faltered, colleges and universities have been forced to adopt strategies for increasing revenues and decreasing costs.  Among those strategies are instituting or raising tuition, changing research funding, finding efficiencies in traditional operations, and developing new, for-profit business ventures.  The current environment has also been hospitable to the growth and expansion of new educational organizations around the world, both for-profit and not-for-profit.

  From a US perspective, where both public and private institutions have long flourished side by side, the notion of paying for higher education is not new.  Even public universities have raised what were originally modest rates of tuition and fees long decades ago to a point where the difference between the cost of attending a public and a private institution may today be minimal.  In the US discussions about college costs have been dominated by arguments over how much to raise tuition in the face of budget shortfalls, and the relative balance between loans and grants for students attending college.  Missing are broad-based debates on whether higher education is at all the responsibility of the state.

  But elsewhere in the world, expectations, history and culture are different.  Students have traditionally attended universities for free, or have paid only symbolic costs, or even have been paid for attending a university.  That is fast changing, as the Digest has reported. In 2002 Canadian students protested increased tuition which raised the average student debt load to about 15,600 US$ (Digest 18 February 2002). The Association of African Universities endorsed the imposition of tuition in its 170 member institutions spread through 43 countries, places where higher education has traditionally been free. The implications for the poorest of the poor are clear, but the trade offs are painful, especially in view of the crises in health care, starvation, and employment, all of which present competing priorities.  A later report, picked up in the Digest ( 5 August 2002 ), predicts increased chaos in already unstable African universities in light of these new changes.  An interesting side note is a recent entry (Digest 6 May 2002) that reports the decision of the government of Slovakia to make fees for distance education illegal.  In addition to their regular curriculum, which is free of charge, many Slovakian universities have been offering such distance education courses, citing great need and popularity.  The universities claim that without charging for them, they will be forced to close them down.  The government says that all education should be free. Stay tuned.

  Under conditions of budget constraint, research funding is undergoing major changes around the world. Long-standing assumptions are being rejected, and the national infrastructures which have controlled the distribution of research funds have been remade.  Japan , for example, created a new super ministry for funding research, presumably based on the need to better coordinate projects and assess progress and success (Digest 26 January 2001). Other countries, long dedicated to virtual lifetime funding support for researchers, have begun to impose productivity measures on their researchers and to withdraw funding for those whose output is not judged sufficient in quality or quantity. The Chinese Academy of Science has been moving in this direction across its 123 research institutes (Digest 10 March 2001).  Northwestern University in the US vowed to do the same (Digest 10 March 2001).  The European Commission, acknowledging the fragmentation in its programs of scientific research, has set in place a four year, 16.2 billion US$ program (Framework 6) to promote pan-European projects and trans-European mobility for researchers.   Targeted support is to include: information technology, genomics and biotechnology, sustainable development and global change, nanotechnologies, aeronautics and space, and food safety (Digest 10 March 2001). The French government has attempted to boost research spending, but most of it has been defense related, and civilian R & D funding was scheduled to only barely beat inflation rates (Digest 12 October 2001). Argentina has been especially hard hit, closing labs, reducing researchers' salaries, and facing radically devalued funds (Digest 8 April 2002). 

  A significant crisis in scientific publishing is driven largely, but not exclusively, by economics.  Universities are seeking to maintain their traditional ways of acquiring and making available research findings, but at reduced costs.  As an economic problem faced by all colleges and universities, the problem to many seems amenable to solution by the Internet.  Just put journals on line immediately: low cost, instant access to ideas, free scholarly inquiry, etc.  Not so fast, say publisher representatives  (Digest 12 October 2001).  Quality costs money.  So the question and the solutions linger. Although not seen as central to the interests of many engineering educators, in the light of current world events the related problem of book publishing of works in Arabic takes on an added interest.  With 275 million speakers of Arabic throughout 22 countries, a run of 5000 copies of a book by Middle Eastern publishers is considered large (Digest 24 August 2001).  Something to think about.

  This grim global scene of the funding available for all of higher education is lightened somewhat when we look at the creative ventures of some institutions attempting to balance their meager budgets.  In the UK , for example, eighteen universities banded together to offer advertisers an opportunity to promote their products or services on the university screen savers (Digest 12 October 2001). (Holy pop-ups!) The British government also offered a onetime bonus to educational institutions that decided to go private and forego public support  (Digest  15 February 2001).

  More serious financial maneuvers have included efforts by Temple University of Philadelphia to start a for-profit online school, which was closed down when a new president took over (Digest 3 August 2001).  California had to rethink its interruptible service contracts with energy providers after considering what cuts offs would mean to medical facilities, laboratories and such (Digest 15 February 2001).

  While the impact of communication and instructional technology in engineering education over the past three years will be discussed in the next section of this paper, we need to spend some time here considering how technology has offered entrepreneurially minded university administrators some dazzling opportunities for making money.  The Digest is full of articles about how this university or that around the globe has plunged into production of on-line courses or modules in hopes of making money, only to be disappointed.  It didn’t take the dot.com collapse for universities to learn that the investment needed to create quality online programs was heavy and the profits did not quickly roll in to help balance the university budget.  There have been some creative efforts to use the new ventures  to compensate individuals, a welcome innovation in view of generally stagnating salaries in higher education.  University College Cork staff, for example, working at the national Microelectronics Research Center , were in line to profit from commercial spin-offs.  The center decided to distribute half of the equity gained to its staff members (Digest 18 December 2000).  More than one university has seen the advantages of encouraging faculty to be creative online and to reap profits, to blunt the effect of minimal raises.

  There are limits, however, to efficiency measures and creative entrepreneurship when it comes to managing the financial existence of a college or university. The strong growth of private and for-profit institutions of higher learning around the world has attracted a great deal of attention.  In country after country, the tradition of a single, publicly funded system of higher education has given way in the face of increasing demand for access which outstrip national resources.  Governments have admitted candidly that they cannot provide places for all the qualified students in their countries who want to attend college, and thus have created legislation and policies which invite, encourage, and support the entrance of private money into their countries for building new universities. 

  In the US , educators have become familiar with such entities as corporate universities (Digest 6 May 2002, also 15 February 2001 ), and private for-profit programs (Sylvan Learning Systems, the University of Phoenix , etc.). Along with their growth has come a tension, articulated by some as the conflict between the need to retain quality in education vs. the perceived monopoly that traditional institutions have on the delivery of higher learning in the US .  This tension arises whenever another country contemplates expansion of educational opportunities offered by anyone other than traditional institutions.  Since resolution of this issue requires some complex evolution of social expectations placed on national governments, should developing countries defer decisions on creating increased educational opportunities for their young by rejecting what may prove to  be some questionable initiatives from abroad?  Is there a need for new academic credentials to aid in this challenge?  Can we grasp the urgency of the problem just by looking at China , where only about 11% of its young attend college? 

  The overarching concerns that these budget squeezes create, exacerbated by the creative solutions proposed in desperation, are ethical ones. Who benefits from higher education, the individual or the society?  If the emphasis is on individual benefits, should universities try to turn that around?  What is the pay back expected of a university graduate to the  society which funded his or her education? Who should fund research?  Are public-private partnerships inevitably tainted?  Should private donations, complete with limitations and conditions, increase or decrease?  Engineering educators are centrally involved in these deliberations, on both a local and a global scale.  Their contributions to the dialogue would be valuable.

  In the end, it is difficult to attribute lessening support for higher education solely to the current state of the world economy: that is today’s explanation/defense.  Tomorrow will likely be the same, with a different excuse.  The case for education, as the solution for society rather than one of its many problems, has not yet been made.


  The complexity and interconnectedness of the challenges facing engineering education  are  nowhere better seen than by looking at instructional and communications technologies.  Certainly technology has been viewed, as outlined above, as an opportunity for earning money for institutions and individuals, thus relieving some budget problems.  Technology also offers  cost-cutting solutions by creating operational efficiencies. Communications and instructional technologies are a means of increasing access to higher education, and thus are related to the social imperatives facing higher education.  It is a way of increasing student and professional mobility, through virtual visits, courses, recruiting and communication.  Technology has been offered as a means of increasing the effectiveness of both teaching and learning.  In fact, technology has been such a driving issue in engineering education that it has merited its own category in the Digest.

  In reviewing the past three years of the Digest we can see evidence of a substantial amount of rash behavior related to technology, with decisions being made quickly, only to be retracted in the light of the inexorable forces of reality, profitability, feasibility, readiness and politics.  While we learned long ago that technology hardware was not cheap, it has taken a bit longer to accept that integration of technology into teaching, learning, research and life is neither cheap nor easy. 

  Technology’s potential for increasing access to higher education was immediately evident and is now visible throughout the world.  An African Virtual University is up and running (Digest 6 May 2002).  Japan , Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries considering establishing an “international cyber-university” (Digest 6 May 2002).  China is working with US and Australian universities to offer more distance education programs taught in English (Digest 6 May 2002).  The Indira Ghandi National Open University is using FM radio and TV satellite downlinks for its programs, the largest in India , serving 750,000 students (Digest 18 March 2002). An on-line Islamic university now functions in the US   (Digest 5 August 2002).

  Huge investments have been made in instructional technologies in the US .  When the bubble burst, with dot.coms and the economy going belly up, some say that engineering was buffered because it had used technology wisely (Digest 26 November 2001).

  While admiring the ability of various technologies to increase access to higher learning and their suitability to engineering education, we cannot escape the problem that much of distance learning has yet to be assessed in terms of learning outcomes.  We have probably come too far to have the entire enterprise collapse, and the alternative -- persistent ignorance around the globe -- is too dangerous to consider.  But we need to attend to assessment, to have a better grasp on what really works when we use the tools of technology in the instructional process.  If more students do not learn more, more effectively, more efficiently, with better retention and ability to use what they have learned, why use technology?

  Communication and information technology (CIT) has been a great boon to international contacts among engineering and science researchers. There is no need to provide examples to prove this point.  And for engineering students who can communicate with their peers around the world, there are great advantages.  However, this great potential has yet to be systematically exploited to offer students international exposure through technology and to expand the reach of international engineering meetings and conferences to engineers in the developing parts of the world.  In fact, the digital divide appears to be increasing, as forward motion in developing countries is slow, while  advances in technology, software, hardware and individual competencies accelerate in other parts of the world (Digest 18 March 2002).

  The variety of technology-related projects, programs and activities in engineering education has produced  important results, including some which were unintentional.  For example, it has become apparent to anyone who has engaged in distance education that modern teaching includes several discrete functions which must be decoupled in order to achieve the desired learning results.  Instructional designers and technology experts are now active members of the teaching team which traditionally included only a professor plus graduate assistants (Digest 22 September 2001).  This can lead to a feeling of loss of control on the part of faculty, but probably also a welcome sense of humility and appreciation for collaboration.  A developing history of the use of instructional technology has even allowed the definition of new problems and the vocabulary with which to discuss them.  Take, for example, the notion of “linkage rot,” the tendency of links to become outmoded over time, as sites disappear or are renamed or relocated (Digest 6 May 2002).  “Linkage rot” is real evidence of the half-life of most technical knowledge, and how fungible knowledge and evidence are, both valuable pieces of understanding.

  The pervasiveness of English as the dominant language of higher education and research has been emphasized and intensified by technology.  King Faisal University (Digest 8 April 2002), a private institution in Saudi Arabia , has recently opened, using English as its sole language of instruction.  South Korea expanded its courses taught in English to attract more international students.  (Digest 3 August 2001 ).  While having a dominant language of communication across higher education has some great advantages, it also can create a false confidence in steadfastly monolingual American engineering students that English is the only language they need, and that concurrent with the growth of English has been the disappearance of cultural differences.  It is for engineering educators to emphasize that this is not true, and to create learning experiences which prove this to their students.   False expectations about the very real cultural and linguistic differences which cover the globe can limit engineers’ effectiveness in the  exercise of their profession in the global marketplace.

  Student and professional mobility

  “Student mobility” and the Bologna Declaration have become more familiar subjects since the European Union began to focus attention on the need for its students to be able to navigate more smoothly the European “space of higher education” without regard to borders (Digest 12 April 2001). For engineering educators, it is particularly important to consider also professional mobility, as professional engineers and educators have increasingly higher expectations of being able to navigate the labyrinth of licensure and practice requirements around the globe.

  In the US since September 11, 2001 , the media have given intense coverage to immigration, immigrants, and the governmentally sanctioned policies and practices for controlling access by outsiders to the United States .  H-1B visas now are being discussed by people who didn’t know they existed when the millennium arrived.  When the Digest began in May 2000, it was still plausible to consider expanding the quota of specialists granted entrée into the US for specialized needs, in particular in science, technology and computer science (Digest 1 May 2000).  The scene quickly changed, however, with the downturn of the economy and the upturn in terrorism: requests for H-1B visas dropped, and professional groups began to view those who advocated for higher quotas as the modern day equivalents of scabs, attempting to flood the market with lower-paid engineers and computer scientists from overseas to the detriment of native-born professionals seeking work in a difficult economy.  For those with eyes to see, the immigration issue in the US was only part of a  similar dynamic being felt around the globe (Digest 8 April 2002).  Australia has slammed its door to the ‘less civilized,’ the U.S. border with Mexico has been strengthened, Britain plans to increase requirements for immigration, and Germany is grappling with integration of immigrants.  Some of the increased barriers to immigration are the result of  9/11 concerns, while others are economically motivated” (Digest 8 April 2002).

  We should note that mobility to some is brain drain to others.  Students and engineering faculty have proven to be particularly adept at following the best the world has to offer, regardless of national borders.  US engineering educators have been provided with large quantities of statistics describing fluctuations in the national origins of their students (Digest 22 October 2002).  Figures usually demonstrate that the number of US students ready, willing and able to engage in higher education in engineering are in decline (Digest 26 November 2001), while large numbers of international students wait eagerly in line to take their places in US universities at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.  Once a comfort level had been achieved with the strong presence of overseas students in science and technology programs in the US , questions began to be raised about where these overseas students would go once having earned a degree (Digest 22 October 2002, and 2 December 2002 ). Then related questions were posed: about student mobility across the states of the US; about the quality of US primary and secondary schools as related to student interest in and readiness for advanced studies in engineering and technology; and about the nature of and need for a diverse student body, what it takes to achieve it, and at what cost.  Engineering faculty face the issue every time they enter a classroom or laboratory; it is worth the effort to step back and consider the large issue of why we are where we are.  

With demographics demonstrating what is already being felt in countries such as Germany and Spain – the dearth of college aged populations – mobility, even in the name of economic integration across Europe , can sometimes be  threatening.  Spain is already experiencing a decline in the college age cohort, with universities under the gun to attempt to back-fill with expanded programs, and Germany is rapidly growing gray, with dire predictions of accelerated decline in technical prowess.  Being suddenly thrust into competition with excellent universities in nearby countries, competition for both students and faculty can be perceived as another impediment to economic stability.  

Brain drain is on everyone’s mind.  Despite economic downturns, the US remains a prime destination for engineers and engineering educators from overseas who want to benefit from dynamic ideas and a comparatively wealthy  economy.  The Digest has reported on numerous initiatives taken by governments around the world to retain their best scientists, researchers, and educators, in face of the lure of the US (Digest 12 October 2001).  The Canadian government, for example, recently set out tax incentives for keeping  Canadian-born scientists at home (Digest 1 January 2001). But while some countries seem still not to get it, and persist in making marginal and defensive moves to prevent mobility, Tanzania’s leaders have demonstrated that they get it: they have instructed their universities to educate the young to be “job creators,” not “job seekers,” thus virtually mandating the inclusion of entrepreneurship in the education of future engineers (Digest 12 April 2001).  To the young and ambitious, the lure of being able to prosper at home by using their engineering education in start-up enterprises is often enough to prevent plans for migration abroad. 

Professional mobility for engineers has everything to do with accreditation and licensure issues around the world, and the Digest has recorded this issue in some detail.  Efforts continue to create some consistent standards, enabling engineers to practice outside of their home countries (Digest 26 November 2001).  Of course, licensure issues immediately raise quality control issues, along with accreditation issues, resulting frequently in a hot mix of idealism seasoned with turf protection and national defensiveness (Digest 18 March 2002).  But the search for common global grounds for quality standards, fair employment practices, and useful application of human resources goes on.  That this section of the paper is not longer is less a reflection on the importance of this theme than it is of the lack of real progress that has  been  made over the past three years.

  The social imperative

  While students from around the world strive to acquire the strongest possible technical education in engineering, some older hands persist in proclaiming that the ill-named “soft skills” are the ones which will ultimately be key to the successful practice of engineering by up-and-coming engineers.  But the list of “soft skills” too often is limited to things such as public speaking techniques, management skills and the ability to work well in teams.  What is missing is an understanding of how the growing social consciousness around the world is making it imperative that engineering students understand the implications of their work.  Technical skills applied without regard for the ultimate result of the work can lead to the creation of world societies characterized by the worst dreamed evils.  Technique without conscience, we know, is a danger.

  The Digest has placed an emphasis on diversity from the very beginning, and recognized that diversity means different things in different societies.  Stagnation or weakness in the pool of students eager for engineering education has finally reached a point where even some of the most conventional thinkers agree that the student body must be diversified to more accurately reflect national and regional populations.  This means, in different countries, different mixes. In countries such as Iran and Afghanistan this means that particular attention must be paid to disengaging young women from the religious strictures which limit their attendance at school and their pursuit of education outside of national frontiers (Digest 4 January 2002).  The US continues to wrestle with the value and legality of affirmative action in higher education (Digest 22 September 2001). In a country such as India , the challenge is to enroll more of the outcasts of the caste system (Digest 27 March 2001).  Of course, this sort of expansion of the pools results predictably in calls for more quality control, as new sorts of students challenge the norms established by . . . the establishment.

  How to integrate ethical issues into the engineering curriculum remains a work in progress, along with how to prepare students to work and live well with people whose culture, language, skin, religion are different.  The Digest has not recorded very many efforts in these directions, but the overwhelming coverage of the destructive results of discrimination makes the issue self-evident.  Ethical issues covered in the Digest, and which should be a part of engineering education include:

Ø                    what responsibility the young have to giving back to the world for their education;

Ø                    consideration of the extent to which research should be driven by the needs of society rather than the curiosity of the researcher;

Ø                    intellectual property issues, especially in light of the wide-spread perception that western aid is too often a guise for western theft of  ideas  from developing countries;

Ø                    how to combat the technological divide;

Ø                    how to promote and educate for entrepreneurism;

Ø                    how to assure the quality of engineering practice;

Ø                    assessment of what engineering societies are doing around the world to solve the social issues, not to exacerbate them;

Ø                    sustainable development, and international aid programs;

Ø                    how to keep borders open for those involved with teaching, learning and creation, without imperiling national security in face of very real threats;

Ø                    how to instill in students a sense of ethics in their university studies which will carry over into their professional conduct;

Ø                    the extent to which engineering schools should invest public and private funds into regional international development;

Ø                    whether technology can bring about more social equity.

  The social imperative inherent in the practice of engineering presents a huge potential agenda, one which individuals, universities and professional organizations around the world must attend to. Most recently a UNESCO/OECD study called “Financing Education – Investments and Returns,” (Digest 3 March 2003) demonstrates a positive correlation between secondary and post-secondary education and economic recovery.   It validates the view of those who have been urging engineering educators to recognize their key roles in forming young people who will apply engineering skills to solving global problems. 

Concluding observations

               Although the economists of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have failed in improving the status of people in poor countries through attempts at stimulating economic growth with foreign aid, we must find effective ways of ‘teaching people how to fish’ instead of sending them fish. Engineering education and technology development can provide the base for capacity building which leads to economic benefits  from engagement in the global economy, as well as to the effective local utilization of foreign aid resources guided by indigenous engineers.

Ø                  Take care for China ! Its sheer size makes it important: the welfare of many millions of people depends on the quality of decisions being made every day in China and elsewhere. The fate of the Chinese people is inextricably linked to the fate of their education systems.

Ø                  Engineering students increasingly need to be educated for international practice. Programs of study should include education in languages, cultures, and mores of foreign countries. International experience through study abroad and internships are a must. Faculty need to show the way, with their own international activities.

Ø                  More engineers must act as public intellectuals, drawing upon broad-based skills and experiences to provide articulate leadership in the modern world.

Ø                  While graduate education in engineering in the US still is the best in the world measured by its attractiveness to students and faculty, it falls short from a  US   perspective in two respects. We Americans want and need more applicability and social progress. Our popularity abroad should not blind us to the shortcomings we, as insiders, can discern (Digest 26 January 2001).

Ø                  Effective quality assurance systems are needed for all engineering education programs around the world. Mutual recognition agreements to move toward acceptance of educational equivalency are a must to allow appropriate mobility for practicing engineers.

NOTE: The above material is taken from a paper by Bethany S. Oberst and Russel C. Jones, presented at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education and published in the Proceedings of that conference – which are copyright by ASEE. All back issues of the International Engineering Education Digest are posted on the web at http://www.worldexpertise.com.


Technical capability is needed for developing countries to engage effectively in the global economy. In addition, technical capability is needed to assure the effective utilization of international assistance sent to developing countries. A well-educated technical workforce pool must be in place before technology-based multinational companies will be attracted to make investments in production facilities and other areas. The day is past when such companies would simply introduce expatriates from developed countries to attempt such operations. Current political and economic realities require that a population of well-educated and trained indigenous people be available to sustain technically based industrial operations.

  A technical workforce pool should also be specifically educated and prepared to engage in entrepreneurial startup efforts that meet local needs. Well-educated engineers and scientists in developing countries will find appropriate ways to extend R&D results to marketable products and services responsive to local needs – to their personal economic benefits as well as to the economic benefit of their countries. Further development of such entrepreneurial startups can lead to products and services that profitably extend to regional markets, and eventually global markets.

  Indigenous science and technology capacity is also needed in developing countries to assure that international aid funds sent there are utilized effectively and efficiently – both for initial project implementation and for long term operation and maintenance. Too often in the past, major projects in developing countries have failed to meet desired and designed objectives because there is not a local base of technically qualified people to assist in implementation in ways that are compatible with the local culture and environment.

  Thus it is clear that developing countries need their own indigenous technological expertise. They cannot afford to buy it from developed countries, and even when technical expertise from developed countries is provided by external funding it is often ineffective in appropriately responding to local needs and constraints. Capacity building of technical expertise in developing countries is key to enhancing their ability to become economically self-sufficient.

  What is needed

  The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, has used the acronym WEHAB to describe the areas in which aid must be provided to developing countries in order to build self-sufficiency: water and sanitation, energy, health, agricultural productivity, and biodiversity and ecosystem management. Engineering and science are key in each of these areas – and an indigenous capacity in these technical fields must be developed to assure that foreign aid funding is used effectively and efficiently.

  Education is key to capacity building. While aid to developing countries must include significant funding for K-12 education, university level education, and continuing education in the fields of engineering and science are most urgently need.  It is recommended that support for indigenous technical capacity building be included in each aid project in a developing country.  Universities and other educational agencies need to be built, re-equipped, and sustained, along with their faculties; graduates need continuing education to maintain their technical expertise; incentives must be provided to convince young people to remain in their homelands and invest in their collective future.

  In discussions of higher learning needs in developing countries one problem that is often neglected is the instability of universities and research institutions.  Universities in some parts of the world where education is most needed are too often rocked by political unrest sufficient to disrupt all teaching and research functions.  An essential component of capacity building is to ensure the continuing functions of higher learning and research even through economic, social and political upheavals.  Institutions of higher learning must be supported as a source of solutions to a nation’s problems, not endured as a source of additional problems and uncertainty.

  In addition to capacity building and the provision of foreign aid in developing countries, developed countries must make political and economic decisions that allow emerging market countries to trade effectively in the global marketplace. It is inappropriate and inefficient for a developed country to build trade barriers against imports from emerging countries, and/or to subsidize its own economic sectors to undercut the supplying of appropriate products from developing countries, both of which have happened recently in the US and France.

  The Gender Imperative

  Women must be given priority in education efforts at all levels to assure long-term societal development.  No nation can afford to write off one-half of its population in the interest of conforming to long-standing cultural norms, however well meaning or god-given they are proclaimed to be.  In order to jump start economic recovery in the poorest countries, women are the key, because they play a dual role.  They can raise the living standards of their immediate families, and they can also create an environment in which both female and male children will have a better chance for improving themselves through education and thus effect far-reaching changes in their societies.

  Enhancement of engineering education

  Developing countries need world-class engineering educators in order to mount effective engineering education programs at their local universities. Today the typical pattern is for bright young talent in developing countries interested in engineering education to complete programs of study through an undergraduate degree in their home countries, then to go abroad to North America or Western Europe for doctoral study. Sufficient financial aid, in the form of fellowships from international agencies or assistantships at the universities where graduate level study is undertaken, is typically available today. It is important to assure that doctoral graduates from institutions in developed countries do return to their home countries to take up faculty careers.

  When fresh engineering doctoral graduates from universities in developed countries return to their developing countries to take up university faculty careers, they need startup funding for laboratory equipment, computers and communications, and curriculum development. Such funding should be a priority for international aid agencies committed to local capacity building.

  Curriculum development for engineering education programs in developing countries should be informed and guided by the state-of-the-art of engineering education in developed countries – but tailored to local needs and constraints. Considerations such as the amount and type of mathematics and science to be included, technical specialties to be offered, broadening subjects to be covered, etc. are important.

  Engineering faculty members in developing countries need the opportunity to interact with engineering educators elsewhere for professional development. Funds need to be provided for at least periodic travel to professional conferences in developed countries or at the international level. Mechanisms for technical updating – such as sabbatical periods abroad and participation in periodic technical conferences in developed countries – must also be provided to engineering faculty members in developing countries. In addition, electronic mechanisms – such as electronic conferences, digital libraries, etc. – must be made available.

  Economic development needs

  Beyond the building of a well-educated workforce base, developing countries need assistance in moving ideas from conception to economic viability. Industry incubators, where R&D results or other intellectual seeds can be developed to economically viable products and services, are one effective mechanism. Startup funding for entrepreneurial individuals and teams is another key ingredient on the road to self-sufficiency. Training in small business development – intellectual property rights, finance, management, marketing, international trade, etc. – in another key ingredient. External funding for such activities can be very effective and efficient foreign aid, leading to more self-sufficiency for developing countries.

NOTE: The above material is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones and Bethany S. Oberst, presented at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education and published in the Proceedings of that conference – which are copyright by ASEE.



With the signing of the Washington Accord in the late 1980’s, engineering education in the United States of America took on a broader international aspect – agreeing to substantial equivalency with several other countries. The Accord has been expanded and extended, and has led to efforts to take a next step – some form of mutual recognition of practice certification or licensure.

  Quality assurance of engineering education in the USA has matured since the establishment of the Engineers Council for Professional Development (now the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) in the 1930’s, and a significantly different approach to criteria for accreditation has been adopted as of the year 2000. The new EC2000 approach is based heavily on outcomes assessment, rather than the previous detailed procedural specifications.

  Engineering education in the US has been reformed greatly over the past several years, due in large part to the major activities stimulated and supported by the Coalitions program of the National Science Foundation. Science and math courses have been integrated in many cases, teamwork has been encouraged, and design has been moved earlier in the curriculum and continued throughout the four-year programs.


Engineering education in the United States of America is a strong and vibrant enterprise. Many attribute the current strength of the USA economy to the pool of engineers and other technical experts who provide the driving forces behind high technology products and services, which make the USA economy function effectively, and provide a major factor in international trade.

  There are some 300 accredited engineering colleges in the Unites States of America , most embedded in larger institutions where they comprise about 10% of the total student body. Bachelor’s degrees in engineering, the common point of entry to the profession today, require a heavy four year program of study – built upon 12 years of pre-college education in primary and secondary schools. Some 60,000 students graduate with Bachelors degrees in engineering each year at present, with another 30,000 completing Masters degrees and another 6000 completing Doctoral programs. A Masters program typically requires one or two years of study beyond the Bachelors degree, and the Doctorate typically another two or three years beyond the Masters degree.

  The number of high school graduates who enroll in engineering programs in the USA has been declining significantly in recent years, despite a sustained and increasing demand for technical graduates by employers of engineers. In the mid-1980’s, engineering schools were graduating some 80,000 Bachelors degree students per year – a number that has dropped some 25% since then. It appears that many students are selecting other, often less demanding, paths to the technical employment marketplace – such as computer focused courses of study or quasi-engineering programs with less rigorous mathematics and science requirements.

  There are some interesting trends among recently graduated engineers that may also be impacting on whether young people choose engineering education for career preparation. Many engineering graduates are now experiencing major job changes every few years throughout their careers, as employers ramp up and downsize depending on market shifts and mergers. These changes are often disruptive, and often lead to lateral job placements at best, thus giving the impression that the engineer pool is a ‘commodity’ – rather than engineering seen as a career with progressive placements. In addition, many engineering graduates – particularly those accepting first positions out of college – are being employed by financial consulting firms and similar non-engineering employers, who want to utilize their quantitative skills for a few years while they are on top of the latest high tech state-of-the-art. At some engineering colleges, as many as 40% of the recent graduates have taken such first jobs.

Reform of engineering education

After several decades when reward mechanisms for engineering faculty members swung strongly toward funded research and scholarly publications as primary criteria, a reverse movement has been gathering momentum in the United States of America – toward higher priority on undergraduate education. This movement has been fueled by demands for more accountability in undergraduate education overall, from consumers and from governments, and by a major Engineering Coalition Program at the National Science Foundation, aimed at reform of engineering education.

  Quality assurance in engineering education

  Since 1932, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (formerly Engineers Council for Professional Development) has been responsible for the assurance of quality in engineering education in the United States . ABET is a federation of some 28 professional engineering and technical societies which have joined together to promote and enhance education in engineering, technology, and related applied science areas. While it is recognized by the US government as the specialty accreditation group for engineering education, ABET is a non-governmental organization responsible to its participating bodies and to the institutions which it serves. Its quality assurance functions are carried out by a large number of peer volunteers from academia and industry, with the support of a small central staff.

  Over the past decade, ABET has been engaged in a major reform to encourage curricular innovation and to improve the accreditation process, while continuing to assure the quality of engineering education at some 300 institutions. Its reform process has resulted in new criteria for the evaluation of engineering programs, Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000). This new approach replaces previous guidelines and criteria that had become increasingly lengthy and prescriptive over the years, and were often seen as a constraint on curricular innovation.

  With the input and guidance of both industry and education, ABET has developed a new accreditation system which it hopes will provide the means for education programs to prepare graduates for successful engineering practice in the 21st Century. EC2000 has shifted the emphasis from input measures to student outcomes. The criteria continue to require a strong technical component in the curriculum, but each program has more latitude in deciding how to structure it. The new criteria require that each program have educational objectives in place:

 The professional component requirements specify subject areas, but do not prescribe specific courses. The professional component must include:

 Students must be prepared for engineering practice through the curriculum culminating in a major design experience based on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier coursework and incorporating engineering standards and realistic constraints that include most of the following considerations: economic, environmental, sustainability, manufacturability, ethical, health and safety, social, and political.

  In addition, engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have:

 EC2000 also has briefly stated requirements for student quality, faculty qualifications, facilities, and institutional support.

 International cooperation

 Engineering is a global profession, with transnational and multinational corporations employing engineers around the world. This has led to the need for mutual recognition of educational credentials across national borders, as well as mechanisms for cross-border practice of engineers.

 In 1989, representatives from engineering education accrediting organizations in New Zealand , Australia , Canada , the United States , Ireland , and the United Kingdom signed an agreement known as the Washington Accord. The Washington Accord recognizes the substantial equivalency of accreditation systems to assess that the graduates of accredited programs are prepared to practice engineering at the professional level. It provides a mechanism for the mutual recognition of basic engineering education among the signatory countries. Each country is responsible for its own accreditation standards and evaluation system, then lists of accredited programs are provided to other signatory countries. Each country accreditation system is encouraged to recommend to its respective licensing bodies that the graduates of a program accredited by one of the signatories be accorded the same privileges as graduates from accredited programs in the home country.

  The original six countries of the Washington Accord have established mechanisms for other countries to join the Accord, and to date Hong Kong and South Africa have petitioned to join, with Hong Kong now fully approved for membership. Accrediting organizations in Mexico , France , Russia and New Guinea are currently seeking signatory status.

  With an educational equivalency mechanism in place, the Washington Accord, discussions have developed about the possibility of building engineering practitioner mobility agreements on top of that mechanism. It was decided by Accord members that it would not move to the practice level, but the signatories endorsed the concept of a new, separate organization to examine mobility issues. As a result, representatives from Accord countries have established the Engineers Mobility Forum. To date, agreements on cross-border practice have proven elusive.

  In North America , the 1995 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provided a stimulus to develop an engineering mobility agreement between the countries of Canada , the United States , and Mexico . The United States has been represented in negotiations about cross-border practice of engineers by the United States Council for International Practice (USCIEP), comprised of representatives of ABET, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Consulting Engineers Council, and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. The latter group, NCEES, represents the 55 separate jurisdictions in the US which govern engineering practice at the state level. After several years of negotiations, an agreement for open cross-border practice among these three North American countries still has not been accomplished, largely because of reservations on the part of NCEES member registration boards.


  Engineering education in the United States is alive and well. It has recently been through an effective review and reform process which has led to improved curricula, stimulated by the Coalitions program of the National Science Foundation. Its quality assurance system, conducted by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, has recently updated its criteria and processes, and EC2000 appears well on its way to guaranteeing the quality of engineering graduates for the 21st Century.

  With the driving force of globalization of the engineering profession, mechanisms have been developed for mutual recognition of educational credentials across national borders. The recognition of professional credentials for the cross-border practice of engineering, however, is proving more difficult to achieve.

  Note: The above material is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones presented at the 2001 annual meeting of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI), and published in the proceedings of that conference.




  Engineers involved in the design of products find that they must consider a variety of user needs as they develop products for multi-national markets. They also find that materials and components must be sought on a world-wide basis is they are to develop competitive products which are both of high quality and cost effective.

  In this era of international markets and free-trade groupings, engineers also often have the opportunity to practice directly in countries other than their own. Joint ventures across national boundaries, major technical corporations with international operations, and contracts for technical projects to be carried out in foreign venues are typical in today's engineering practice.

  To adequately prepare new graduates for a career in this increasingly international arena, engineering education needs to have several dimensions which have not typically been included for past generations of engineering graduates. These include:

  - Foreign language proficiency (written and spoken fluency in at least one foreign language, preferably two)

  - Cultural background development (education concerning the culture of peoples in regions of the world where the engineer may practice)

  - International business issues (competitiveness, free market developments, multi-national companies, etc.)

  - Technical issues (measurement systems, standards and codes, environmental constraints, etc.)

  These components must be integrated into the education of engineers in ways which do not dilute the traditional mathematics, science, and engineering studies which provide the technical base for a long career in engineering practice.

  Engineering education today is typically guided by national level standards and review mechanisms. In the United States , this function is conducted by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Criteria for accreditation by ABET include, in addition to specification of some two-and-one-half years of science and engineering coursework, the requirement of one-half year of broadening studies in humanities and social sciences. This component of engineering education has traditionally been focused upon making engineers fully aware of their social responsibilities, and better able to consider related factors in the decision-making process. It appears that this type of societal broadening needs to be supplemented with an international broadening component as well.

   What is needed?  

Foreign Language Proficiency

  Foreign language study is a key component to broadening the perspective of an engineering student to international issues. While it may not be clear which language or languages may be most useful to an engineer after graduation from college, it is clear that mastering one or more foreign languages prior to completion of the engineer's initial formal education is a primary requirement for later learning of additional languages as necessary throughout the career of the engineer or other professional involved in international practice. Such language study must include development of proficiency in both the verbal and written forms of the foreign language, including everyday use of the language as well as technical terminology and concepts. It would be highly desirable for the fundamentals of both verbal and written language to have been mastered in pre-college education, so that only the technical components needed to be added as part of the engineering education process. Such early language study has not been typical for engineering bound students in the United States , but is typical in European and Pacific Rim countries. To make utilization of a foreign language at the technical level most effective, it is highly desirable to supplement formal study in the home country of the engineer with one or more periods abroad, in language study by immersion and/or in an internship position where both the everyday and the technical use of the foreign language is necessary.

 Cultural and Historical Background

  In addition to mastery of one or more foreign languages, the engineering student needs to have developed an understanding of the culture and history of the peoples who speak those languages. A professional attempting to practice in a foreign country without an understanding of the traditions and mores of its people is likely to have difficulty in carrying out appropriate technical work for application in that country, and is likely to have difficulty working with nationals with whom interaction is necessary in order to complete the work. The cultural and historical backgrounds of peoples who use the foreign languages studied by the engineering student must be understood at a minimum. Modern and current developments in such countries should also be added to the studies of the engineering student. In order to prepare the graduate for possible later extension to other cultures and languages, a more comprehensive "area studies" approach which introduces the backgrounds and issues of each of the distinct areas of the world where the student may have the opportunity to practice would be desirable. Until recent years, the educational system in the United States has concentrated such cultural and historical studies primarily on Western Europe -- a focus which is appropriately broadening currently.

 Business Practices

  International competitiveness has become a major issue for engineers in every developed country, as well as for those in technically emerging countries. The current competitive challenge at its most fundamental level is to produce higher quality products than the competition, and to market them at lower prices as well. Case studies on industries which produce automobiles, computer chips, video cassette recorders, cameras, and other advanced technical products readily show how dominance of the international marketplace can shift from one country or region to another as technical and economic forces operate. Engineers working in the international marketplace -- and those in the domestic marketplace in areas where foreign products or services may compete -- need to understand the elements of such competitiveness, and how to keep their company's outputs competitive against foreign (and domestic) competition. In the quality control area, for instance, engineering students need to master probability and statistics, in order to be prepared to assure the quality of their products and services. This is also the era of the multinational corporation, and engineers need to be prepared to assist their firms in appropriately diversifying into operations in other countries as economic and political forces indicate such movement.

 Professional Practice Issues

  Engineers practicing in a foreign country, or offering products or services for sale there, face a myriad of professional practice issues. The must be able to get licensed to practice in the appropriate jurisdiction, and/or to develop partnership relationships with practicing professionals in the foreign country of interest. They must become knowledgeable of the ethical mores and codes in the foreign country, and be able to rationalize them with ethical standards in their own countries. Legal requirements and standards also must be understood and related to home country norms, as must professional liability issues. Additional business practice areas such as insurance, warranties, and bidding procedures must also be mastered.

 Technical Practices

  Technical practices also differ from country to country. Technical codes and standards may be quite different from those in effect in the engineer's home country. Specifications and inspection or testing practices may also differ considerably from country to country. One major hurdle for engineers educated in the United States is the need to practice fully in the metric system -- which is not generally in use currently in their home country.

  In-service Education

  The above paragraphs outline the needs of engineering students preparing for international practice during their initial college education periods. It is also clear that considerable in-service education or training will be needed throughout their professional careers. Additional languages and cultural studies may be needed as the engineer gets assignments in countries or regions not anticipated in the initial education process. Recent and current developments in countries of interest must also be part of the ongoing learning pattern of engineers involved in international practice.

   Current efforts

 Engineering education in several European countries, such as Germany and France , currently has developed major components of preparation for international practice. Spoken and written proficiency and cultural background is often required in two foreign languages, one of which is generally required to be English. To complete and reinforce that academic study in the home country, a technical work internship of several months duration is typically required in a country which uses one of those languages -- prior to graduation from the engineering school.

  In advanced Pacific Rim countries, extensive foreign language study is typically included in pre-college education, often including English, and periods of study abroad in advanced countries using such foreign languages often follows basic engineering education in the home country.

  In the United States , engineering education programs with substantial international components are currently much less typical -- but some interesting and effective models have been developed at a few institutions. The University of Rhode Island , for example, offers a successful program which leads to two bachelor’s degrees -- one in engineering, and the other in a foreign language (currently German). This program requires engineering students to study German in their early years, then to take upper division engineering courses in that foreign language (taught by German speaking engineering faculty members). An extensive work internship in Germany is also required, prior to graduation.

  Engineering students at Dartmouth have a somewhat less structured program with the same aims and elements -- typically involving a period of intensive language study in a foreign country, followed by a work internship at an appropriate technical firm in a country utilizing the same language.  Undergraduate students in engineering and in business at the University of Delaware are offered a minor concentration in a foreign language and culture, which includes a period of intensive study in a country utilizing that language. The US Air Force Academy requires each of its undergraduate students to take an introductory level course involving area studies covering each segment of the world, and to follow up with language and cultural courses focused on one or more of those countries or geographic regions.

  A period of work experience abroad is widely recognized as one of the most effective mechanisms for preparing engineers for international practice. The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE), an independent non-governmental organization with 62 member countries with headquarters in France , arranges some 5000-6000 such exchanges each year.  

  Many corporations, particularly those with multinational dimensions or major international involvement, provide in-service education in foreign languages and culture to employees who are about to travel to foreign countries on important corporate business.

Foreign Language Instruction

A recent survey by the Modern Language Association (Huber, reveals characteristics of current practices in foreign language instruction in American colleges and universities. Advanced language courses, culture and civilization courses, and literature courses are offered by the vast majority on universities responding to the MLA survey. Self-paced language courses, however, are offered by only one in ten of the universities surveyed. When asked whether their institutions currently had mandatory language requirements for students, approximately two-thirds indicated that they did.

 Although completely self-paced instructional programs for foreign language instruction are not utilized by many universities, a variety of technologically based aids to such instruction are often used to enhance classroom instruction. Audio tapes are utilized to aid in speech and pronunciation, and drill and practice on written text translation is often accomplished through computer programs (keyboard/computer screen). Cultural background to enhance language learning is recently becoming available in video form. For example the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) currently offers video tape series in several languages, providing cultural background integrated with some language reinforcement.

  Additional technological tools to enhance language instruction and cultural background are under development. The Program for International Communication Studies, centered at the University of Iowa , has developed some 40 video discs to serve as the basis for self-paced language instruction for individuals. This prototype system utilizes video discs controlled by computer, in an interactive mode. Each video disc contains full-motion video, plus two audio tracks -- one in the foreign language, and one in English. The near future appears to offer even better technological tools to assist in language instruction, including video in digital form which can be directly incorporated in computer programs.

   Foreign Languages for Engineers

  The desirability of developing foreign language proficiency in engineering students has increased greatly in recent years, as the practice of engineering has become more global in scope. An international education program has been established at the University of Rhode Island , for example, to help the next generations of engineers to better prepare for careers in the international marketplace. Students in this program, which was developed with the support of a large grant from the U. S. Department of Education, develop skills in the German language and in inter cultural communication. Faculty of the College of Engineering and of the Department of Languages at the University of Rhode Island have begun the International Engineering Program with an emphasis on the German language and culture, within the framework of a five year program which leads to two degrees, the Bachelor of Science in Engineering and the Bachelor of Arts in German. Special beginning and intermediate German courses are provided for students in all engineering fields, and technical courses in the engineering curriculum are taught in German by faculty members fluent in that language as well as fluent in English. As part of the International Engineering Program, students spend six months abroad in a professional internship following the Junior year, in Germany , Austria or Switzerland . Some 60 engineering students enrolled in this program during its startup phase.

  Beginning with the Fall semester 1993, the Pennsylvania State University began offering joint French-Engineering and German-Engineering degree options, aimed at preparing engineering graduates ready to enter the global market era. Participants will graduate fluent in a foreign language, as well as proficient in engineering. They will also have an expanded understanding of the engineering profession in the global context, gained from periods of living and working abroad in an internship program. Internships will include the study of engineering at a French or German school, and/or work experience with an engineering firm in a French or German speaking country. These options are designed to be completed in five years of study, leading to both a B. S. in an engineering major and a B. S. in either French or German. In addition to the usual engineering curriculum requirements, students will complete a language major with courses in oral communication, reading, composition, grammar, culture and civilization, literature, and business writing. While German and French are the only two languages available in this option currently, it is anticipated that additional languages -- such as Spanish, Italian, Japanese or eastern European languages, may be added in the future. The foreign language option was developed through support from the ECSEL program, the National Science Foundation supported Engineering Coalition of Schools for Excellence in Education and Leadership.

  Internationalization of engineering education through language acquisition and use is also developing in countries other than the United States . In Denmark , for example, international experiences for engineering students in two formats -- study abroad, and course offerings in a foreign language in Danish institutions -- have grown considerably in the last decade. Exchange opportunities have been stimulated by the formation of the European Community, with formal exchange programs such as ERASMUS. This program involves international networking of faculty and students, and the necessary procedures to receive and send out students, facilitate credit transfer, transmit course documentation, prepare transcripts, etc. The ERASMUS program explicitly requires that students be taught in the language of the host country along with native students, and that appropriate language preparation is provided to assure that such instruction is effective. Foreign language courses for engineering students in Danish institutions are typically offered in English -- for both native Danish students, and for exchange students from other European countries who come to study under the ERASMUS exchange mechanism. At the Technical University of Denmark, for example, some 200 of the 700 total course offerings are made available in English. These English language courses are available across a wide spectrum of technical subject matter, including mathematics, applied physics, biotechnology, chemistry, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

   Cultural and Historical Dimensions

 From 1986 to 1988, the Association of American Colleges (AAC), with collaboration from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, undertook a major project to improve the quality and coherence of the humanities and social science (H&SS) coursework of undergraduate engineering students. The project included a study of engineering program's H&SS policies, a study of student practices in selecting H&SS courses, and the identification of programs exemplifying some promising approaches to the challenge of providing an H&SS experience of value within the severe constraints of the engineering curriculum. The results of the AAC project were presented to engineering and liberal arts educators at an invitational conference in 1988, where more than 100 institutions sent a team consisting of at least one engineering representative and one liberal arts representative. Many conference participants embraced the proposed cluster concept as a means of improving liberal arts education for engineering students, and went back to their campuses to implement it.

  The discussion of effective strategies for providing liberal studies for engineering studies continues, however. A recent edition of PRISM, the journal of the American Society for Engineering Education, concentrated on "Engineering and the Liberal Arts - A Critical Relationship". Lead articles focused on liberal learning from the perspective on a leading practicing engineering author and from that of a senior humanities professor.

  The U. S. military academies have substantial engineering programs, and their students have a particular incentive to be well prepared for practice of their profession in a global environment. Engineering graduates may find themselves stationed in Western Europe , the Far East , Middle East or Latin America . They may also find themselves involved in international brush fire operations in almost any part of the World, including many developing countries. The United States Air Force Academy, for example, places substantial emphasis on area studies to prepare its students for their likely international professional service. Area studies are introduced to all Freshman students in the required first course in History, "Modern World History". Embedded in a more traditional series of classes on World history are a series of lectures on various areas of the World, given by faculty experts on each area. After this introductory course, Air Force Academy engineering students are encouraged to continue with more specific area studies, through a series of courses in political science and in history, concentrating on areas such as the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, Eurasia, etc.

  At the University of Delaware , the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures has developed and is offering a "Foreign Language Concentration for Engineering Students". This program is designed so that undergraduate engineering students can utilize elective time in their engineering curricula to take required courses in the concentration program. This new program has a coherent sequence of 200/300 level courses, and related extracurricular activities. It includes courses and activities to bring to engineering students both familiarity with the cultural infrastructure and some direct exposure to hands-on engineering practice abroad, through Winter Session programs.

  For comparison purposes, it is interesting to examine a program organized in the reverse direction, from Germany oriented to English speaking countries including the United States . Engineering programs at the Fachhochschule Regensburg, for example, use advanced interactive technologies to prepare their students to work and live in English-speaking countries. In the context of the International Practical Training Program, approximately one quarter of the engineering students elect to do a practical training semester abroad -- primarily in English-speaking countries including Great Britain, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines -- working for five or six months on technical projects at engineering firms. Prior to such a semester abroad, students must have developed both the requisite technical abilities, and be able to communicate competently in the local language and understand the cultural parameters they will encounter in the host country. In the German system of education, students entering a Fachhochschule will have had seven to nine years of English in primary and secondary school. They also are likely to have traveled to England or another English-speaking country on school excursions. The language instruction at the Fachhochschule can thus begin with a course in Technical English, which develops oral skills in technical areas and develops writing skills for technical memos and business letters. Video materials are utilized in the English-language instruction at the Fachhochschule level, to provide an animated view of life in English-speaking countries, insight into technical processes of various industries there, and an authentic exposure to common business practices there. By receiving visual cues to reinforce linguistic content, students receive a more complete context for understanding the English language.


  The engineering profession and its associated technical corporations have advised those educators preparing engineering graduates for practice that international issues need to be included during the college years of study. Engineering education needs to respond appropriately, in ways such as the following:

  - Development of foreign language proficiency, cultural background understanding, international business concepts, and international technical practices must be included in engineering education in an integrated and comprehensive manner

  - Opportunities for intensive foreign language/culture study abroad in countries using appropriate languages should be readily available to engineering students, and highly encouraged by their advisors

  - Work internship periods abroad, utilizing a language and cultural understanding            already developed through academic programs, should become the norm for engineering students preparing for international practice

 - Engineering faculty members should be encouraged to develop their own international expertise, including language proficiency and cultural background, and to seek opportunities for visits and exchange periods abroad

 - Funding agencies should support pilot programs in these several areas, and professional societies should organize appropriate meetings to review        results and to promulgate successful approaches.

  The era of international practice for engineers has clearly arrived, and each engineering education system must proactively revise its programs to adequately prepare its graduates for work in the global marketplace. To do less would be to relegate the technical productivity of its country to less than competitive in the international arena.

  Note: The above material is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones published in the Fall 1995 issue of Liberal Education, the journal of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.



 The following paragraphs summarize several sessions at the 2003 ASEE/WFEO Colloquium on Global Changes in Engineering Education – one of three tracks at the June 2003 meeting in Nashville , Tennessee , USA . Topics covered in the third track of the colloquium included: changes impacting engineering education; characteristics of good graduates; persistence in curricular reform; design education trends; community service projects; classroom assessment; education for entrepreneurship; and human resources management.  

Changes impacting engineering educationTechnology is being globalized, with advances in one part of the world very rapidly available for application throughout the rest of the world. Traditional fields of study and of engineering practice are being combined, requiring multidisciplinary approaches – e.g., biotechnology and nanotechnology. Everything is being computerized, with ever more sophisticated and powerful applications and tools available to the engineer. Communications are ubiquitous around the world, with wireless communications being only the latest trend. Internationalization of engineering practice is common, with engineers working across national boundaries and geographies regularly – often on teams with colleagues from other cultures. Technology is changing rapidly, requiring continuous learning by engineers if they are to stay current and effective. There is an increased need for soft skills in engineers, such as communications, teamwork, international awareness, business, etc.

  Characteristics of good graduatesEmployers are seeking engineering graduates with a broad range of knowledge and skills. They should be technically competent, and have a passion for technology. They should be business aligned, with an international perspective. They must be customer focused, and driven by the need for quality. They should be idea generators, and capable of advancing the state-of-the-art in their field of expertise. They should be decision makers, solution integrators, and team workers. They should be leaders, and effective managers of change. They should be good communicators, to a variety of audiences. They must be creative and innovative, but also results oriented. And finally, they should be ethical, principle centered, and socially responsible.

  Curricular reformThere are several types of curricular reform, motivated by different driving forces: professionally relevant, educationally relevant, and socially relevant. Whatever the motivation and the approach taken, persistence and continuous improvement are necessary. Recent curricular reforms in engineering education have often focused on the first year program, effecting such improvement as integrated subject matter, team projects in engineering, and hands-on laboratories. Positive results of such changes have included increased retention, better grades in later courses, and improved on-schedule graduation rates.

  NSF Coalition supported reformOver the past dozen years, the US National Science Foundation has supported several coalitions of engineering schools in the development of curricular reform. One of the coalitions, the Foundation Coalition, has concentrated on curriculum integration, active learning, teams, more women and minorities, technology enabled learning, continuous improvement via assessment, and curricular change processes. This coalition focused its efforts on the first two years of the engineering curriculum. Innovations in the first year experience included team design projects, learning communities (same sections), routine access to technology, and lab equipment in the classroom. In the second year experience, innovations included a unified approach to the engineering sciences (e.g., balance principle, conserved properties, …).

  Design education trendsThe TIDEE Consortium of schools in the Pacific Northwest of the US has as its goal the preparation of engineering graduates for team-based design in the modern workplace. The approach being taken includes: definition of the desired student outcomes; providing a framework for teamwork, skill development, and communication; application of an assessment system, leading to feedback for improvement of the process; and collaboration between several engineering schools to improve design education. 

  Community service projectsThe Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program started at Purdue University in 1995, and has now spread to nine schools. The focus is on long term team projects that solve technology-based problems for local community service organizations. Teams are multidisciplinary, vertically integrated, and large. This pattern allows good input to the community organizations, and involves engineering students with other disciplines in complex team experiences.

Classroom assessmentThe utilization of current technologies can greatly enhance classroom assessment techniques. The use of computer and communications technologies allows frequent measurement of teaching effectiveness and learning, and organizes the assessment process to allow rapid changes for improvement. The instructor can, for example, question students about what they have learned, and what is still unclear – then make mid-course corrections at the next class. Student evaluations can be gathered as frequently as at the end of each class, or as frequent course evaluations, or in real time.

  Education for entrepreneurship Continuing education for engineers should include acquisition of entrepreneurial competence. If not already acquired in the undergraduate years, graduate engineers also need to acquire soft skills such as foreign languages and cultural knowledge. They also need to acquire business skills such as marketing, sales and accounting. An example program was described at the colloquium: the Central European MBA, with a pattern of two years, two countries, and two languages.

  Human resources managementA model suggested is to apply quality control concepts developed for manufacturing processes in the educational process. For example, engineering schools should examine customer satisfaction (higher quality, lower cost, rapid), consider consumer opinions, and incorporate feedback in the next cycle. Other techniques that can be utilized include a parallel to autonomous employee teams, and reward systems that favor the most effective workers while penalizing the least effective. 

  Engineering education in 2010Several major changes in engineering education are still needed:

Ø                              Change the curriculum from “trust me, you will need all this math and science someday”, to an integrated “just in time” approach

Ø                              Change classes from lectures to active learning

Ø                              Provide faculty with a discipline oriented doctorate, plus skills in teaching and research

Ø                              Prepare faculty for teaching via courses, workshops, and mentorships

Can we afford all these improvements? Can we afford not to make them!

Note: The above summary was prepared by Russel C. Jones, as rapporteur for the sessions. It will be published as part of a larger summary in a forthcoming issue of WFEO/CET Ideas.



The following paragraphs summarize several sessions at the 2002 ASEE/SEFI/TUB Colloquium in Berlin , Germany – one of three tracks in the international conference. Much of the discussion in the track concerned with the uses of technology in engineering education focused on distance education, a mature area of such applications. In the several sessions dedicated to the discussion of technology in learning systems, however, there was also considerable discussion of the status of the use of technology on campus, and in the classroom or laboratory in particular.

  Distance education

  Starting with the keynote presentation in this track, there were many common agreements about the current status of distance education as utilized in engineering education. It provides access to learning independent of time, distance, and economic status. It allows flexibility in offering either non-degree or degree work in a variety of patterns. Employers generally support their engineers who want to undertake continuing education at a distance, indicating that they want employees with a forty-year degree – not a four-year one. Distance education in engineering attracts many students who otherwise would not be motivated or able to continue formal study. The educational results of classes provided at a distance are as good as face-to-face instruction. The distance delivery mechanism of choice is migrating from broadcast or taped video technology to online delivery.

  There are, however, several unresolved issues with respect to distance education. Faculty workload management is complicated by the unique demands of distance education – such as e-mailed questions on a 24x7 basis. Rewards for faculty members and academic departments within the university system are not standardized, and often do not fit well with existing patterns. Blending of face-to-face and online education is seen as desirable, but in what proportions and formats? The true costs of distance education are hard to determine – and it is not clear that many universities will make profits in this area. Faculty members remain concerned about the security of exams and other student work, and dropout rates for students enrolled at a distance are typically higher than those in face-to-face classes. And a final question – can distance education techniques be effectively utilized to give engineering students some international exposure – e.g. through senior design projects done across international borders by student teams primarily using e-technologies for interaction.

  Other applications of e-technologies

  The several presenters on the broader topic of technology in learning systems pointed out additional areas of agreement. E-learning increases the effectiveness of the learning process, facilitates access, and opens learning to wider audiences. E-materials promote reuse of educational material, and faculties can offer multiple courses from one content repository. The Nintendo generation demands technology utilization in learning. Remote access to labs is now possible – it was reported that students can now measure anything, anywhere, and use connected technology to analyze and present results. E-learning is also becoming useful and common in other areas of the curriculum, like mathematics education. It was pointed out that e-technology applications in education allow better tailoring of courses to each student – taking into consideration their past experience, current needs, learning styles, etc.

  Speakers emphasized the need to engage students in active learning, and for more student collaboration – and asked whether the use of e-technologies helped or hindered those goals. It was observed by one speaker, for example, that the use of e-technologies might restrict communication between the teacher and the student, and between student and student. There was discussion of the pros and cons of having each student in a classroom having a laptop computer – either during classes or during exams. Should the virtual university approach be used on campus as well as in distance education? Can these techniques be utilized to provide more real world experiences? Are multimedia presentations utilized more to entertain students rather than to educate them? How can faculty members best be trained to utilize e-technologies effectively in their classes?

  Campuses are utilizing e-technologies for course management too, often utilizing commercial software systems recently introduced to the market. Many campuses are also building full service campus portals for comprehensive access to all services and information by students.

  Future challenges

  Many issues discussed in this conference track were not resolved. How can engineering educators tap the expertise of pedagogy and cognitive experts, and utilize their techniques effectively? How can quality assurance, and perhaps accreditation, be provided for distance education offerings? Systematic assessment is needed to determine the effectiveness of the use of e-technologies in engineering education, and to guide continuous improvement in such applications. Can e-technologies lead to an open-courseware approach between faculty members at different universities, enhancing the field of engineering education more rapidly?

  It has been shown that distance education is as effective as face-to-face education – but can it be even better than ‘no significant differences’? Some campuses are providing extensive wireless access to faculty members and students – is that necessary and cost effective? How can campuses provide wide access to costly commercial software packages? Finally, one industry representative observed that investments in utilizing e-technologies in education have been much too small to date – and that much larger funding will be needed to achieve real effectiveness and economies of scale.

  Note: The above summary was prepared by Russel C. Jones, as rapporteur for the sessions. It was published as part of a larger summary in the January 2003 issue of ASEE Prism.




After several decades when reward mechanisms for engineering faculty members swung strongly toward funded research and scholarly publications as primary criteria, a reverse movement has been gathering momentum in the United States -- toward higher priority on undergraduate education. This movement has been fueled by demands for more accountability in undergraduate education overall, from consumers and from governments, and by a major program at the National Science Foundation, aimed at reform of engineering education.

Several promising trends can currently be observed in undergraduate engineering education in the United States :

·                                the curriculum is being made more “user friendly”. in order to reduce expensive losses of students in the early years of engineering study, and to attract and retain more non-traditional students -- particularly women and minorities (e.g. fewer courses in the first year, tutorial safety nets in difficult math and science courses, introductory engineering courses in the first year. ...)

·                                introduction to design and other engineering topics in the first year, in order to keep students motivated and to provide a rationale for the study of basic math and science courses

·                                integration of mathematics, science and engineering topics in ‘just in time scheduling” approach to first year

·                                incorporation of broader topics into the engineering curriculum, such as economics, aesthetics, ethics, international issues.

·                                increased use of educational technologies (computers, video. communications, multi-media) in the classroom and beyond

·                                shifts in mathematics coverage to include more probability/statistics and numerical methods, less classical mathematics.

These trends are gradually replacing a period of lack of interest in undergraduate education by many engineering faculty members in the United States , several decades when reward mechanisms centered on funded research and scholarly publications as primary criteria.

Research as top priority

Since the end of World War II, engineering faculty in the United States have placed top emphasis on the conduct of research and development, primarily funded from sources external to the university such as government agencies and industry. This direction developed because of the great success which the federal government had in stimulating and utilizing the results of university research to bring an end to World War II (e.g., radar, nuclear weapons), and the conviction among policy makers at the interface between government and universities that the post-war economic recovery could also be fueled by capitalizing on the outputs of funded research and development efforts at universities -- particularly in the science and engineering areas. In addition, with the rapid advance of science and technology, research activity has become one of the primary mechanisms of keeping faculty members current in their fields.

With this shift in emphasis toward research and development in engineering faculties, less attention has been paid to undergraduate teaching and curriculum development, and to inclusion of the more practical aspects of engineering practice in engineering education. Typical undergraduate engineering programs have become more scientific in content and more analytical in approach. In many engineering schools, the first two years have been dedicated almost entirely to mathematics and science subjects, with engineering courses introduced only in the latter two years -- to those students who survived the lower division with essentially no contact with engineering faculty members.

Engineering faculty members who moved directly from their own undergraduate programs into research oriented graduate programs to earn doctoral degrees, then immediately obtained position on university faculties without any exposure to engineering practice, have become a cadre of research oriented PhD’s with little interest in undergraduate education for engineering graduates who will enter practice. As universities have become dependent on external research funds to balance their budgets, faculty reward systems have been changed to reinforce research and development activity, with the attendant external funding. Tenure and promotion criteria in engineering schools put research and scholarly publications first, teaching a distant second, and service to the institution or to the profession a far distant third. External funding primarily from government research sources, and from the research operations of industry, has pulled engineering faculty members away from practice oriented interests and expertise, and their courses for undergraduates have moved toward more analytical content and less practical content as a result. Faculty have preferred to interact with graduate students, who help in the conduct of the research and development work and in the preparation of scholarly papers, to the detriment of interactions with undergraduate students.

These trends have resulted in a significant gap between engineers in academia and those in industry or practice. They have also led to a significantly reduced commitment on the part of universities to undergraduate education, with a concurrent increase in emphasis on graduate education and research.

With this emphasis on research and publication, the commitment of individual faculty members has tended to shift away from their own institutions, and toward the community of research sponsors and publication editors who provide the mechanisms to build momentum to satisfy the revised reward structure at universities. Another result of the emphasis on basic research by faculty members has been a narrowing and fragmentation of technical fields in engineering, as specialties are pursued in classic research approaches.

This movement of engineering faculties away from engineering practice has led to many strains with the engineering profession at large. Practitioners involved in the accreditation of engineering programs, through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, have pressed for more emphasis on engineering design in undergraduate curricula, but faculty members who have little if any experience with engineering practice have resisted that pressure. Since engineering schools have moved toward graduates with less knowledge of engineering practice, a new type of technical school -- Engineering Technology -- has evolved over the past several decades, preparing four year graduates who are prepared to go immediately into industrial positions with a knowledge of the practical aspects of engineering -- albeit with a less well formed mathematics and science base.

Another result of the movement of engineering faculties toward research, with less emphasis on engineering practice, has been difficulty in attracting and retaining women and minorities in engineering programs in the numbers that are being sought by society at large. Many of these students who have not traditionally been attracted to engineering are turned off by the heavy concentration on analytical approaches, and the lack of engineering practice content in the curriculum -- particularly in the first two years of study.

  Reform efforts

Several driving forces have led universities to start to reverse the emphasis on research, external funding, and graduate education in engineering and other fields of study. Universities in the United States are under increasing public and government pressures to provide evidence of:

·                                value added to the graduates of their undergraduate education programs

·                                accountability for faculty resources. and how they are being expended

·                                exit measures of the quality of their graduates.

Part of this pressure comes from those who are providing financial and other resources to the universities in a time when the economy is tight -- parents who pay tuition bills, and government bodies who provide subsidies or other forms of support. Part of the pressure comes from the undergraduate students themselves, as they recognize that jobs are going to be difficult to find upon graduation, and they strive to be as competitive as possible at the end of their college years.

The American society at large has also increased the pressure on its colleges and universities to make education and graduation more accessible to minorities and women -- including engineering education. Such non-traditional students in engineering are demanding a more “user friendly” curriculum, involving top faculty members in engineering, for their university experiences.

Another major driving force for change is the significant decrease in research and development funding currently being experienced. The federal government has dramatically cut military programs as a result of the end of the Cold War, and prior R&D funding in support of military efforts has also been cut substantially -- with more such cuts forecast. In addition, industrial funding for R&D has diminished in the current economic climate, including that portion which flows to universities. As a result, many engineering schools and universities which previously had aspired to be primarily research institutions are re-examining their future paths, and shifting to undergraduate education as a more important focus.

Some positive leadership for the shift in emphasis from R&D to undergraduate education in engineering schools has come from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal government body charged with stimulating both educational reform and research in the engineering and science fields. Through its Engineering Education Coalitions Program, started in 1990, NSF has provided significant funding to groups of engineering schools willing to work toward systematic reform in engineering education. As will be described in the next section, these Coalitions have developed and demonstrated major innovations in engineering education; but perhaps their major contribution has been to make research and development on engineering education credible again, on campuses where externally funded R&D has become the primary stimulation for faculty members.

  NSF coalitions

At a conference of leaders of the National Science Foundation in 1989, the Belmont Conference, a plan was devised to develop a number of consortia of educational institutions to:

·                                undertake comprehensive study, experimentation, and evaluation of undergraduate engineering     education developments.

·                                develop innovative curricula.

·                                attract and retain students with diverse backgrounds and aptitudes.

·                                foster coupling among academic institutions and industry to strengthen linkages to engineering practice,

·                                and

·                                involve a broad spectrum of faculty in undergraduate education.

The resulting Engineering Education Coalitions Program solicited proposals from engineering schools during the Spring of 1990, citing the following goals of the Program:

Stimulate a comprehensive, systematic reform of undergraduate engineering education,

Provide tested alternative curricula which improve the quality of undergraduate engineering education.

Provide tested curricula which increase the diversity of engineering graduates, especially under- represented groups, and link to K-l2 education, and

Create significant intellectual exchange and resource linkages among engineering baccalaureate— producing institutions.

From the initial group of proposal submitted in the 1990 competition. NSF chose two for funding for a five year period:

  SYNTHESIS Coalition (1990)

Scope: Synthesis of knowledge for problem solving, and national engineering education delivery system

ECSEL Coalition (1990)

Scope: Design across the curriculum.

Later competitions, as the Engineering Education Coalitions Program has held successive solicitations of proposals, have led to the funding of the following Coalitions as well:

  SUCCEED Coalition (1992)

Scope: Develop “Curriculum 21”, Process Engineering and the Engineering Process.

GATEWAY Coalition (1992)

Scope: Baccalaureate engineering as an integrative process: implementation of the E4 curriculum.

FOUNDATION Coalition (1993)

Scope: Changing the culture of engineering ethical ion through curricular integration, teaming,

and cooperative learning, and technology-enabled problem solving.


Scope: Integrate engineering education with work experience in advanced manufacturing processes.

SCHEME Coalition (1994)

Scope: Comprehensive system of cross-university programs of undergraduate manufacturing engineering education.


Scope: Comprehensive regional focus on manufacturing engineering education for the engineering workforce.

See www.eng.nsf.gov/eec/coalitions.htm for further information on the NSF Coalitions.

Results of this major NSF effort to date have been encouraging. As noted previously, the major finding and highly visible priority being dedicated to the Coalitions program by NSF have made engineering education research and development credible at universities where previously only scientific research had been emphasized as appropriate activity. The model programs developed by several of the Coalitions have also provided good models for others to adopt, in areas such as:

·                                inversion of the curriculum, to bring engineering subjects into the lower division in order to keep student interest in engineering high. and to provide the rationale for the study of mathematics and science which heavily dominate the first two ears of engineering study,

·                                just in time coordination of math and science coverage, within the context of engineering problem solving courses as the major educational stream

·                                engineering design throughout the curriculum as a major theme, beginning in the Freshman year

·                                holistic, integrative experiences for undergraduate engineering students

·                                links to pre-college education. and increased recruitment and retention of under-represented groups

·                                integrated development of educational tools. including utilization of advanced technologies in the educational process

Due to the large number of engineering schools directly involved in the various Coalitions, and to the size of many of those schools, large numbers of current engineering students are being directly impacted by these experimental programs. Sonic 40% of all current engineering students are enrolled at Coalition schools, and as the experimental approaches currently being developed and tested are scaled up, this large number of students can be expected to be beneficially impacted. In addition, due to progress reports on Coalition results to engineering education more broadly, schools outside the Coalition program are also adapting some of these new approaches for their own use.


Engineering education in the United Slates is undergoing a Systemic and healthy reform, leading to more emphasis on undergraduate education in engineering faculties and to a resulting improvement in the educational process and in its graduates. This reform process is well underway, heavily influenced and supported by the Engineering Education Coalition Program of the National Science Foundation.

It is anticipated that the reform effort will be sustainable, and will eventually impact most of engineering education in the United States . Trends that have heavily impacted American business in recent years – financial constraints, downsizing, quality improvement programs, etc. – are now hitting universities, and the types of reform in engineering education described above are becoming both more desirable and more necessary. Faculty reward systems are also slowly changing, with a shift in emphasis from research and scholarship as the primary reward criteria toward educational contributions in undergraduate education as an important criterion well underway. In addition, in a highly competitive environment for the attraction of good students into engineering programs, the schools that have changed to the new paradigm of reformed undergraduate engineering education are proving to be more attractive to students, their parents, and to the firms which will employ them as graduates.

Note: The above material is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones published in the Proceedings of a 1995 ‘International Conference of Engineering Deans and Industry Leaders’ held in Melbourne . Australia .



 With support from the European Commission under the Socrates II Thematic Network program, the Enhancing Engineering Education in Europe (E4) project is pursuing five areas:

1.                              Employability through innovative curricula

2.                              Quality assessment and transparency for enhanced mobility and trans-European recognition

3.                              Engineering professional development for Europe

4.                              Enhancing the European dimension

5.                              Innovative learning and teaching methods

In the quality assessment activity, the following objectives are being pursued:

·                                                        Establish lists of ‘qualification attributes’ for engineering graduates, distinguished by branches (specialties) and types

·                                                        Identify methodologies of  quality control for study courses

·                                                        Adopt methodologies of quality assessment of achieved competencies

·                                                        Promote pilot projects on ‘qualification attributes’ (competencies) lists and on quality assurance and assessment

·                                                        Collect and highlight examples of good practice

·                                                        Comparison of loading of similar named courses in leading universities

In the innovative learning and teaching methods activity. The aims and objectives are:

·                                Institutional support required for innovative teaching and learning methods

·                                Role of information and communications technology in the new learning environment

·                                Facilitation of open distance learning in higher engineering education

·                                Adopt teaching and learning attitudes to support modern networked university

·                                New learning technologies and methods in support of learning through design, projects and team work

·                                Multidisciplinary methods to encourage self-direction and an entrepreneurial spirit

Thematic Network E4 was initiated in 2001, and will complete its work in 2004. Some 112 institutions from all 15 EU member states have been involved on the program, with central administration provided by the University of Florence . For more information see www.ing.unifi.it/tne4.



 A new mechanism is being developed for expanding international exposure for undergraduate engineering and computer science students in the United States , using information technology and distance learning techniques. Technical students in the United States , in a few instances, have begun working on projects with similar students in other countries via electronic communications. This section provides a rationale for having engineering students gain some international experience during their undergraduate educational periods, and points out barriers to getting such experience in traditional study abroad periods. It then cites several academic programs that are providing such experience via electronic means. Finally it proposes directions to increase the use of distance learning techniques to provide international experience for engineering students.


  Russel Jones did a major study a few years ago entitled “Educating Engineers for International Practice”. That study, which was published in Liberal Education in the fall 1995 issue argues for the need for extensive international exposure for United States technology students to adequately prepare them for international practice. That need has only increased since Jones’ earlier study was completed – yet there is still too little movement toward better preparing college graduates for the international challenge.

  Constraints such as the intensity of the undergraduate program foe engineers and the lock-step progression through the four or more years of study weigh heavily against engineering students taking advantage of traditional study abroad experiences. Traditional study abroad or internship programs also tend to be quite expensive, again limiting the number of engineering students who can or will participate. It should be noted, though, that several engineering schools are conducting exemplary programs based on the studies abroad model of sending students overseas. Examples of these programs will be described later in this paper. But such effective programs currently have much too little impact when the 300+ engineering schools in the United States are taken as a whole. In its annual survey of student mobility, published in Open Doors 1997-98, the Institute of International Education reported that only 1893 United States engineering students had an international dimension in their education – representing less than 2% of the U.S. study abroad students, and an even smaller percentage of the current number of engineering students in the undergraduate pipeline.

  It is also relevant other developed countries – such as those in Europe – prepare their engineering and computer science students for international practice very effectively. As pointed out by Simpson in 1997: “Russel C. Jones article entitled ‘The World as Workplace’ in the November 1996 edition of the ASEE journal presents a policy which is being tried in Europe for a decade now”.

  Knowing that engineering and computer science students need more international experiences, and aware of the barriers usually present in traditional study abroad programs, a few engineering schools have begun using information technology and distance learning techniques to provide some international exposure for their students. Such efforts are aimed at overcoming some of the major barriers of study abroad such as high cost, the constraints of a highly sequenced curriculum, and the concern of faculty that their control of the educational process may be lost.

  Driving Forces for International Exposure for Engineers

  Many educators and practitioners have stated the need for international exposure for engineering students. In 1980 at a conference on New Directions in International Education, Burn and Perkin argued that “Expertise on the rest of the world is needed as never before in government, business, and especially in the universities. … Increasingly needed are specialists who combine foreign language training and international studies expertise with training in professional fields …”.

  More recently, Condit and Pipes have stated “The changing needs of an industrial world create a corresponding need to improve and restructure higher instructions, Particularly that of engineering education”. And Pelkie has written “Global competition has become a business reality. To become competitive, we must improve the rate at which new technical concepts are incorporated into our products and processes. … Managers must recognize the impact that the technical education system has on future innovative productivity and take the initiative to improve it”.  Fiedler et al have argued that “Computer based information systems have altered the meaning of traditional communication and coordination, making global opportunities possible and global competition inevitable”.  

   Study Abroad Programs

  Engineering schools at several U.S. universities are conducting exemplary programs based on the traditional studies abroad model of sending students overseas. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which requires a major project of each student prior to graduation, has an increasing number of such students fulfilling that requirement with an international educational experience. Massie and Zwiep point out that “ Project work in a foreign country provides a reasonably pragmatic way for students to gain international experience”.

  The University of Rhode Island offers an even more intense international program for its engineering students, combining language study in a foreign language, courses on the home campus in that foreign language, and a work period abroad for an integrated international experience. Grandin describes the URI program, which culminates in joint degrees in engineering and a foreign language.

  Van Gulick and Paolino have described two key features which serve to internationalize the Lafayette College undergraduate engineering curriculum: semester-long abroad study opportunities in all B.S. engineering degree programs; and a five year, two-degree program in which B.S. engineering students acquire in-depth knowledge of a foreign language and culture and complete a semester-long capstone experience working abroad as an engineer during their fifth year. A unique feature of the Lafayette programs is the use of two-way video conferencing to offer necessary technical courses to students abroad.

  In 1983, the University of the Pacific started sending its students to Japan for their Co-op placements. Based on the experience and a similar program in Germany , a structured program for preparing students for such international Co-op experiences has been instituted. Martin describes how the University has made available a plan whereby students can take internationally oriented courses prior to their Co-op periods abroad, and receive an ‘International Engineering Minor’ degree upon completion.

  One of the most encouraging developments in educating U.S. engineers for international practice is the Global Engineering Exchange (Global E3), administered in the U.S. by the Institute of International Education and in the European Union (EU) by GE4. Global E3 focuses mainly on U.S. undergraduate engineering students, but graduate students from other countries may participate. As of April 1999, participants included 29 U.S. institutions, 39 institutions from the EU, and six institutions from non-EU countries. Students in the Global E3 program spend one or two semesters studying at a member institution overseas, paying tuition at their home institution only. The host institution provides students with intensive language and culture training. In addition to formal study, Global E3 encourages overseas internships as part of its program. Beginning in 1995-96, eleven U.S. engineering students studied overseas under the Global E3. That number has grown to 52 in 1998-99, and is expected to reach 70 in 1999-2000. In describing the Global E3 program, Gerhart and Blumenthal have written “As other countries here recognize the value of a U.S. education, we must recognize that globalization is part of our very humanity, and that 96% of the global population lives outside of the U.S. "”

  Many other engineering programs offer variations on the type of traditional study abroad programs described above. It must be kept in mind, though, that in the aggregate less that 2% of engineering students in the United States currently partake of such programs.

  European Competition

  As noted earlier, some of the economic competitors of the United States in the global marketplace are currently more effective in preparing their engineering graduates for international practice. In the EU, the European Commission’s SOCRATES program provides mechanisms for the cross-border study of a large number of students, including engineering students. In describing such programs, Mulhall notes that the SOCRATES program includes groups of universities which have agreed to cooperate in a program of educational development in a particular area such as engineering, called Thematic Networks. A body called Higher Engineering Education for Europe (H3E) was created to manage the Thematic Network in engineering. One of the projects of H3E is the development of a European dimension in higher engineering education.

  Weber describes how engineering schools in Europe are co-operating to develop a common definition of qualifications needed by an engineer today. He notes that there is a growing convergence in adopting English as the language of engineering instruction. Augusti writes that the rapid globalization of the professional job market has created the need for an international system of recognition of degrees.

  The European model for international experience for engineering students is based on the traditional study abroad movement of students. That approach appears to be highly successful there due to the relatively short distances between countries, and the overarching framework provided by the European Union.

  Distance Education

  Mechanisms for student to student interaction across U.S. institutions have been developed and utilized by some of the Coalitions funded by the National Science Foundation. The Synthesis Coalition in particular has featured the development of electronic tools to facilitate joint work by student groups on campuses thousands of miles apart. Hsi and Agogino describe the use of such advanced multimedia communication mechanisms to teach engineering design across campus borders, utilizing well-developed case studies. Gay and Lentini further describe the advanced communication resources used by students engaged in collaborative design activity.

  The use of the Internet has enabled both teachers and students to lessen the burden of disseminating and acquiring knowledge, according to Young. Even laboratory experiences can be enhanced through electronic media. Karweit has created a virtual engineering laboratory on the World Wide Web for the students in his introductory engineering class and others. Experiments in this simulated laboratory include one that measures the rate of a hot object’s heat radiation, and one that enables students to design bridges that will bear a specific weight. Fruchter has used information technology augmented distance learning to teach a multi-site, project centered, team oriented course.

  It is clear that information technology and distance learning techniques are available to facilitate in-depth interactions among students at distant campuses, including those across national boundaries.

  Pilot International Exchanges via Distance Learning Techniques

  A small number of campus-based programs in the U.S. are currently using distance learning techniques to provide international experiences for their students. Programs of this sort are currently in operation at such engineering schools as Union College , the University of Washington , Texas A&M University , and the University of Pittsburgh , for example.

  At Union College , beginning with the class of 2000, all engineering students are required to fulfill an “engineering experience” requirement. As described by Bucinell et al , “The ever increasing globalization of engineering practice has led to the realization that undergraduate students must be made aware of the global nature of the profession and the technologies that allow engineers the world over to collaborate on projects”.  Union College engineering students can fulfill the international experience requirement by a traditional term abroad, an international exchange to take courses at foreign universities, an international term in industry, the virtual term abroad, or an international project. The Bucinell et al paper describes the development of an International Virtual Design Studio, wherein students from Union College and the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Turkey were joined as a team to pursue their senior design projects across international boundaries and culture differences. Using a combination of interactive video and Internet connections, the two parts of the team undertook a single design and build project, sharing data bases and designs electronically. The team members met each other in person at the end of the project when they came together in Ankara to assemble the final design and participate in the design competition with additional teams from METU.

  At the University of Pittsburgh , a novel format for an engineering design capstone course combines industrial experience with international collaboration, and uses distance learning as a pedagogical tool. As described by Rajgopal et al, the course links programs in the Industrial Engineering Departments of the University of Pittsburgh and the Instituto Technologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Mexico. The team of students from the two institutions conducts their design at an industrial location that alternates between Mexico and the U.S. each year. The two groups of students, and their faculty advisors, stay in touch by electronic mail, the Internet, and distance learning technologies. During the last week of the term, the full team comes together at the industrial location to present their work to the faculty and the industrial client.

  At the University of Washington , various collaborations are being undertaken with engineering educators from the U.S. and Japan . Kalonji describes how engineering educators from these two countries are working together to bring about a successful reform of engineering education in the two countries, and to enable engineers to play a more pivotal role in the shaping of the global economy. Student interactions between students in the U.S. and Japan have resulted from this effort, using distance learning techniques.

  Texas A&M University is employing reciprocal distance education to promote internationalization of its undergraduate engineering program. As described by Holland and Vasquez, the Architectural and Construction Science Program at Texas A&M uses a model containing three distinct components for adding an international dimension for its students: insertion of an international dimension at the syllabus level; integration of an international dimension at the curricular level; and immersion in a foreign instructional environment. The first two components rely on the Internet and videoconferencing technologies. The third component is a blend of traditional study abroad programs with international internships and reciprocal student exchange programs.

  The North American Design Institute (NADI) is a partnership of governments, universities and industries across North America . As described by White, it involves two universities in each North American country – Mexico , the United States , and Canada . These institutions collaborate on a unique exchange program in engineering design to prepare engineering students to better understand design in the context of cultural, health, safety, environmental, and other international regulatory policies throughout North America . A combination of students traveling to partner schools for a semester, industrial work assignments, and interactions via the Internet and the World Wide Web are utilized.


  The driving forces for international experiences for engineering students are substantial, and traditional study abroad programs – while generally of desirable high quality – are having too little quantitative impact to meet the needs of the bulk of such students. Distance education methodologies offer the opportunity for engineering students to get international experience in a cost-effective yet highly useful way. Several engineering schools have developed pilot programs utilizing information technologies and distance learning methodologies to offer international experiences to students who are not readily able to travel abroad from their home campuses.

  It appears that the time to begin scale up of the use of distance learning technologies to provide international exposure for larger numbers of engineering students is at hand. The authors propose that a consortium of engineering schools be formed for this purpose. The activities of such a consortium would include:

  Illumination of the current state of the art in the use of distance learning for international programs in engineering

  Development of central mechanisms for developing case studies which can be utilized by teams of international students

  Establishment of an electronic database to facilitate international matching of engineering schools with similar interests

  Seeking funds to develop the central mechanisms described above, and for demonstration projects at several universities

  It is anticipated that after such demonstration projects, the central mechanisms developed would become self-sustaining.

  Such a project would overcome some of the major barriers to study abroad, such as high cost, the constraints of a highly sequenced curriculum, and the concern of faculty members that their control of the educational process may be lost.

  NOTE: The above material is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones, Bethany S. Oberst, Thomas J. Siller, and Gearold R. Johnson, presented at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education and published in the Proceedings of that conference – which are copyright by ASEE.



  Entrepreneurship, that quintessentially American attribute – according to Americans at least – is increasingly seen as a set of skills that can, and should, be taught to engineering students.  The gap is wide, however, between an attribute and a skill: an attribute suggests inherent inclinations or attitudes that can be drawn out or developed by appropriate experiences, while a skill is a packet of knowledge and know-how that can be transmitted from one person to another, i.e., taught.  It’s the old nature or nurture question again. Where these two perspectives collide is in the area of risk-taking.  And where the two perspectives recently came together was in Monterey , California , when Engineering Conferences International, headquartered at Polytechnic University of New York, held a workshop on “Teaching Entrepreneurship to Engineering Students,” January 12 – 16, 2003 .  The organizers, Dean Eleanor Baum of the Cooper Union, and Carl McHargue, professor of materials engineering of the University of Tennessee Knoxville , designed four days of presentations, panels, discussions and encounters for engineering educators who espouse the teaching of entrepreneurship, for their colleagues who wanted to examine the theme, and for engineering oriented entrepreneurs themselves.  The ideas generated during those four days, when summarized, provide a good snapshot of the state of the art in entrepreneurial education for engineers in the US . 

  In the eyes of engineering faculty, entrepreneurs are risk-takers, inventors and innovators, rule breakers.  They look at the world with fresh eyes; they are inclined to disrupt the status quo.  They approach problem solving in a multi-disciplinary way. Entrepreneurs have well-honed communication skills and an appreciation for context.  They exhibit leadership, and see the advantages of an international orientation in their activities.  They are visionaries, driven by a need for achievement.  When confronted by possible failure they are optimistic and redefine any failure into an opportunity for future success. Entrepreneurs are driven by the need to achieve, and to commercialize their creations.  So say the engineering educators from the vantage point of their faculty offices.

  The personal testimonies of entrepreneurs, from the vantage point of their start-up company desks, are not contradictory, but complementary and reveling. Many of the entrepreneurs first worked for a large company, and then quit to strike out on their own. They tend to be lone rangers, but perhaps didn’t recognize this until confronted with the corporate environment first-hand.  The entrepreneurs are persistent, persevering, disciplined, confident, and self-reliant.  Their education was broad-based, and typically included basic business skills.  They started their own enterprises young and engaged in calculated risk-taking.  Entrepreneurs pride themselves on their ability to assess opportunities.  They have strong technical skills, but they also understand the necessity of building strong, diversified and accomplished teams to accomplish their goals. Once the team is being built, they appreciate the need for mentoring, having themselves been mentored. Entrepreneurs show that they are good listeners, generalists in their approach to problems and opportunities, and endowed with a lot of common sense.  Along the way they have acquired the skills to manage growth, or if not, they failed and then learned them the next time around. Successful entrepreneurship requires productive social interaction, in the offices of a venture capitalist or in informal encounters.  Surprisingly, entrepreneurs say they play, not to win, but rather, “not to lose,” adding a negative spin to their inner motivation.  A final commonality, they are “serial entrepreneurs,” building on both success and failure in order to engage and reengage in the entrepreneurial life-style.

  When the entrepreneurs and the engineering educators met and carefully examined each other’s mindsets, two important ideas emerged: first, the attributes of entrepreneurs are diametrically opposed to those of engineering faculty, who are protected with layers of tenure and contracts and sureness, and second, “intrepreneurship,” entrepreneurial activities carried out within the context of a larger organization, shouldn’t be overlooked.  Some engineers with entrepreneurial attributes succeed well, not in their own companies, but in corporations, especially those that make significant investment in R & D, and thus attract the creativity of intrepreneurs.

  The non-linear discussions at the ECI conference returned repeatedly to the role of universities in advancing entrepreneurship.  Today’s universities in the US often play a significant role in commercializing the results of R & D in engineering schools.  They spawn start-up companies and provide incubators and technology parks to support the emerging activities of entrepreneurs.  They can directly influence the creation of entrepreneurs by offering courses in required skills and competencies, or indirectly by tailoring their intellectual property policies to be supportive of dynamic development on the part of their faculty and staff, and to a lesser extent, their students.  Universities can even overtly offer services in support of entrepreneurial activities to their alums, perhaps as part of a lifetime guarantee attached to their degrees.

  While incubators and technology parks are the most visible manifestations of university support of entrepreneurial activities, it is often at the policy level that universities can most effectively support or squelch incipient entrepreneurial tendencies in their students and faculty.  Personnel policies, conflict of interest policies, workload policies, patent royalty distribution policies, can all make powerful statements about the posture the institution will take when confronted with a potential profitable idea emerging from within its walls.

  If entrepreneurship requires interdisciplinary approaches to be successful, cross-college collaboration (particularly engineering and business) must be encouraged, promoted, supported at the institutional level. Seed stage funding must be provided.  And successful entrepreneurs who come to the university to teach on a part-time basis must be acknowledged in ways that reflect the importance of the expertise they bring to both students and faculty. 

  For engineering educators, policy matters seem frequently to reflect a world out of their reach, while what happens in the classroom is their domain.  They should be reassured that academic programming plays a critical role in fostering entrepreneurship in engineering students.  And universities have come up with a variety of approaches for teaching, promoting, motivating, instilling and rewarding entrepreneurship in their faculty and staff.  Some of the curricular models which have been developed to “teach “entrepreneurship include:

Ø                              Designing a set of courses that engineering students take over the whole four years of the undergraduate curriculum;

Ø                              An entrepreneurial project which engages the students over four years;

Ø                              Modules embedded in the regular curriculum which introduce students to elements of entrepreneurship, combined with some stand-alone elective courses dealing with entrepreneurship in depth;

Ø                              A residential experience, where students live and breathe entrepreneurship 24/7;

Ø                              Co-curricular activities such as clubs, boot camps, meet and eat events, etc. offered to engineering students;

Ø                              An entrepreneurial option or minor, reflected on the transcript;

Ø                              Joint engineering and business programs;

Ø                              Creation of internet based learning spaces where budding entrepreneurs can encounter each other;

Ø                              Competitions for seed monies for student ventures;

Ø                              One day events to expose students to the real world of entrepreneurship;

Ø                               Experiential learning in the form of internships, mentoring, etc.

Ø                              One semester survey courses packing entrepreneurial skills into a compact time frame.

In today’s world of enginering education, the role of industry partners and practitioners cannot be neglected.  This is especially important in the area of entrepreneurship, where such partners have important lessons to teach engineering students. Engineers working in industry or private practice, or running their own businesses, have a critical role to play in promoting entrepreneurship among engineering students and in supporting the work of budding entrepreneurs.  More established engineers can provide consultation services to small businesses in need of their expertise.  They can provide practical expertise in incubators and technology parks.  They can hire student as interns.  They can mentor students and permit them to shadow them on their daily routines.  Industry partners and practitioners can serve as instructors in formal class settings, and provide continuing education in the community.  They can help students discern the advantages and disadvantages of entrepreneurship vs. intrepreneurship. 

  All this sounds good, but is there any support for investigating, designing and implementing ideas about entrepreneurship?  The answer is yes.  Moving from the most ephemeral to the most specific, US engineering faculty members who wants to promote entrepreneurship in the curriculum of their college can look for support first through institutional resources.  Then they can move toward soliciting industry support, or seek government support from NSF or the Department of Commerce.  Some foundations (Kaufman, etc,) are aimed specifically at providing funds for the development of programs in entrepreneurship.  And finally the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) offers funding opportunities for programs promoting entrepreneurship for engineering students.

  Despite the opportunity provided by the ECI workshop for educators and entrepreneurs to spend almost four days focused on these specific issues, some questions remain unanswered:

Ø                              What are the tensions between entrepreneurship and intrepreneurship?

Ø                              What should every engineering student know about entrepreneurship?

Ø                              How should the reward structure for faculty be constructed to promote entrepreneurial activities?

Ø                              What is the formal role of industry returnees and adjunct faculty in the university when they teach a course?

Ø                              Are traditional intellectual property policies supportive of entrepreneurial activities?

Ø                              How can entrepreneurial skills and attitudes be assessed?

Ø                              Is there such a thing as low-tech entrepreneurial activity, or is it all high-tech?

  After all the dicussion, the question remains: is this quintessentially American characteristic of entrepreneurism an atttribute or a skill?  Do you have to be born an entrepreneur, or can someone teach you to be one?  The answer may well be related to individuals’ attitude toward risk.  An entrepreneur has the capacity to assess risk and measure it against her or his own tolerance to assume it.  So the entrepreneur appears to have notable insight into external circumstances and internal capacities.  The assessment of external forces might be a teachable skill.  An understanding of one’s internal capacities can only come from life experience and a broad-based, multi-disciplinary education.

NOTE: The above material is taken from a paper by Bethany S. Oberst and Russel C. Jones, presented at the closing session of a 2003 Engineering Conferences International seminar in Monterrey , California .



Accreditation in engineering education is a mechanism to certify degree programs as meetings a certain set of standards. Around the world, globalization of the engineering profession has led to increased interest in accreditation – as a way to improve program quality, and as the building block upon which mutual recognition educational agreements and cross-border practice treaties can be based. This section describes trends in the accreditation of engineering education around the world, cites international educational equivalency agreements and international practice agreements being built upon accreditation, and discusses issues and problems in engineering education that may be addressed by enhanced and expanded accreditation systems.


  Webster’s dictionary gives the following several definitions of the verb accredit: 1) to bring into credit or favor, 2) to authorize, give credentials to, 3) to believe in, take as true, 4) to certify as meeting certain set standards, and 5) to attribute, credit. The associated noun accreditation, when applied to engineering education, has elements of all of those definitions – but primarily indicates certification that an educational program meets a certain set of standards agreed upon by an authorizing entity.

  Globalization has increased the tendency of engineering practice to be international in scope, and thus has led to the need for the credentialing of graduate engineers who want to practice in venues other than the one in which they were educated and initially licensed. Accreditation of engineering education programs had evolved as the primary basis upon which mutual recognition across national borders is based – both for educational equivalency, and increasingly for practice mobility.

  Accreditation is also increasingly seen as an appropriate means of enhancing the quality of engineering education in countries where major changes in the education pattern are occurring, and in developing countries where improvement in the quality of engineering graduates is seen as a major way of building an indigenous technological base upon which economic growth in the world marketplace can be achieved.

Trends in engineering accreditation

  A quick examination of developments in engineering accreditation in several countries around the world can illustrate various ways in which it is having major impacts upon engineering education.

Germany – In response to declining interest in engineering study by both natives and international students, and to pressures from the Bologna Declaration and other sources to harmonize its engineering programs with those of other developed countries, universities in Germany are developing new engineering education systems in the bachelors plus masters pattern. At present these new programs are being offered in parallel with the traditional long programs leading to the Diplom-Ingenieur, and students are given the choice of which pattern to pursue. To assist in the development of these new programs, and to evaluate and certify their quality, a new Accreditation Agency for Programs in Engineering and Computer Science (ASII) has been established.

  Japan – In the recent past, graduates of engineering programs in Japan were readily hired by its major corporations, given significant additional training by those corporations both initially and throughout their careers to enable them to contribute effectively to the economic goals of their employers, and then almost guaranteed lifetime employment and security by those employers. But the economic downturn in recent years has made job security a thing of the past, and globalization has made it imperative that Japanese engineering graduates be prepared for more self directed career development, and that they be prepared for practice in the global marketplace. A new Japan Accreditation Board for Engineering Education has been established to provide quality assurance as new engineering programs are developed and implemented.

  Jordan – In many developing countries, public university engineering programs do not have sufficient capacity to educate all those students who want to prepare themselves for employment in hot technological areas such as information technology. Private universities – often of questionable quality – typically spring up to meet the demand. In Jordan , the government has taken two steps to meet these challenges – the establishment of a new engineering program at a new public university, and the establishment of a stringent accreditation system for private universities. The Council on Higher Education has developed and implemented detailed prescriptive specifications for areas such as faculty/student ratios, laboratory equipment and space, libraries, and financial stability in order to assure that quality is provided in private universities offering degree programs within its borders.

United Kingdom - Accredited Courses are Educational Qualifications that have been determined to meet the academic requirements of the Engineering Council (UK) and its member Institutions for registration as Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Engineering Technician (EngTech). To become a CEng, IEng or EngTech one needs to demonstrate appropriate competence and commitment. These are demonstrated by: i) academic qualifications; ii) experience and training; iii) an assessment, the Professional Review, which may involve writing a dissertation, attending an interview or sitting an examination; and iv) membership of a Licensed Member organization.

United States of America – The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has been the major quality assurance mechanism for engineering education in the US since the 1930’s. It is mature, and covers essentially all of the engineering, technology, computer science, and related programs in the country. It also has served as a model for engineering accreditation developments in other countries, and it has developed major international thrusts such as substantial equivalency reviews of engineering programs in foreign countries where it has been invited. In the past several years, ABET has made a major change in its evaluation criteria – moving from technique specifications to outcomes assessment. Its ‘Criteria 2000’ is based upon institutional self study and goal setting against which it will be evaluated, continuous improvement requirements for accredited programs, and detailed assessment of the outcomes of the engineering programs as the fundamental criterion for accreditation.

  Canada - The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) established the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) in 1965 to accredit undergraduate engineering programs which provide aspiring engineers with the academic requirements necessary for registration as a professional engineer in Canada . CEAB also plays a key role in CCPE’s international activities, by assessing the equivalency of the accreditation systems used in other nations relative to the Canadian system, and by monitoring the accreditation systems employed by the engineering bodies which have entered into mutual recognition agreements with CCPE. Annually, CCPE publishes a report outlining CEAB’s accreditation criteria and procedures. This report also lists the Canadian undergraduate engineering programs that are currently, or have ever been, accredited by CEAB. In Canada , 36 educational institutions currently offer accredited undergraduate engineering programs leading to a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and there are 236 accredited engineering programs.

Latin America – As engineering programs have developed in Latin American countries, several countries have moved toward the establishment of accreditation programs. Both ABET and the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) have conducted workshops and training efforts in Latin America to assist in the development of engineering accreditation systems there. One major system recently developed is the Consejo de Acreditacion de la Ensenanza de la Ingenieria (CACEI) in Mexico , at least partially stimulated by the North American Free Trade Agreement. A new ‘Western Hemisphere Initiative’ has recently been announced by ABET, CEAB and CACEI – aimed at further assisting Latin American countries in the development of effective engineering accreditation systems, and furthering regional mutual recognition efforts.  

 Outcomes assessment

  Education as a whole, particularly in developed countries, has in recent years focused on outcomes assessment for quality assurance and evaluation of educational programs. This trend has been driven both by educators and by publics interested in quality education – parents, legislators, funding agencies, etc. In engineering education, ABET has been a leader in moving to outcomes assessment as the primary mechanism for accreditation of engineering programs, in its ‘Criteria 2000’. The following statement of outcomes from the ABET criteria was developed with substantial input from employers of engineering graduates, and other organizations concerned with quality assurance in engineering education:

  “Engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have:

a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering

b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs

d) an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams

e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

g) an ability to communicate effectively

            h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal    context

i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

j) a knowledge of contemporary issues

            k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice”

These statements of desired outcome could serve in many engineering education venues.

International agreements

  International agreements on engineering education and practice have been developed in recent years, based upon engineering accreditation. One such agreement, establishing full reciprocity for engineering graduates between ABET in the US and the CEAB in Canada, has been in place for several decades. It is based upon essentially identical accreditation systems, and extensive reciprocal visits between them. A much broader mutual recognition agreement, the Washington Accord, was developed several years ago among several English speaking countries: Australia , New Zealand , Canada , the United States , Ireland , and the United Kingdom . While there are significant differences in the engineering accreditation systems in these countries, it was agreed – after extensive reciprocal visits – that the resulting engineering graduates were essentially equivalent. Thus graduates from each of the Washington Accord countries are accepted in all of the other countries as equivalent, for purposes such as graduate study and licensure applications. In recent years two additional countries have joined the Washington Accord – Hong Kong and South Africa – and several more have recently applied

  Educational equivalency agreements can be the basis for cross-border practice agreements, and the group of countries involved in the Washington Accord have set in motion a parallel effort – the Engineers Mobility Forum – which is developing an international register of engineers approach. In Europe , the European Federation of National Engineering Associations (FEANI) has established an international practice system, based upon a seven year formation process for engineers, which leads to EurIng status. In North America , the three countries which have entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have attempted to develop a mechanism for the mobility of practicing engineers across their borders. Canada and Mexico have agreed on such a system of mobility, but efforts to include the United States have been stymied by licensure issues controlled at the state level by 55 separate jurisdictions. In the Asia-Pacific area, several countries have developed an agreement on engineering practice mobility, the APEC Engineer Register.

Trends and issues in engineering education today

Accreditation trends are typically responsive to trends and issues in engineering education itself. Several current trends in engineering education can be identified as follows:

                                    Reform in engineering education

·                                            Outcomes assessment

·                                            Utilization of advanced technologies in education

·                                            Mobility of students

·                                            Harmonization of higher education patterns

·                                            Increased utilization of distance education

·                                            Cross border agreements

·                                            Technical capacity building in developing countries

·                                            Increased payment for education by students

·                                            Inclusion of sustainable development concepts

·                                            Electronic conferences for faculty members

In addition, several significant issues and problem areas that must be addressed by engineering educators and practitioners can be identified:

                                              Lockstep, intense engineering curriculum

·                                            Status of the employed engineer

·                                            Pipeline issues (falling enrollments, gender and race diversity)

·                                            B.S. as the first professional degree, vs. M.S. requirement

·                                            International experience for engineering students

·                                            Digital divide (within a country, between countries)

·                                            Funding for higher education

·                                            Employer/industry involvement in engineering education

·                                            Evaluation of distance education courses

Several of these issues and problems are of long standing, but continue to cry out for resolution.


 Accreditation is an effective mechanism for effecting and assuring ongoing quality in engineering programs within a given country. When the quality of engineering programs in two or more countries has led to similar results in graduates, accreditation programs can provide the basis for mutual recognition of graduates across national borders. Mutual recognition of the quality of engineering programs across national borders can lead to cross-border practice agreements, enhancing the mobility of engineers in the global marketplace.

  Note: The above material is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones published in the Proceedings of the 2003 ‘International Conference on Engineering Education’ at Valencia , Spain



Decreased deference on the part of public officials to the resource needs of higher education; public demands for accountability; the shrinking globe and permeable political borders; the requirements of on-the-job training; competition from new educational institutions both virtual and real; and change as the only global constant: all these trends are driving rapid changes in engineering education. The article describes how countries such as Hong Kong , Australia , Canada , the United States , Mexico , Denmark , Germany , the United Kingdom , Jordan , and India are responding to these six trends. Four types of strategies are seen as common around the globe. 1) Engineering educators are looking to accreditation as a means of quality assurance. 2) They are considering outcomes assessment and benchmarking as alternatives to criteria specification as a means of assuring quality. 3) They have begun accepting professional engineers as partners in engineering education. 4) And they are increasingly looking to accreditation as a basis for cross-border recognition of graduates.


  Traveling with the speed of a new strain of flu, six trends are profoundly affecting engineering education around the world:

·                                Decreased deference on the part of public officials to the resource needs of higher education;

·                                Public demand for accountability;

·                                The shrinking globe and its more permeable political borders;

·                                A belief that practical training must start at the university, requiring closer academic-industry collaboration;

·                                Competition created by new, privately funded educational institutions, both virtual and real;

·                                The conviction that change will be the only global constant in the foreseeable future.

 The decade of the 1990s witnessed a series of discrete events which, seen together, indicate that we are entering into a period of rapid change in engineering education around the globe.  While each of these events was prompted by local circumstances, each reflects the pressure exerted by these six trends and a sense of urgency for finding appropriate response strategies. Consider the following:

  Australia : The Futures Conference was held in July 1995, during which participants from universities, industries and professional organizations explored the coming world of engineering practice.

  Denmark : The Danish Centre for Quality Assurance and Evaluation of Higher Education was established in 1992 to operate independently under the Danish Ministry of Education.

  Germany : The German Rectors’ Conference and the Science Council recommended in 1995 the establishment of a system of quality assurance in German higher education.

 EU: The Council of the European Union in 1998 called upon member states to establish quality assurance systems as a means of improving teaching and learning.

  Hong Kong : In June 1993 the Accreditation Board of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers was established to prepare for entry into the Washington Accord and to establish independence from the UK ’s Engineering Council for purposes of accreditation.

 India: In 1994 the Indian National Board of Accreditation was formed, modeling its procedures after the US Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, but adapted to local situations.

 Jordan: In 1990, under a new law passed in 1989, the first private university in Jordan was opened, responding to educational needs which the public sector was unable to meet.

 Mexico: In 1994 Mexico shifted control over engineering accreditation from the educational institutions themselves to the Engineering Education Accreditation Board made up of representatives from education, industry, and government.

 USA: the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) signed memoranda of understanding with engineering organizations in Russia, France, Ukraine and UNESCO’s Regional Office for Science and Technology for Latin America and the Caribbean to provide consultation and guidance in the development of accreditation procedures.

As we look at engineering education in ten countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, Mexico, the U.K. and the USA), it is interesting to note that despite wide differences in their circumstances, the response of the engineering education community to the six trends listed above has been similar in many respects.  Engineering educators around the world are looking to accreditation as a means of quality assurance.  They are considering outcomes assessment and benchmarking as alternatives to criteria specifications as a means of measuring quality. They have begun accepting professional engineers and employers as partners in engineering education.  And they are increasingly using accreditation of engineering programs as a basis for cross-border recognition of graduates.


Accreditation and quality assurance are not synonymous.  Accreditation includes quality assurance but there may be quality assurance procedures without formal accreditation.  Formal accreditation is in today’s world the political face of quality assurance, a form of public acknowledgement from a body of respected professionals that procedures of quality control have been carried out and the results deemed good.

 Accreditation as a movement has received a boost from public officials demanding increased accountability from the institutions that they fund.  When institutions of higher learning have been accused of being detached, self-serving and inner-directed, adopting a time-tested, quality assurance mechanism controlled by academics, employers and practitioners has been a means of assuring the public that their monies are being well spent. 

  In some countries, accreditation of engineering programs has a considerable history. In the UK , accreditation began in the 1960s.  The Canadian Accreditation Board was established in 1965. In the US the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has been in existence since 1932. 

  Motivation for these early efforts was varied.  In the US , for example, where there is no centralized Ministry of Education, there is nonetheless intense interest on the part of the Federal and state governments in higher education and how it runs.  The entire tradition of voluntary self-regulation in US higher education can be seen as a trade-off meant to keep governmental meddling to a minimum.  Fortunately, this effort was begun before the huge boom in US college enrollments after the end of World War II.

  In many places, however, engineering accreditation began only in the past decade, frequently under considerable external pressure, and applied to large numbers of existing programs. Funding shortfalls and enrollment shifts have caused greater public scrutiny of higher education budgets. An expectation of higher returns (i.e. accelerated economic development) for the public dollar invested in colleges and universities has led to more questioning of how money is being spent. Increased student mobility has also played a role in setting the stage for increased use of accreditation.  Migration of students within the curricula of an individual university, a familiar enough event, has given way to the migration of students around regions of the world.  Students are not just electing to leave their homeland for better educational opportunities: they are also being actively recruited by countries such as Australia , which has built some parts of its higher education system to accommodate these new students from southeast Asia and other nearby regions.  Accreditation plays a role in establishing the quality of the education offered and thus influences enrollment patterns.  (What happens when this steam of students diminishes is a separate issue.)  

But whether a country has a long tradition of engineering accreditation or has only recently set it in place, the procedures governing this elaborate and very public form of quality assurance are continuing to evolve.  And while there is some convergence toward models associated with ABET, there is also recognition that local circumstances must influence procedures.

 The European Union, for example, recently took a cautious approach to quality assurance. In 1994 the EU conducted a pilot project following up on preliminary work done by France , the Netherlands , the UK and Denmark .  The goal was to familiarize member nations to the concepts of self-evaluation, external evaluation, site visits and summary assessment and reports.  This method was consistent with the EU’s policy of balancing respect for individual traditions against its interest in promoting integration.

  Mexico ’s experience with accreditation over the past forty years reflects how engineering educators, engineering professionals and the government responded to a swiftly changing environment.  Beginning with a government-run certification of educational programs in a time of relatively low enrollments, it gave way in the mid-1970s to the National Coordination for Planning Higher Education, reflecting expanding enrollments. This planning group was itself replaced by the National Commission for Evaluation of Higher Education, whose duty it was to establish accreditation and evaluation processes to help improve the quality of higher education. Under this latter system, responsibility for evaluation was in 1991 placed in the hands of the Interinstitutional Committees for the Evaluation of Higher Education, run by academics. Significantly, by 1994 this, too, was changed.  The accreditation system was handed over to an association, which includes participation by members of various sectors and deliberately mirrors the approaches of both Canada and the US . Through all these events run themes of increased access to higher learning in Mexico, and of course, the creation and implementation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

  Patterns similar to those in Mexico might well be observed over the next decade in other countries, but at an even more accelerated pace, as academics, professionals and government officials try to use accreditation to keep engineering education in their countries accountable, up to date, in synch with global professional standards, demographics, economic trends, international trade opportunities, and public expectations.

   Outcomes assessment

  Within the context of accreditation there are several definitions of quality and methods of measuring it.  The newest buzzword in international engineering accreditation is outcomes assessment as a means of insuring quality.  This approach, formalized by ABET and implemented in the US full-scale beginning in 2001, includes the requirement that engineering programs have in place permanent procedures for quality assurance. Through a variety of international activities and agreements, ABET is actively advocating outcomes assessment as a means of moving away from the imposition of monolithic lists of standards and criteria imposed on institutions and toward greater emphasis on the responsibility of engineering programs to prepare fully competent entry-level engineers. 

  Despite the powerful attraction of the outcomes approach, and the advantages inherent in coalescing under ABET’s umbrella of accreditation, quality assurance procedures used in various countries still differ greatly depending on where the country is in the development of its educational system.

  It is interesting to examine a spectrum of quality assurance approaches in several countries, from criteria based to outcomes based, and to determine the appropriateness of each to the local circumstances.

In Jordan , for example, by the late 1980s the government recognized that standards were needed to regulate the growth of the entirely new, privately financed engineering schools which were seen as a needed supplement to the limited public institutions the country could afford to build and maintain.  Dean Sameh Salah Issa, former Dean of the College of Engineering of the Hashemite University , has described and explained the standards established by Jordanian law for all significant aspects of a new university.  These include land and buildings, office space, libraries, faculty-student ratios, composition of the faculty according to rank, student residences, sports facilities, infrastructure, and so on.  To some, these standards might appear to reflect the input based criteria that were used for so long to define quality until the advent of outcomes based assessment.  But for Jordan ’s situation, where the country to trying to tap private investments for the expansion of its higher education system while maintaining high academic quality, such start-up standards, expressed in square feet and ratios, make perfect sense.

  In Denmark , the former Rector of the Technical University of Denmark, Dr. Hans Peter Jensen, has given considerable thought to the value of benchmarking, and recommends that it be used as a quality assurance method for groups of similar institutions in several countries.  According to Dr. Jensen, this approach is particularly well suited to small countries where one or two institutions may hold a virtual monopoly on education, thus making within-country comparisons less useful.  Dr. Jensen is careful, however, to point out that universities differ greatly from industry, which invented the concept and practice of benchmarking.  Universities must use benchmarking for improvement, not for program closure.

  Günter Heitmann of the Technical University Berlin writes of interest in the application of ISO 9001 and TQM methodologies in various European universities, but warms of their limitations in the academic world. Of these two methodologies, TQM has found the greatest support among German universities, according to Heitmann, because its approaches “. . . are more process instead of product oriented, focus on customers as well as on employee satisfaction and stimulate a continuous improvement of quality.” For the moment, German engineering appears to be carefully courting several different quality assurance approaches even as the entire shape of its engineering diplomas and the institutions, which award them, are under close scrutiny.  If the parallel systems of Universities and Fachhochschulen now in place are replaced by a system, which offers sequenced undergraduate then graduate level education, quality assurance methods will inevitably change as well.

  Australia has bravely tackled the seemingly complex problem of quality assurance in distance education engineering programs.  While educational publications around the world are filled with angst-ridden discussions of the impact of distance education, the IEAust (Institution of Engineers, Australia) took on this challenge in a remarkably balanced manner: The advent of national competency standards for professional engineers has . . . created an objective reference point against which the outcomes of both face-to-face and distance education programs can be compared.  The overall strengths and weaknesses of distance education programs are now reasonably well understood, and, in determining an approach to accreditation, it was considered sufficient to focus on specific competencies defined in the national competency standards where distance education program might arguable offer less scope for development and demonstration than the otherwise equivalent face-to-face programs.

  The bottom line is that if the objective is clear, a way can be found to determine whether the objective has been met and quality assured.

  So although there are persuasive reasons for declaring that inputs are out and outcomes are in, when examining quality assurance approaches around the world it makes sense to take a developmental approach.  That means accepting that individual countries may fast-forward through a variety of methodologies as a way of improving and ensuring high quality in a rapidly changing universe of engineering education and practice. 

Partners in engineering education

  It is only recently that university walls became permeable.  The tradition in universities has been to remain apart from society in order to retain objectivity.  For long ages, this was characteristic of engineering programs as well as of the most esoteric of academic disciplines.  But once those walls developed pores, the progression was rapid toward substantial interaction between the academic world and many outside stakeholders.  In engineering, involvement has been of two kinds: requiring students to obtain some kind of real world practical experience as an integral and evaluated part of their academic program, and admitting “outsiders” into the advisory and even the decision-making bodies controlling the engineering curriculum.

  In some countries work experience is required of engineering students prior to beginning the academic sequence. In Germany , for example, students admitted to the Technische Universität/Technische Hochschule are required to have a half-year of internship begun before admission and completed during semester breaks.

  In the UK , the professional experience takes place in a period of time after the diploma is obtained but prior to licensure. It must be validated for the licensure process.

  Speaking to the issue of including preparation for the world of work into the curriculum, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers . . . believes the project work could coordinate all subject matters in a programme and students should perform an appropriate group project to practice human relationship skills in project management.  Its assessment should be an important factor in the final award.

  ABET’s wording on this issue is: Students must be prepared for engineering practice through the curriculum culminating in a major design experience based on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier coursework and incorporating engineering standards and realistic constraints that include most of the following considerations: economic; environmental; sustainability; manufacturability; ethical; health and safety; social; and political.

  Imposing workplace-like requirements on students in the form of curriculum assignments is one gaining ground around the world as a way of exposing students to professional practice.  The approach imposes an obligation on the faculty to be themselves familiar with engineering practice in a variety of non-academic settings.

  Accreditation and quality assurance procedures are requiring increased involvement from both academics from outside institutions and non-academics.  There are some associated problems, however.

  Engaging in quality control has the effect of opening up the entire engineering education process, especially when academics from other institutions are invited to participate as members of visiting committees or evaluators. Spending time studying another program at another institution often results in cross-fertilization of ideas and increased openness to the process of self-examination and improvement.  When professional engineers are engaged in the quality control activities and accreditation, valuable networks and relationships are often established, to the long-term benefit of the students. 

  But as engineering educators in some countries are discovering, drawing professional engineers and employers into the accreditation process is not a simple task.  In India , for example: There are a large number of programs of Engineering Colleges and Polytechnics, which are waiting to be accredited; there is an acute shortage of competent Assessors, particularly from Industry.

  In addition, there is the task of training members to conduct accreditation reviews, since untrained visitors are of little value.  ABET has obtained support from the U.S. National Science Foundation and others to conduct training workshops for members of visiting teams, responding to this urgent need.

  The former chief executive of the IEAust, Dr. John Webster, nicely sums up the comprehensive vision of partnerships that came out of the Final Report, Review of Engineering Education (1996): Universities will have no monopoly on  the provision of professional engineering education . . . The preferred model should be for partnerships to emerge between industry, universities and government; partnerships that allow each partner to contribute to and gain appropriate benefits from particular aspects of engineering education. Funding systems and taxation policies should encourage collaborative activities, and government should work closely with industry and the profession to support the development and operation of a coherent and comprehensive system of advanced engineering centers and networks to address identified industry needs and mobilize long-term industry influence and involvement.

Cross-border recognition

  The relationship between accreditation and licensure continues to be problematic in engineering. Graduation from an accredited institution is a requisite, but other elements such as professional experience, in-person interviews, and additional education and training are key elements in licensure decisions in various countries.

  In the UK , for example, registration as either a Chartered Engineer (Ceng) or Incorporated Engineer (Ieng) requires the appropriate education base from an accredited program, Initial Professional Development (IPD) which consists of validated experience and training at an appropriate level, and a review of the candidate’s credentials including a personal interview.

  Graduation from an accredited engineering school, plus additional training and professional experience, are required for registration as a Corporate Member of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers.

  These brief summaries of registration requirement do not do justice to the challenge facing anyone hoping to bring about progress toward international licensure.  From the Canadian perspective: The most important …[requirement for bi- or multilateral agreements] …is certainly the confidence in each other’s mechanisms to regulate, control, modify and sanction their different constituencies which deal with the delivery of the final product, namely an engineer with the full right of practice. . . The COMPLEXITY of the monitoring system is inversely proportional to the CONFIDENCE that both (or multi) partners have among them.  If these control mechanisms are too extensive, the burden of the agreement becomes more important than the possible advantages.

  The irony is that despite the recognized leadership of the United States in the area of accreditation, licensure in that country is fragmented among 55 different states and territories, thus effectively preventing it from exercising equivalent leadership in this related domain. 

  Progress has been made, however, through the establishment of the Washington Accord.  This agreement, first signed in 1989 by six English-speaking countries, commits all signatories to recognizing the engineering degrees accredited by other signatories.  On a practical basis, this means that the initial hurdle of having an engineering degree from an accredited institution is cleared for a candidate seeking licensure, graduate education or other benefits in other countries.  The attraction of participation in such an accord is obvious and as such is a driving force in discussions in countries coming to grips with accreditation for the first time, or attempting to change their current system to make it better conform to the modern world. An equally powerful theme, however, in such discussions is the protection of employment for a one’s own citizen engineers.  So the road to global convergence in licensure is not smooth. 


  Quality assurance in engineering is an issue of vital importance to an increasingly developed world.  The complexity of the problems, which engineers will have to deal with, argues for large doses of flexibility in the manner in which engineers are educated.  The results should be generations of young engineers suited to the entire range of opportunities and problems of the real world.  The tools used to assure that the educational experience results in quality will have to be responsive to new conditions and forms of education.

  Included in the constellation of organizations and institutions dedicated to the education of engineers will be increasing numbers created with the support of private investment and with an eye toward return on investment.  In some countries, such as China , where hundreds of qualified students stand in line to occupy every available university seat, the demand for new facilities and programs is a powerful lure for creative business people around the world.  Laws in China and elsewhere are changing to permit foreign investment in new colleges and universities, but national control issues are still dominant.  Through all this, however, new universities and college are being built.  What forms of quality assurance will help guide the development of these new entrepreneurial institutions, and what sort of professional welcome will be afforded their graduates in their own country and elsewhere? 

  Equally important is the impact of distance education.  National turf battles all but disappear in the face of the potential for access which instructional technology offers.  Traditional institutions can already see themselves reflected in virtual universities and colleges, as these new organizations mimic their strengths, reject their flaws, and move speedily to offer education to large numbers of eager and ambitious students.  The question for established engineering programs is what lessons there are to be learned from the assessed quality outcomes from these distance education programs?

  It appears that some tolerance for ambiguity is called for when considering prospects for improvement in engineering accreditation, quality assurance and licensure on a global scale.  Today’s breakthrough could be just a stepping-stone toward something better in the future.

Note: The above material is taken from a paper by Bethany S. Oberst and Russel C. Jones, presented at the 2001 annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, and published in the Proceedings of that meeting – which are copyright by ASEE. The paper is based on articles appearing in the Spring 2000 issue of International Journal of Engineering Education, Volume 16, Number 2.




  The following guidelines are adaptations of the curricular criteria developed over several decades by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology of the United States of America . They are based upon the ABET criteria used prior to the year 2000, when a major reorientation was made to outcomes assessment rather than detailed specification of curricular content. It is felt that the former detailed specification of curricular content will be a more useful approach in countries which are newly instituting standards for engineering education which is globally relevant.

  Curricular Objective

  Engineering is that profession in which knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind. A significant measure of an engineering education is the degree to which it has prepared the graduate to pursue a productive engineering career that is characterized by continued professional growth. These guidelines relate to the extent to which a program develops the ability to apply pertinent knowledge to the practice of engineering in an effective and professional manner.

  Included are the development of: (1) a capability to delineate and solve in a practical way the problems of society that are susceptible to engineering treatment, (2) a sensitivity to the socially-related technical problems which confront the profession, (3) an understanding of the ethical characteristics of the engineering profession and practice, (4) an understanding of the engineer’s responsibility to protect both occupational and public health and safety, and (5) an ability to maintain professional competence through life-long learning. These objectives are normally met by a curriculum in which there is a progression in the course work and in which fundamental scientific and other training of the earlier years is applied in later engineering courses.

  Institutions are expected to develop and articulate clearly program goals that are in keeping with the overall institutional goals, the student body served, and any other constraints that affect the program. In addition, they are expected to demonstrate success in meeting these goals.

  Curricular Content

  In the statements that follow, one-half year of study can, at the option of the institution, be considered to be equivalent to 16 semester credit hours (24 quarter hours).

[*For a program of 128 semester hours (192 quarter hours), one-half year of study equals exactly 16 semester hours (24 quarter hours). For a program requiring more than 128 semester hours or 192 quarter hours, 16 semester hours or 24 quarter hours may be considered to constitute one-half year of study in any of the curricular components specified by these criteria. For a program requiring fewer total credit hours, one-half year of study is considered to be one-eighth of the total program. Programs using measurements other than semester or quarter credit hours will be evaluated on a reasonably comparable basis to the above.]  

For those institutions which elect to prepare graduates for entry into the profession at the basic level, the curricular content of the program should include the equivalent of at least three years of study in the areas of mathematics, basic sciences, humanities and social sciences, and engineering topics. The course work should include at least:  

·                                one year of an appropriate combination of mathematics and basic sciences,

·                                one-half year of humanities and social sciences, and

·                                one and one-half years of engineering topics.

 The overall curriculum should provide an integrated educational experience directed toward the development of the ability to apply pertinent knowledge to the identification and solution of practical problems in the designated area of engineering specialization. The curriculum should be designed to provide, and student transcripts should reflect, a sequential development leading to advanced work and should include both analytical and experimental studies. The objective of integration may be met by courses specifically designed for that purpose, but it is recognized that a variety of other methods may be effective.

  Following are guidelines for required coursework in each of the major curricular areas listed above:

  Mathematics and Basic Sciences

  Studies in mathematics should be beyond trigonometry and should emphasize mathematical concepts and principles rather than computation. These studies should include differential and integral calculus and differential equations. Additional work is encouraged in one or more of the subjects of probability and statistics, linear algebra, numerical analysis, and advanced calculus.

  The objective of the studies in basic sciences is to acquire fundamental knowledge about nature and its phenomena, including quantitative expression. These studies should include both general chemistry and calculus-based general physics at appropriate levels, with at least a two-semester (or equivalent) sequence of study in either area. Also, additional work in life sciences, earth sciences, and or advanced chemistry or physics may be utilized to satisfy the basic sciences requirement, as appropriate for various engineering disciplines.

Course work devoted to developing skills in the use of computers or computer programming may not be used to satisfy the mathematics/basic sciences requirement.

 Humanities and Social Sciences

  Studies in the humanities and social sciences serve not only to meet the objectives of a broad education but also to meet the objectives of the engineering profession. Therefore, studies in the humanities and social sciences should be planned to reflect a rationale or fulfill an objective appropriate to the engineering profession and the institution’s educational objectives. In the interests of making engineers fully aware of their social responsibilities and better able to consider related factors in the decision-making process, institutions should require course work in the humanities and social sciences as an integral part of the engineering program. This philosophy cannot be overemphasized. To satisfy this requirement, the courses selected should provide both breadth and depth and not be limited to a selection of unrelated introductory courses.

  Such course work should meet the generally accepted definitions that humanities are the branches of knowledge concerned with man and his culture, while social sciences are the studies of individual relationships in and to society. Examples of traditional subjects in these areas are philosophy, religions, history, literature, fine arts, sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, economics, and foreign languages other than English or a student’s native language. Nontraditional subjects are exemplified by courses such as technology and human affairs, history of technology, and professional ethics and social responsibility. Courses that instill cultural values are acceptable, while routine exercises of personal craft are not. Consequently, courses that involve performance should be accompanied by theory or history of the subject.

  Subjects such as accounting, industrial management, finance, personnel administration, engineering economy, and military training may be appropriately included either as required or elective courses in engineering curricula to satisfy desired program objectives of the institution. However, such courses usually do not fulfill the objectives desired of the humanities and social sciences content.

  Engineering Topics

  Engineering topics include subjects in the engineering sciences and engineering design.

  The engineering sciences have their roots in mathematics and basic sciences but carry knowledge further toward creative application. These studies provide a bridge between mathematics and basic sciences on the one hand and engineering practice on the other. Such subjects include mechanics, thermodynamics, electrical and electronic circuits, materials science, transport phenomena, and computer science (other than computer programming skills), along with other subjects depending upon the discipline. While it is recognized that some subject areas may be taught from the standpoint of either the basic sciences or engineering sciences, the ultimate determination of the engineering science content is based upon the extent to which there is extension of knowledge toward creative application. In order to promote breadth, the curriculum must include at least one engineering course outside the major disciplinary area.

  Engineering design is the process of devising a system, component, or process to meet desired needs. It is a decision-making process (often iterative), in which the basic sciences and mathematics and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective. Among the fundamental elements of the design process are the establishment of objectives and criteria, synthesis, analysis, construction, testing, and evaluation. The engineering design component of a curriculum should include most of the following features: development of student creativity, use of open-ended problems, development and use of modern design theory and methodology, formulation of design problem statements and specifications, consideration of alternative solutions, feasibility considerations, production processes, concurrent engineering design, and detailed system descriptions. Further, it is essential to include a variety of realistic constraints, such as economic factors, safety, reliability, aesthetics, ethics, and social impact.

  Each educational program should include a meaningful, major engineering design experience that builds upon the fundamental concepts of mathematics, basic sciences, the humanities and social sciences, engineering topics, and communication skills. The scope of the design experience within a program should match the requirements of practice within that discipline. The major design experience should be taught in section sizes that are small enough to allow interaction between teacher and student. This does not imply that all design work must be done in isolation by individual students; team efforts are encouraged where appropriate. Design cannot be taught in one course; it is an experience that must grow with the student’s development. A meaningful, major design experience means that, at some point when the student’s academic development is nearly complete, there should be a design experience that both focuses the student’s attention on professional practice and is drawn from past course work. Inevitably, this means a course, or a project, or a thesis that focuses upon design. "Meaningful" implies that the design experience is significant within the student’s major and that it draws upon previous course work, but not necessarily upon every course taken by the student. Course work devoted to developing drafting skills may not be used to satisfy the engineering design requirement.

  Other courses, which are not predominantly mathematics, basic sciences, the humanities and social sciences, or engineering topics, may be considered by the institution as essential to some engineering programs. Portions of such courses may include subject matter that can be properly classified in one of the essential curricular areas, but this must be demonstrated in each case.

  Appropriate laboratory experience which serves to combine elements of theory and practice should be an integral component of every engineering program. Every student in the program should develop a competence to conduct experimental work such as that expected of engineers in the discipline represented by the program. It is also necessary that each student have "hands-on" laboratory experience, particularly at the upper levels of the program. Instruction in safety procedures should be an integral component of students’ laboratory experiences. Some course work in the basic sciences should be included or be complemented with laboratory work.

Appropriate computer-based experience should be included in the program of each student. Students should demonstrate knowledge of the application and use of digital computation techniques for specific engineering problems. The program should include, for example, the use of computers for technical calculations, problem solving, data acquisition and processing, process control, computer-assisted design, computer graphics, and other functions and applications appropriate to the engineering discipline. Access to computational facilities should be sufficient to permit students and faculty to integrate computer work into course work whenever appropriate throughout the academic program.

Students should demonstrate knowledge of the application of probability and statistics to engineering problems.

Competence in written communication is essential for the engineering graduate. Although specific course work requirements serve as a foundation for such competence, the development and enhancement of writing skills should be demonstrated through student work in engineering work and other courses. Oral communication skills should also be demonstrated within the curriculum by each engineering student.

 An understanding of the ethical, social, economic, and safety considerations in engineering practice is essential for a successful engineering career. Course work may be provided for this purpose, but as a minimum it should be the responsibility of the engineering faculty to infuse professional concepts into all engineering course work. 

Outcomes Guidelines

 In the year 2000, ABET changed its criteria to an outcomes assessment basis. The following list of outcomes expected from engineering education programs is instructive as a check on the detailed specification approach outlined above.

Engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have:

·                                an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

·                                an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

·                                an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs

·                                an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams

·                                an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problem

·                                an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

·                                an ability to communicate effectively

·                                the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and            societal context

·                                a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

·                                a knowledge of contemporary issues

·                                an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering               practice.

Note: The above material was prepared at the request of the Committee on Education and Training of the World Federation of Engineering Societies, and published in its Issues, Volume No. 8. It is based upon an adaptation of the ABET traditional criteria utilized prior to 2000, and has been drafted by Russel C. Jones. ABET concurs with development of a WFEO/CET publication based on its previous criteria for accrediting engineering programs in the United States; with the understanding that the distribution of such publication will be accompanied with commentary that clearly states that these criteria are not currently being used by ABET and their use should be for instructional purposes only. For the current ABET criteria, see http://www.abet.org



There has been considerable discussion in recent years about whether the traditional four year bachelor’s degree is the appropriate level for entry into the engineering profession, or whether the master’s degree or its equivalent is required in the current day and age. Proponents of the higher requirement point out that the knowledge and skills required for effective and responsible engineering practice have grown over recent decades, necessitating a longer preparation period for professional engineering practice. They also point out that the typical undergraduate degree does not produce a literate engineering graduate – that is, one who has sufficient background to read the current literature in his or her discipline in order to continue professional development over a 40 year career.

  In the US , the American Society of Civil Engineers had spearheaded the move toward requiring a master’s degree or its equivalent for entry into professional practice. The ASCE Board of Directors adopted the following policy in 2001:

  “The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the concept of the Master’s degree or Equivalent as a prerequisite for licensure and the practice of civil engineering at a professional level.

  “ASCE encourages institutions of higher education, government units, employers, civil engineers, and other appropriate organizations to endorse, support, and promote the concept of mandatory post-baccalaureate education for the practice of civil engineering at a professional level. The implementation of this effort should occur by establishing appropriate curricula in the formal education experience, appropriate recognition and compensation in the workplace, and congruent standards for licensure.”

  In a related development, ASCE is also developing a definition of the body of knowledge which must be mastered by the civil engineer who is prepared to practice in the 21st century. It incorporates the eleven outcomes required by ABET’s Criteria 2000, and adds five in addition:

·                    an ability to apply knowledge in a specialized area related to civil engineering

·                    an understanding of the elements of project management

·                    an understanding of business and public policy and administration fundamentals

·                    an understanding of the elements of construction and asset management

·                    an understanding of the role of the leader and leadership principles

 In addition to the above specification of what constitutes an appropriate body of knowledge, ASCE provides guidance on how it should be taught and learned, and who should teach it. For more information see www.asce.org.



Outcomes assessment has replaced detailed curricular specifications (inputs) as a primary quality assurance mechanism in many academic programs and accreditation standards. The US Accreditation Board for Engineering and technology converted to outcomes assessment for its accreditation criteria in 2000, for example.

  The previous approach concerned itself with the number of credits taken in a given subject, on ‘seat time’ in class, on the number of books in the library, etc. The outcomes approach concentrates on what students actually know and are able to do.

  Assessment methodology

  As part of the recent emphasis on outcomes assessment in higher education, assessment methodology has become increasingly important. In a paper presented at a United Engineering Foundation Conference in Davos , Switzerland in August 2002, Barbara Olds of the Colorado School of Mines outlines effective strategies to assess learning. The process suggested uses an assessment matrix of seven components:

 Electronic Portfolios

 A variety of tools have been suggested for capturing information that is useful in assessing the outcomes of engineering programs – such as surveys of employers and alumni, portfolios of student work, comprehensive examinations, student questionnaires, etc. One of the more systematic approaches is the use of electronic portfolios to capture student work throughout their educational programs. In a paper presented at the 1999 ASEE/IEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Gloria Rogers and Julia Williams of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology describe an electronic portfolio process designed to accomplish the following:

·                    Provide students with a mechanism to document their progress toward achieving university learning outcome goals in a multi-media format.

·                    Engage students in reflections about their own learning in the engineering program

·                    Engage faculty in authentic assessment of university-wide student learning outcomes while providing an efficient method to review and assess student submissions

The portfolio system provides opportunities for students to customize their own portfolios, and the students are encouraged to use their portfolios to present their knowledge and skills of a wide variety of learning outcomes as they seek internships, co-ops, or employment after graduation. The portfolio system is student driven, eliminating the need for faculty to be responsible for the collection of student material for submission – but faculty do have access to their advisees’ portfolios for the purpose of reviewing their progress. In addition to the advantages for individual student advising, information can be used by academic departments to evaluate faculty and courses, and to provide quality assessment data that departments can use to validate their assessment efforts.

  A case study of assessment implementation

  An example of a successful outcomes assessment program at a major engineering school is provided in another paper from the 1999 ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference by Jack Lohmann of Georgia Institute of Technology. The Georgia Tech system was developed in the 1990’s to address four elements needed for internal evaluation and for accreditation reviews:

·                    What kind of career/lifetime preparation does the degree program seek to provide?

·                    What kinds of skills and abilities are graduates of the program expected to exhibit?

·                    How does the program assess achievement of those skills and attributes by its graduates?

·                    How does the program systematically evaluate and act upon the assessment results it collects, for continuous improvement?

Lohmann concludes his paper with seven suggestions for developing outcomes-based assessment programs:

·                    Focus first on what is important to your institution; focus second on what is important to external constituents.

·                    First improve existing assessment measures and processes,

·                    Share information and collaborate as much as possible.

·                    Clarify terminology and establish the key elements of the assessment plans early in the development process.

·                    Identify benchmark institutions and key constituents.

·                    Gather data, and lots of it.

·                    Develop a system to document the use of results.

  Accreditation outcomes

As previously noted, ABET’s new “Criteria 2000” lists eleven outcomes required of students if their programs are to be accredited. In a paper published in IEEE Transactions on Education in May 2000, Mary Besterfield-Sacre et al have expanded those basic ABET criteria to further specify and clarify their implementation, as follows:

  a) An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering 

Encompasses the basic mathematical, scientific, and engineering fundamental knowledge needed by engineering graduates. The emphasis is on: I) formulation and solution of mathematical models describing the behavior and performance of physical, chemical, and biological systems and processes and, 2) use of basic scientific and engineering principles (e.g., conservation laws, rate and constitutive equations, thermodynamics, materials science) to analyze the performance of processes and systems

  b) An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

  Comprises four straightforward elements: I) designing experiments, 2) conducting experiments, 3) analyzing data and 4) interpreting data. Statistically designed experiments, laboratory based experiments and field experiments were considered. Each element was further broken down into descriptive attributes that encompass the larger element. For example, designing experiments includes setting up experiments, determining the proper models to use, considering the variables and constraints, using laboratory protocols and considering ethical issues that arise.

   c) An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs

  Is based on an extensive survey of published models of design activity. The design activities mentioned in each model were abstracted and organized into similar categories. The resulting categories are a representation of the primary components of design activity. Each component was also broken down into individual sub-components by further analyzing its specific contents. When expanded into the cognitive categories of Bloom's Taxonomy, the framework can provide attributes at two levels of detail, depending on whether design is described at the component level or the sub-component level. Both levels of the framework have been employed to assess and evaluate a freshman engineering design course.

 d) An ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams

  Is divided into four behavioral dimensions found to be prevalent in successful student work teams. These four dimensions are collaboration, communication, conflict management, and self-management. The specific attributes are designed to measure the occurrence of behaviors in the context of working groups. Each attribute is behaviorally described in order to provide both the feedback provider and receiver with a clear description of the behavior being measured. This allows the learner to translate feedback into developmental action and incremental improvement of the learning outcome in question.

  e) An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

  Is based on the problem solving process that has been well documented in engineering texts. The elements of the process include: problem or opportunity identification, problem statement and system definition, problem formulation and abstraction, information and data collection, model translation, validation, experimental design, solution development or experimentation, interpretation of results, implementation and documentation. Finally, as most engineers eventually learn, the problem solving process is never complete. Therefore, a final element has been included: feedback and improvement.

f) An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

  Comprises four components: ability to make informed ethical choices, knowledge of professional codes of ethics, evaluates the ethical dimensions of professional practice, and demonstrates ethical behavior. The ability to recognize potential ethical dilemmas is emphasized, as is the relationship between cost and schedule pressures and increased risk.

g) An ability to communicate effectively

  Includes a range of communication media -written, oral, graphical, and electronic. In developing the elements of this attribute, the focus is only on these four large areas; an effective assessment program would need to develop measurable sub-elements for each. The categories are based on the process theory of writing and on widely accepted technical communication norms. Once the list of elements and attributes was developed writing specialists, engineering educators and practicing engineers critiqued it.

h) The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context

  Is based on how the engineering student interpret(s) solutions in both a societal (more micro) context, and global (more macro) context. The societal context might be a particular community, state or even country. The global context might cover more than one community, nation, country, etc. Example impacts might include, but are not limited to, political, economical, religious, environmental, communication, and aesthetic impacts. As specific literature for this outcome is scarce, Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) programs were investigated. A variety of programs were explored to learn about their objectives and curricula.

 i)  A recognition of the need for and an ability to engage in life-long learning

   One of the difficulties with developing measurable performance criteria for life-long learning is that there is no commonly accepted definition of what this concept means. Several authors have written about what it means to be a life-long learner, but little was found about what types of knowledge, skill or attitudinal sets are needed to become an effective "life-long learner." The attributes listed in this taxonomy have been developed from references and will, hopefully, inspire the reader to further explore what it means for students in his/her program to recognize the need for lifelong learning.

 j) A knowledge of contemporary issues

  This is also a difficult outcome to define, particularly relative to "h" above. Here the focus is on "knowledge" and is interpreted to mean the student's obtaining in-depth knowledge of at least one contemporary issue. Three types of examples are given -socio-economic, political and environmental. It is anticipated that faculty will develop other broad issue areas, using these three as guidelines. Specifically excluded are contemporary, technical engineering issues since these are included in outcome "k" as well as in "a."

k) An ability to use the techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice

  Encompasses a wide range of tools and skills needed by engineering graduates including computer software, simulation packages, diagnostic equipment, and use of technical library resources and literature search tools. No attempt was made to develop an inclusive list of all skills and tools needed by graduates of all engineering disciplines, but rather a generic description of the outcome at each Bloom level (plus the valuation affective domain) was developed. This information should be flexible enough to be applied to specific disciplines by engineering faculty.

  Each engineering program which will utilize these outcome measures will have to achieve faculty consensus on the meaning and translation of the outcome statements as it applies directly to them. Then the desired outcomes must be converted into useful metrics for assessment. Each engineering program and individual course may have different outcome interpretations depending on the perspectives of the engineering educators involved and the institution’s mission and program objectives.

 Comprehensive testing

  The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying in the US has for several decades prepared nationwide tests for engineering graduates aspiring to become licensed professional engineers. Two examinations are provided by NCEES for application at the state level, a Fundamentals Examination (FE) and Principles and Practice Exam (PE). The Fundamentals Exam is typically administered at about the time the engineering student graduates with a bachelor’s degree, and the PE exam usually follows after four or more years of practice as an engineer-in-training.

  NCEES points out that the FE is the only nationally normed exam that addresses specific engineering topics. While was originally developed to document the engineering graduate’s knowledge of fundamentals on the way to professional engineering licensure, NCEES changed its format in the late 1990’s to make it potentially useful for outcomes assessment. The exam is now divided into two half-day sessions, where the first tests broad fundamentals, and is common to all disciplines. Topics covered include:

-                     Chemistry

-                     Computers

-                     Dynamics

-                     Electrical circuits

-                     Engineering economics

-                     Fluid mechanics

-                     Materials science/structure of matter

-                     Mathematics

-                     Mechanics of materials

-                     Statics

-                     Thermodynamics

-                     Ethics

 The afternoon session is administered in six disciplines: Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Environmental, Industrial, and Mechanical Engineering. Examinees must work all questions in the morning session, and all questions in the afternoon section they have chosen. For more details on the FE Exam, see www.ncees.org.

  The use of the NCEES Fundamentals Exam for outcomes assessment on engineering programs is currently highly controversial in the US . At the 2002 annual meeting of ABET, a major panel discussion discussed the pros and cons of using the FE as an outcomes assessment tool. Proponents of its use stated that it can be useful in assessing six of the eleven outcomes required in ABET’s Criteria 2000:

-                     an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering

-                     an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

-                     an ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs

-                     an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

-                     an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

-                     an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice

Those who criticize the possible use of the FE as an assessment tool point out the following:

-                     Using the FE exam as an assessment tool is antithetical to the philosophy of ABET Criteria 2000, which aims to promote program innovation at each school

-                     If the FE exam became an widely accepted assessment tool, curricula would have to be redesigned to assure that graduates were successful on the exam (teach to the test)

-                     The FE does not cover advanced material typically taught in the last two years of an engineering program

-                     The FE exam does not cover all engineering disciplines

-                     The information provided from exam results is not .fine grained’ enough to be useful in continuous improvement efforts

-                     In order to get meaningful data, each student would be have to be required to take the exam

-                     Even if students are required to take the exam, it is hard to make them take it seriously

-                     Requiring students to pass the exam to graduate would remove final judgment from the control of the faculty and the university

This debate is still current – but to date, the vast majority of US engineering schools is utilizing outcomes assessment tools tailored to individual institutional needs, not moving toward utilization of the NCEES Fundamentals Exam.



 Since peer-evaluation based accreditation has been found to be valuable for traditional on-campus educational programs, there has been a driving force to develop similar approaches to evaluate distance education programs. In the US , two current approaches are noteworthy – an accreditation commission focused on distance education, and one of the regional accreditation bodies which has developed a system of best practices for electronically offered degrees.

Distance education accrediting commission

  The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), founded in 1926, has its roots as a voluntary association of correspondence schools offering ‘home study’ programs. It has evolved over the years, until in 1994 it changed its name and charter to become DETC. It is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and by the US Department of Education for accreditation of postsecondary institutions offering programs primarily by the distance education method up through the first professional degree. The accreditation standards of DETC, listed below, are organized in twelve areas:

1.                  Institution mission and objectives

2.                  Educational program objectives, curricula and materials

3.                  Educational services

4.                  Student services

5.                  Student achievement and satisfaction

6.                  Qualifications of owners, governing board members, administrators, instructors/faculty, and staff

7.                  Admission practices and enrollment agreements

8.                  Advertising, promotional literature, and recruitment personnel

9.                  Financial responsibility

10.              Tuition policies, collection procedures, and refunds

11.              Plant, equipment, and record protection

12.              Research and self improvement.

  DETC publishes an extensive Accreditation Handbook, which provides detailed information on its policies and procedures. For more information, see its web site at www.detc.org.

The Higher Learning Commission

The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, one of several regional accreditation bodies in the US which accredits universities at the total institution level, has established mechanisms to evaluate technologically mediated instruction offered at a distance, as distance education has become an important component of higher education. The Higher Learning Commission, created by the North Central Association to address such areas as distance education, has developed its approach with an eye to maintaining certain core values:

·                    that education is best experienced within a community of learning where competent professionals are actively and cooperatively involved with creating, providing, and improving the instructional program;

·                    that learning is dynamic and interactive, regardless of the setting in which it occurs;

·                    that instructional programs leading to degrees having integrity are organized around substantive and coherent curricula which define expected learning outcomes;

·                    that institutions accept the obligation to address student needs related to, and to provide the resources necessary for, their academic success;

·                    that institutions are responsible for the education provided in their name;

·                    that institutions undertake the assessment and improvement of their quality, giving particular emphasis to student learning;

·                    that institutions voluntarily subject themselves to peer review.

The Higher Learning Commission uses the following evaluative framework, utilizing peer review, to assure that technologically mediated instruction offered at a distance meets the same high standards for quality as traditional on-campus programs:

·                    the first-time development of distance education programming leading to a degree designated for students off-campus will be subject to careful prior review;

·                    institutional effectiveness in providing education at a distance will be explicitly and rigorously appraised as a part of the regular evaluation of colleges and universities such as the comprehensive visit and interim report;

·                    an essential element in all evaluative processes will be institutional self-evaluation for the purpose of enhancing quality;

·                    in cases where deficiencies are identified and/or concerns regarding integrity, remediation will be expected and aggressively monitored;

·                    appropriate action will be taken in keeping with individual commission policy and procedure in those cases where an institution is found to be demonstrably incapable of effectively offering distance education programming.

The Commission provides a detailed Best Practices and protocols document for the guidance of institutions seeking to evaluate and accredit distance education programs, covering the following five areas:

1.                                          Institutional context and commitment (Electronically offered programs both support and extend the roles of educational institutions. Increasingly they are integral to academic organization, with growing implications for institutional infrastructure)

2.                                          Curriculum and instruction (Methods change, but standards of quality endure. The important issues are not technical but curriculum-driven and pedagogical. Decisions about such matters are made by qualified professionals and focus on learning outcomes for an increasingly diverse student population)

3.                                          Faculty support (Faculty roles are becoming increasingly diverse and reorganized. The same person may not perform both the tasks of course development and direct instruction to students. Regardless of who performs which tasks, important quality issues are involved)

4.                                          Student support (Colleges and universities have learned that the twenty-first century student is different, both demographically and geographically, from students of previous generations. These differences affect everything from admissions policy to library services. Reaching these students, and serving them appropriately, are major challenges to today’s institutions)

5.                                          Evaluation and assessment (Both the assessment of student achievement and evaluation of the overall program take on added importance as new techniques evolve. For example, in asynchronous programs the element of seat time is essentially removed from the equation. For these reasons, the institution conducts sustained, evidence-based and participatory inquiry as to whether distance learning programs are achieving objectives. The results of such inquiry are used to guide curriculum design and budgets and perhaps have implications for the institution’s roles and mission.

For more information see www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org.



Engineering schools at universities prepare graduates for a variety of post-baccalaureate  paths – entry to graduate school in engineering or another field (business, law, medicine, etc.); entry to employment in engineering or a related field (business, sales, etc.); self employment or entrepreneurial startup effort; or employment in a field unrelated to the engineering education completed. The majority of bachelor’s level graduates generally seek employment in an industry with a technical orientation, however, so engineering schools typically seek relationships with such industries in order to be responsive to their needs.

Engineering schools at universities provide several products and services that are useful to industry: a flow of engineering graduates, hopefully attuned to and prepared for the needs of industrial employers; continuing education for graduate engineers, to help them stay technically and professionally up-to-date throughout their careers; and a flow of research and development results which may be utilized by industrial companies to enhance their products and services.

Industrial companies typically respond by building relationships with a few engineering schools close to them in geography or in technical specialties of interest. Companies often provide summer jobs, co-op experiences, internships, or part-time jobs for engineering students. They also interview graduating seniors at appropriate engineering schools, and employ those that best fir their needs. Companies also typically provide input to the leadership of engineering schools about trends in the industry, perceived needs in graduates, and feedback on how well recent graduates are faring in their jobs. Such corporate input often takes the form of service by senior engineers or managers on the advisory committees of engineering college deans or department chairs.

Companies also often provide funding for research and development work at universities, supplying the resources to support student researchers and the faculty members under whose supervision they work. In the current economy, such support is often directed to short-term needs of the company, and intellectual property rights are carefully spelled out to give advantage to the sponsoring company.

Continuing education for practicing engineers has become a major need for industry, and many engineering schools have added practice-oriented courses for employed engineers in formats and delivery systems that are convenient and attractive. For-profit schools are also quite active in trying to meet the continuing education needs of corporate employees, so engineering schools may see considerable competition to their offerings.

A brief case study may be useful in describing how a good university-industry partnership can be beneficial to both parties. When serving as a dean of engineering some years ago, the author of this paper visited the CEOs of several large industrial corporations in his state to determine how his engineering college might serve them better. One CEO asked whether the engineering school could develop a program to produce a flow of microwave engineers -- a  field that had lost favor due to a much increased interest in computer related fields, but one in which many job openings were developing as senior engineers in the field retired. The engineering school responded by rejuvenating its curriculum in microwave engineering, modernizing its laboratories, and seeking students for a concentrated master’s degree program. The corporation supported that effort by making a major grant to upgrade the laboratories, and by guaranteeing a flow of students into the program – by hiring top bachelor’s level graduates across the country, and sending them to the new master’s degree program with all expenses paid for their first year of employment. The initial corporation also persuaded several other companies with interests in microwave engineering to participate in the new educational program. The program has been successful for many years, to the benefit of both industry and the university.


Engineering practice today is increasingly international, with cross-border practice of the profession becoming pervasive. Engineering education throughout the developed world has much in common, and provides the common element for effective practice of engineers across national boundaries. This paper explores the formation of engineers for international practice, quality assurance mechanisms for engineering education in the international arena, and a case study of one effort at formalizing cross-border engineering practice.

Education for international practice

To adequately prepare new engineering graduates for effective careers in the international arena, engineering education today needs to have several dimensions in addition to the traditional math and science application skills which have been the basis for past generations of graduates. The new requirements include:

·        Foreign language proficiency (written and spoken fluency in at least one foreign language, preferably two),

·        Cultural background development (education concerning the culture of peoples in regions of the world where engineers may practice),

·        International business issues (competitiveness, free market developments, multi-national companies, varying ethical norms, varying consumer protection mechanisms, etc.), and

·        Technical issues (measurement systems, varying standards and codes, environmental concerns, etc.).  

These new elements must be woven into the education of engineers in ways which do not dilute the traditional mathematics, science and engineering studies which provide the technical base for a successful career in engineering practice. [1]

Quality measures

In several areas of the developed world, accreditation is utilized as the primary quality control mechanism for engineering education. Accreditation systems typically provide for the review of educational programs by external examiners, against standards set by the profession which graduates are being prepared to enter. In the United States of America, for example, engineering programs at colleges and universities are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This system was put in place in the 1930’s as several technical engineering societies banded together to develop and implement a quality review mechanism that would periodically evaluate each engineering program in depth, and accredit those found to meet standards of quality agreed to by the profession. ABET currently accredits essentially all engineering education programs in the United States, providing minimum standards for quality, by examining curriculum, faculty credentials, student quality, facilities, and other features. As a mature accreditation system with extensive experience over time, ABET is currently in the process of changing from technique specifications for quality control to outcome measures – its new Criteria 2000.

The Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) provides similar quality control for engineering education in Canada, utilizing a system similar to that used by ABET in the United States. Some dozen years ago, ABET and CEAB entered into a mutual recognition agreement that recognized the engineering graduates of colleges and universities in the two countries as substantially equivalent. This agreement provided for ready acceptance of engineering degree credentials between the United States and Canada , and laid the foundation for cross-border mobility at the entry level of engineering practice. In particular, it certified graduates of accredited engineering programs in each country as equivalent for purposes of entering the professional engineering licensure process.

Equivalency of education across borders

In the late 1980’s, yet a broader mutual recognition agreement was entered into by six countries with well developed accreditation systems – the Washington Accord, signed by Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America, Ireland and the United Kingdom. This agreement was based upon exchange visits between each of the six countries to develop confidence that their engineering education systems were indeed substantially equivalent, and that their accreditation systems were effective in providing quality assurance. The Washington Accord has recently been expanded to include two additional countries, Hong Kong and South Africa . The import of this agreement is that the educational credentials of engineering graduates from each of the countries are fully accepted in all of the other countries as if the education had been completed locally. This provides the basis for application for practice credentials, such as licensure.

In order to position themselves for similar educational equivalency arrangements, and/or eventual practice credential arrangements, other countries have been developing accreditation systems like those in Canada and the United States . Mexico is well along in developing its engineering accreditation system, for example, with assistance having been provided by the Canadian CEAB and the American ABET. This system is being utilized in a first round of accreditation evaluations at Mexican schools. The driving force for this development has been the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is intended to stimulate cross-border engineering practice among the countries of Mexico , Canada and the United States .

Engineering practice credentialing

In the United States of America , engineers who offer their services directly to the public must be licensed to practice. The licensing jurisdiction is the individual state or territory, of which there are 55, rather than the Federal government. These 55 licensing boards have banded together in the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) in order to move toward common standards and common testing methodologies. Typical requirements today are graduation from an ABET accredited engineering curriculum, completion of two examinations of 8 hours each – one on engineering fundamentals and one on engineering practice – and a minimum of four years of satisfactory engineering practice.

Canada has a similar system of licensure for engineers, operated at the level of its 12 provinces and territories. The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE), which operates this system, has somewhat different criteria however. Graduation from a CEAB accredited engineering curriculum is required, but there is typically no further examination beyond the educational credential. Instead, four years of supervised practice, guided by already licensed Professional Engineers, is required to confirm the full license to practice. The Mexican system is different still, with engineering licensure granted at the Federal level, based on educational credentials alone. 

NAFTA developments

In the mid 1990’s, the governments of Canada, the United States of America, and Mexico entered into a broad North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), designed to lower national border constraints to the movement of both goods and services among the three countries. Among NAFTA’s objectives was the lowering of trade in services barriers by discouraging citizenship and residency requirements as a pre-condition to professional licensure in the three countries. Within the national level agreement, each profession or other group which was involved in cross border practice was asked to develop agreements for their particular segment of the economy. For engineering, the United States government recognized a newly formed entity, the United States Council for International Engineering Practice (USCIEP), which consisted of representatives of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), ABET and NCEES. ABET was included to work on educational credentials, NCEES to work on state licensure issues, and NSPE to work on professional practice issues. The Canadian engineering profession was represented by CCPE, and the Mexican profession by Comite Mexicano para Practica International de la Ingenieria (COMPII). CCPE is an association of engineers, which has been designated by the Canadian Government to negotiate the engineering cross-border arrangements, and COMPII is a quasi-governmental body incorporating the interests of the engineering profession in Mexico and its Federal government.

After several months of negotiation between CCPE, USCIEP and COMPII, a Mutual Recognition Document (MRD) was initialed in 1995, subject to full ratification by the governing boards of the several groups involved in the negotiations. The MRD was basically structured to recognize successful professional engineering practice in each country, as certified by that country’s licensure system, and to allow engineers with a valid license in any of the three countries to be recognized to practice in the other two.

 In Mexico , the relevant authority was the Federal government, and it ratified the MRD. In Canada the CCPE Board first ratified the MRD at the national level and recommended that its member provinces and territories adopt it, then each of the 12 licensing units in turn ratified it. In the United States , the NSPE Board fully ratified the MRD, and the ABET Board did also. The NCEES Board had more difficulty in accepting the MRD however, with many of its 55 member licensing jurisdictions being unwilling to accept the concept of mutual recognition of another country’s licensing system. Many of the state licensing boards insisted that any applicant to practice in their jurisdictions must comply with exactly the same process that a resident of their state or another jurisdiction in the United States must follow – an ABET accredited degree, two examinations, and four years of satisfactory practice. At the NCEES annual meeting in 1995, a provisional two year acceptance of the MRD was approved, to allow states which wanted to pursue it to do so. Only one state, Texas , has accepted the MRD to date. At its 1997 annual meeting, the NCEES Board declined to extend its endorsement of the MRD, so that document now has questionable validity.

Since the appropriate Canadian and Mexican authorities have fully adopted the NAFTA MRD, cross-border engineering licensing and practice is occurring between those two countries. The southern border state of Texas in the United States is also moving rapidly toward cross-border licensing, particularly between engineers in Mexico and in Texas . Other states in the United States are considering whether to follow the path of Texas , and to adopt the MRD in spite of the reluctance of NCEES as a whole to give it full recognition.

Cross-border practice beyond North America

The group of countries that agreed to mutual educational equivalency in the Washington Accord have been pursuing the possibility of adding an agreement on cross-border practice, through licensure, on top of the educational agreement. This effort has met under the banner Hong Kong Working Group for the past several years. It includes representatives from the eight countries of the Washington Accord, plus delegates from the Federation of European National Engineering Associations (FEANI) and the Japan Consulting Engineers Association (JCEA).

In late 1997, this group organized more formally as the Engineers Mobility Forum (EMF). Its objective is to facilitate the cross-border mobility of experienced professional engineers by establishing a system of mutual recognition which is based on confidence in the integrity of national assessment systems, secured through continuing mutual inspection and evaluation of those systems.

  Commentary on current status

Cross-border practice of engineering is currently a well established fact. Many engineers who work for multi-national industrial corporations move readily across borders in carrying out their work, essentially oblivious to national constraints, due to the presence of their companies in the several countries within which they work.

Private practice engineers whose work is offered to the public, and thus typically involves the need to be licensed in the jurisdiction where work is to be performed, are subject to more constraints. In many cases a private practice firm will enter into a partnership with a local firm in the second country where work is to  be performed, relying on the locally credentialed engineers to review and certify the engineering work done. Private practice engineers in small firms or working as individual practitioners, who cannot afford or cannot arrange for local engineering firm partnerships, often must seek licensing in the second country in order to practice there. In the latter case, cross-border educational equivalency and licensing arrangements are important. Even in the case where firms partner across national borders, there is frequently pressure for the engineers in the first country to be licensed in the second country as well.

In its purest sense, the licensure of engineers by appropriate professional and governmental bodies is intended to protect the life, safety, health and welfare of the public in the licensing jurisdiction. Unfortunately, considerations such as protection of the economic interests of locally credentialed engineers sometimes color the willingness of local licensing jurisdictions to enter into open cross-border practice agreements.

Engineering is an international profession, based upon application of the same scientific, mathematical and technical foundations regardless of national borders. In this feature, it is thus different than professional fields such as law and accounting. In the judgment of the author, the commonality of engineering education and practice across national borders should result in the free flow of engineering talent and practice across such borders, for the betterment of mankind and for the economic well being of the societies which engineers serve. Thus developments such as the education of engineers for international practice, the accreditation of engineering education programs to allow substantial equivalency agreements to be formed, and the mutual recognition of engineering licensing credentials across national borders must be pursued with deliberate speed.  

Note: The above material is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones, presented at a conference in Krakow , Poland in 1998 and published in the Proceedings of the ‘Global Congress on Engineering Education’.



Evaluations of engineering education programs leading to degrees at all levels are conducted by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) upon request by institutions outside the United States . While these evaluations follow similar policies and procedures used for accreditation, no accreditation action is taken, nor is there any inference that a program is undergoing accreditation or will be accredited as a result of such review. The activity is an evaluation (program review) in which ABET, through selected representatives, acts on a consultancy basis, and leads to an assessment of "substantial equivalency" of the program under review with accredited programs in the United States. "Substantial equivalency" means comparable in program content and educational experience, but such programs may not be absolutely identical in format or method of delivery. It implies reasonable confidence that the program has prepared its graduates to begin professional practice at the entry level.

The following programs are not accredited by ABET, but are deemed substantially equivalent to programs in the United States . Programs are listed with the date of the initial visit in brackets. Information is current as of October 1, 2003 .


Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
- Santiago, Chile
Chemical Engineering [2003]
Civil Engineering [2003]
Computer Engineering [2003]
Electrical Engineering [2003]
Mechanical Engineering [2003]


University of Karlsruhe
- Karlsruhe
, Germany

Electrical Engineering [2001]


Kuwait University
- Kuwait City, Kuwait
Chemical Engineering [1990]
Civil Engineering [1990]
Computer Engineering [1990]
Electrical Engineering [1990]
Industrial & Management Systems Engineering [2002]
Mechanical Engineering [1990]
Petroleum Engineering [1995]


Instituto Tecnólogico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
- Monterrey, N.L., Mexico
Chemical & Industrial Engineering [1992]
Chemical & Systems Engineering [1992]
Civil Engineering [1992]
Computer Systems Engineering [2001]
Electronics & Communications Engineering [1992]
Industrial & Systems Engineering [1992]
Mechanical & Electrical Engineering [1992]
Mechanical & Industrial Engineering [1992]

Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Campus Ciudad de Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico
Electronics & Communications Engineering [2003]
Industrial & Systems Engineering [2003]
Mechanical Engineering [2003]

Instituto Tecnólogico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Estado de Mexico Campus
Mexico City, Mexico
Electronics and Communications Engineering [2002]
Electronics and Computer Systems [2002]
Industrial and Systems Engineering [2002]
Mechanical Engineering [2002]

Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Campus Queretaro
- Queretaro, Mexico
Computer Systems Engineering [1993]
Electronic Systems Engineering [1993]
Electronics & Communications Engineering [1993]
Industrial & Systems Engineering [1993]
Mechanical & Industrial Engineering [1993]


Technische Universiteit Delft
- Delft, Netherlands
Aerospace Engineering [1995]
Chemical Engineering [2001]
Civil Engineering [2001]
Electrical Engineering [1997]
Geodetic Engineering [2001]
Materials Science and Engineering [2001]
Mechanical Engineering [2001]
Naval and Marine Engineering [2001]

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven
- Eindhoven
, Netherlands

Chemical Engineering [2001]
Electrical Engineering [2001]
Industrial Engineering [2001]
Mechanical Engineering [2001]


King Abdulaziz University
- Jeddah, Saudia Arabia
Aeronautical Engineering [2003]
Biomedical Engineering [2003]
Chemical Engineering [2003]
Civil Engineering [2003]
Computer and Control Engineering [2003]
Electric Power & Machine Engineering [2003]
Electronics & Communications Engineering [2003]
Industrial Engineering [2003]
Mining Engineering [2003]
Nuclear Engineering [2003]
Production Engineering & Mechanical Systems Design [2003]
Thermal Engineering & Desalination Technology [2003]

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
- Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Applied Chemical Engineering (2002)
Applied Civil Engineering (2002)
Applied Electrical Engineering (2002)
Applied Mechanical Engineering (2002)
Architectural Engineering [1993]
Chemical Engineering [1993]
Civil Engineering [1993]
Computer Engineering [1993]
Computer Science (2002)
Construction Engineering & Management (2002)
Electrical Engineering [1993]
Mechanical Engineering [1993]
Petroleum Engineering [1993]
Systems Engineering-Automation & Control (2002)
Systems Engineering-Industrial Engineering & Organization (2002)


National University of Singapore
- Singapore

Chemical Engineering [1999]


Bilkent University
- Ankara
, Turkey

Industrial Engineering [1995]

Bogaziçi University
- Istanbul
, Turkey

Chemical Engineering [1999]
Civil Engineering [1999]
Computer Engineering [1999]
Electrical and Electronics Engineering [1999]
Industrial Engineering [1999]
Mechanical Engineering [1999]

Middle East Technical University
Ankara , Turkey
Aeronautical Engineering [2002]
Computer Engineering [2002]
Environmental Engineering [2002]
Food Engineering [2002]
Geological Engineering [2002]
Industrial Engineering [2002]
Petroleum and Gas Engineering [2002]


United Arab Emirates University
- Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates
Chemical Engineering [1999]
Civil Engineering [1999]
Electrical Engineering (Gen) [1999]
Electrical Engineering (Telecommunication) [1999]
Mechanical Engineering [1999]
Petroleum Engineering [1999]

For more information on ABET’s international activities, see www.abet.org.



The annual meeting of SEFI (The European Society for Engineering Education), held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on September 12 – 14, 2001, provided a model for what engineering education conferences should be in the future.  If engineering education is truly a global enterprise, then we, as professionals, must make these meetings truly international.  This can be accomplished by enabling a wide range of colleagues from around the world to participate and to take an active role in disseminating useful information about the processes of teaching and learning in the engineering environment.  Two barriers to such democratized participation were attacked in this event: the barrier of culture ignorance, which means that engineers from one part of the world do not always have sufficient understanding of the issues affecting their colleagues elsewhere, and the barrier of cost, which prevents many engineering educators from developing parts of the world from attending in person even the most important international events.  The SEFI Copenhagen meeting was the core around which were built 1) a pre-conference, 2) an electronic conference, and 3) a post-conference.  Each of these components was designed to enhance the experience of traditional attendees, to attract attendees from other countries and educational traditions, and to extend the benefits of the conference to those unable to attend in person.  This paper explains each of the three components and proposes a model for use by future engineering education gatherings. 

The European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI)

  SEFI (Société européenne pour la formation des ingénieurs) is the major engineering education organization of Europe with membership composed of individuals, educational institutions, industries and related organizations. Since it’s founding in 1973 SEFI has pursued its mission “to contribute to the development and improvement of engineering education in the economic, social and cultural framework of Europe .” SEFI promotes the exchange of ideas about best practices through its quarterly publication, The European Journal of Engineering Education.  It organizes its activities around nine working groups and four committees. SEFI is directed by an elected president and an elected board of 26.   Headquarters are in Brussels , where a full-time Secretary General directs operations. For more information see http://www.SEFI.be.

  The 2001 SEFI annual meeting

  The annual meeting of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) was held in Copenhagen , Denmark from 12 to 14 September 2001 , under the sponsorship of the Technical University of Denmark and the Engineering College of Copenhagen. The theme of the meeting was “New engineering competencies: changing the paradigm.” Major plenary sessions covered the following topics:

·                    The changing society

·                    New engineering competencies

·                    Changing the paradigm

See www.sefi2001.dk for details of the program.

As early as spring, 1999, discussions were underway between the conference organizers and other organization leaders to determine SEFI’s interest in using the conference as a centerpiece for three important activities that would take advantage of the intellectual stimulation of the central meeting and enhance international participation outside of the European community. Ultimately, three components were approved as add-ons to the central conference design: a pre-conference, an electronic conference, and a post-conference.

  The pre-conference workshop

 World Expertise LLC of Falls Church, VA  USA organized a pre-conference workshop designed to introduce US engineering educators to issues and opportunities in European engineering education, while increasing the participation of US educators in the SEFI annual meeting. US participants were engineering faculty and administrators who want to bring greater familiarity with international issues to their teaching and service responsibilities at their home institutions.

The short, concentrated workshop took place in the day and a half preceding the SEFI conference – on Monday evening, 10 September and all day Tuesday, 11 September 2001 . Participants attended presentations and discussions providing a comprehensive overview of current trends and issues in European engineering education. Particular attention was paid to explaining the relevance of these topics to US higher education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition, selected sessions of the SEFI conference were coordinated with the workshop in order to draw the US educators into dialogue with colleagues on broader themes on international engineering education.

  The electronic conference 

Gearold Johnson, Academic Vice President of the National Technological University and Russel C. Jones, managing partner in World Expertise LLC, designed an electronic conference that took the form of a global poster session using the Internet and the World Wide Web. The intent was to simulate electronically a traditional session in which presenters gave summaries of papers describing and analyzing projects in engineering education, and engaged in dialogue with members in attendance at the session.  The hope was that such educators would use provided web locations to share 'best practices' with their peers globally, and in the process of reviewing other such submissions would continue their own professional development.

Announcements about the electronic conference began to circulate in the late spring before the conference.  Submissions were posted as they were received.  At the actual SEFI meeting the papers were summarized and the results presented as part of an experts' panel. The entire session was videotaped and these results are being made available globally using the same technologies as the worldwide poster session. 

The rationale behind this electronic conference is that engineering educators throughout the world need continued stimulation from colleagues in order to stay abreast of new developments in their field, and thus to stay relevant and up to date in their teaching. Active faculty members with adequate resources often accomplish this collegial interaction through participation in international conferences on engineering education, sponsored periodically by organizations such as UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization), WFEO (World Federation of Engineering Organizations), SEFI, and ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education), etc.

Unfortunately, engineering educators teaching in developing countries often do not have the resources to participate in such conferences. Travel expenses, conference registration fees, and on-site expenses are typically beyond their means. This often leads to a steady decline in their effectiveness as faculty members, as they fall increasingly behind new developments in engineering education. 

Based on National Technological University 's experience, sufficient electronic communication technologies exist, at least in capital cities throughout the developing world, to allow participation in an electronic conference, so that engineering educators there are able to participate readily. In target developing countries (e.g. in Africa , Latin America , Asia , Central and Eastern Europe ) the availability of Internet accessibility was assessed and determined able to provide effective access.

The conference was organized similar to traditional, placed-bound conferences. Accepted papers were arranged into thematic sessions. This was accomplished on the worldwide web by placing related papers under various entry points from the main conference web site. The conference papers could be presented in text form or via web-based slides, a format common at conferences. PowerPoint could be used to generate the slide presentations and accompanying audio. The full text of each paper was available for either reading directly on the web or downloading for later reading and/or printing.

As is the case at traditional conferences, discussions related to individual papers were encouraged. Threaded discussion groups were associated with each individual paper to facilitate discussion between participants, including authors.

To stimulate the type of discussion that often occurs as a wrap-up at the end of a session, treaded discussions were also organized around each of the thematic sections of the conference. These discussion groups could explore global issues related to the sessions’ themes. Participants could discuss broader issues, compare and contrast papers, and make connections with participants with similar interests.

At the completion of the electronic conference, a summary session was held in Copenhagen . A group of technical experts was formed to review the electronic conference activities. This group conducted a half-day session to present their summaries, and interact with one another. Transmission of the session by video means to electronic participants worldwide followed. An audience was present, consisting of participants in the face-to-face conference to which the electronic conference was adhered. Logistics of live electronic interaction with electronic participants, and time zone constraints precluded direct live transmission.

A set of effective processes has been demonstrated through this pilot demonstration conference, and the results may be easily transferred to other conference sponsoring groups for inclusion in the normal conference set of activities.  Thus, such conferences would become part of the general framework for many international conferences.

The convergence of computing and telecommunications has been pointed at for several decades as a changing paradigm.  Yet most of the changes have been relatively simple.  Certainly, the World Wide Web alters the ease of getting information and the hypertext transfer protocol is the killer application that killed client/server computing.  As the globe becomes more abstract, movement of more than data and information has to occur.  Global electronic communities have to be constructed.  This project aims to develop a global electronic community among engineering educators and for the first time, include as citizens, engineering educators from developing nations to share their experiences and learn from their peers.

In the not too distant future, conferences as described herein should become pervasive.  Travel requirements must decrease if our global society is truly to become a sustainable environment.  This project was a pilot to demonstrate that a meaningful transfer of practices can be accomplished without individuals’ traveling thousands of miles to meet in a face-to-face setting. 

At the session at SEFI 2001 where the electronic submissions were presented, discussion suggested that the main conference could be further enhanced if its major elements were also made available electronically afterwards – such as video recording of plenary session presentations, to be posted on a web site for viewing by interested persons who were unable to travel to the conference. Such extensions could significantly enhance the effectiveness of such major international conferences.

Engineering has always been a major part of the development of nations and wealth creation.   Building infrastructure from roads, bridges, sanitation facilities, potable water, and the development of industries from mining to high technology all require that a nation educate its own engineers.  Sending bright young people abroad for education works for a while, but the process ultimately requires that these people is educated at home.  In the developing world, many engineering educators have been educated abroad, return home to educate the local population, but then fall further and further behind due to the inaccessibility of state-of-the-art methods in engineering education, 'best practices' of peer instructors, etc.  Maintaining networked connectivity is one way the future will provide a nation with a base of well-educated engineering graduates to fuel technical industries

The post-conference

The ASEE took the lead in organizing a post-conference designed to be held in Berlin directly after the close of the SEFI meeting in Copenhagen , on September 15 – 18. The intent was to allow US participants in the SEFI meeting, and others, to take advantage of an additional conference while in Europe . With travel money becoming increasingly scarce in universities, it is important for participants in international conferences to be able to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of the expenditure.

“Global Changes in Engineering Education” was the title of the ASEE post-conference, and included as its main topics.

·                                National Accreditation / Global Practices

·                                Educating Engineering Students in Entrepreneurship

·                                Technology and Learning Systems

Each of these themes was to be addressed by invited speakers in both plenary and breakout sessions. In addition, poster sessions were organized for attendees who wanted to add to the intellectual discussions at the conference.

Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001 disrupted air travel sufficiently that it was not possible for individuals planning to attend the post-conference to travel to Berlin, so the entire meeting had to be cancelled. It is being rescheduled for 2002.


Major international conferences on topics such as engineering education can be enhanced by several means:

·                    Organize an electronic conference run in advance of the conference, to attract papers from international educators in developing countries who will not be able to participate in the conference in person;

·                    Design a pre-conference aimed at introducing new international conference participants to overall trends and background reflected in the main conference, so that they will benefit more from the presentations and discussions.   Given the continuing problem of preparing engineering students for international practice, it is important that more and more US engineering faculty become familiar with international trends.  But there is an understandable reluctance on the part of US educators simply to appear at an international conference if there is no educational infrastructure in place to make their integration into the conference activities meaningful and informative.

·                    Plan a tightly focused main conference, with traditional plenary sessions and breakout sessions – and the papers from those sessions.   In planning, make sure that this central organization reflects and acknowledges the three additional components, taking into account the presence of newcomers, both real and virtual, who are participating in the intellectual discussion in innovative formats.

·                    Offer a post-conference on more narrowly focused topics, aimed at optimizing travel times and costs for participants in the main conference. The post-conference is optimal for structuring person-to-person contacts among engineering educators, without which no progress is going to be made in internationalizing the engineering curriculum.

·                    SEFI 2001 at Copenhagen was a model for this type of enhanced meeting. It is hoped that future international conferences will follow similar patterns, to make their impact more significant.


Note: The above is taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones, Bethany S. Oberst and Thomas J. Siller, presented at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, and published in the Proceedings of that conference – which are copyright by ASEE.



  The U.S. model of engineering education is rapidly being adopted in one form or another by countries around the world. Given the enduring strength of the U.S. economy and its strong base in technology, it is not surprising that countries wanting to emulate the U.S. economic success would see our model of engineering education as a desirable one. But seen from the inside, U.S. engineering education appears to have significant problems – such as declining enrollments, and the utilization of its graduates as a ‘commodity’ by employers. It also appears that new quasi-engineering academic programs have opened or are being developed to allow students to take more palatable paths to entry to lucrative technology careers. What are foreign countries getting when they adapt our engineering curricula, and is that approach appropriate to their needs?


  There was nothing unusual about the circumstances: two American university professors each received an invitation to share their knowledge of U.S. higher education with fellow academics and some government and industry types in a different developing country.  The invitations originated with overseas friends, but the U.S. colleagues were brought in as official paid consultants.  The assignment in Jordan was long-range and specific: “Help us design a new engineering college that will meet ABET standards.” In the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, the assignment was short-term and generic: “You have two hours to teach us about the credit hour system in American higher education.” And so we went and received appropriate compensation and gratitude for our contributions, but a nagging question remained: “What aspects of U.S. higher education should be exported overseas and what are the U.S. practices that, like some wines, do not travel well?”

  The seminar in Chisinau, capital of Moldova , was sponsored by the Soros Foundation in support of the Moldovan government’s recent decision to implement a credit hour system in their universities. As the presentation was being written, initial worries about communicating effectively with a wildly diverse audience gave way to a larger concern.  The credit hour system in the U.S. is under active attack from within, as public pressure for accountability has forced U.S. colleges and universities to look at what their students have learned rather than how much time they have spent in class.  The emphasis over the past fifteen years has been on outcomes rather than inputs. So wouldn’t the Moldovan educators be better off leap-frogging the credit hour system and instead moving directly to creating an outcomes-based curriculum?

There was no forum for raising this issue. And in the end, practical politics took precedence over a more idealized approach.  Moldovan students are being hindered in their attempts to study outside of their own country because their academic credentials cannot easily be evaluated for transfer.  The credit hour system will provide a commonly spoken academic “language” and provide a quick fix to a country that desperately needs signs of connectivity to the Western world.

 T he second experience, assisting in the initial design and startup of a new engineering college in Jordan , contained similar experiences. The newly appointed Dean was quite experienced with both Middle East engineering education and that available in Western Europe and the United States . As an experienced ABET volunteer, the consultant was asked to help in developing a curriculum that would meet world standards – but also meet the immediate needs of the graduates and the local industries by which they would be employed. Meeting both of these goals within a four-year curriculum proved very difficult, and many tradeoffs had to be made. For example, the curriculum was designed by referring to specification driven criteria, not the more modern outcomes assessment approach. This was deemed necessary in order to give the large number of newly recruited faculty members firm guidance on course development. In addition, major blocks of time in the programs had to be devoted to building the backgrounds of students in areas not typical in Western engineering education – such as machine shop experience. The resulting curriculum thus takes considerable guidance from US standards, but is carefully tailored to meet local needs in a rapidly developing country.

The events are past: the questions remain, however.  What do other countries want from us?  To what extent is the heralded success of the U.S. system of engineering education site-specific?  What is our responsibility, when we take on an overseas assignment, to raise questions about the suitability and limitations of our U.S. practices?  Do codified accreditation standards reflect state-of-the-art thinking about the best of engineering education? Could non-traditional, experimental and highly idiosyncratic engineering programs perhaps be more suitable to the conditions in some developing countries?  Whose role is it to raise these issues?

Export Of U.S. Model

  Many countries are seeking to emulate the U.S. model of engineering education. Its attractiveness as a model appears to be based not only upon its inherent strengths and quality, but also from the assumption that it is a major contributor to the success of the technology driven economy in the United States .

 Many countries have utilized the criteria of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), and consultative services of that body, as ways of adapting U.S. engineering education patterns to their local needs. ABET has worked closely with engineering societies and educators in foreign countries to assist in the development of effective accreditation systems based on the principles of self-assessment, peer review, and stakeholder involvement. ABET has met with representatives from numerous countries, sponsored a series of international workshops on accreditation system development, provided materials and speakers for symposia in foreign countries, and encouraged observers from abroad in all elements of the ABET accreditation process.

  In addition, ABET has sent teams of expert consultants to evaluate foreign engineering programs on their strengths and weaknesses and to make recommendations for improvement. These evaluations closely parallel the procedures and criteria used by ABET in the U.S. , but the programs are not ‘accredited’ -- they are instead rated as to whether they are ‘substantially equivalent’ to accredited U.S. programs. This status implies reasonable confidence that the graduates possess the competencies needed to begin professional engineering practice at the entry level. Using its conventional engineering education criteria, ABET has evaluated and recognized over 70 programs at 14 institutions in 10 countries to date.

  Engineering education in Europe is currently moving closer to the U.S. model, although not overtly indicating that as motivation for recent developments. The Bologna Declaration by the European Union, aimed at creating a European space for higher education, is steering higher education there into patterns typical in the U.S. The Declaration has as objectives a common framework of compatible degrees across Europe , undergraduate and postgraduate degree patterns in all countries, a compatible credit system, quality assurance at the European level, and the elimination of obstacles to mobility for students and faculty. The engineering educators there agree with the encouragement of mobility, but want to maintain the cultural diversity of national education systems. They agree with the desirability of having undergraduate and graduate degrees, but do not want an undergraduate degree to be a prerequisite for graduate study. Countries that have a ‘long program’ for educating engineers to an advanced level want to be able to continue that pattern. But the pressure is clearly toward the U.S. model of a four-year BS followed by an MS, and several European countries are moving to that pattern for their engineering education.

  Engineering education in the United States has been undergoing considerable reform in recent years, fueled by demands for more accountability in undergraduate education overall from consumers and governments, and by a major program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) directly aimed at reform of engineering education. The NSF Engineering Coalitions Program solicited proposals from engineering schools in the spring of 1990, and began funding them for multi-year periods. During the course of this program, which is currently being phased down, some eight major coalitions were funded. Results of this major NSF effort to date have been encouraging. One primary benefit is that the major funding and highly visible priority of the Coalitions program have made engineering education research and development credible at universities where previously only scientific research had been emphasized as appropriate activity. The model programs developed by several of the Coalitions have also provided good models for others to adopt, in areas such as:

·                    Inversion of the curriculum, to bring engineering subjects into the lower division in order to keep student interest in engineering high, and to provide the rationale for the study of mathematics and science which heavily dominates the first two years of engineering study

·                    Just in time coordination of math and science coverage, within the context of engineering problem solving courses, as the major educational stream

·                    Engineering design throughout the curriculum as a major theme, beginning in the Freshman year

·                    Holistic, integrative experiences for undergraduate engineering students

·                    Links to pre-college education, and increased recruitment and retention of under-represented groups

·                    Integrated development of educational tools, including utilization of advanced technologies in the educational process

Due to the large number of engineering schools directly involved in the various Coalitions, and the size of many of those schools, large numbers of current U.S. engineering students are being directly impacted by these experimental programs. Some 40% of all current engineering students in the U.S. are enrolled at Coalition schools, and as the experimental approaches developed are tested and scaled up, this large number of students can be expected to be beneficially impacted. In addition, due to progress reports on Coalition results to engineering education more broadly, schools outside the Coalition program are also adapting some of these new approaches for their own use. Thus, engineering education in the United States has been undergoing a systematic and healthy reform, leading to more emphasis on undergraduate education in engineering faculties and to a resulting improvement in the educational process and its graduates. These developments have been widely reported in engineering education conferences and journals both in the U.S. and throughout the world, and thus are available as models for foreign engineering schools.

But All Is Not Well

  While many aspects of engineering education in the U.S. are strong and vibrant, there are several trends which raise concerns. The number of high school graduates who enroll in engineering programs in the U.S. has been declining significantly in recent years, despite a sustained and increasing demand for technical graduates by employers of engineers. In the mid-1980’s, engineering schools were graduating some 80,000 Bachelors degree students per year – a number that has dropped some 25% since then. It appears that many students are selecting other, often less demanding, paths to the technical employment marketplace – such as computer focused courses of study or quasi-engineering programs with less rigorous mathematics and science requirements.

  There are some interesting trends among recently graduated engineers that may also be impacting on whether young people choose engineering education for career preparation. Many engineering graduates are now experiencing major job changes every few years throughout their careers, as employers ramp up and downsize depending on market shifts and mergers. These changes are often disruptive, and often lead to lateral job placements at best, thus giving the impression that the engineer pool is a ‘commodity’ – rather than engineering seen as a career with progressive placements. In addition, many engineering graduates – particularly those accepting first positions out of college – are being employed by financial consulting firms and similar non-engineering employers, who want to utilize their quantitative skills for a few years while they are on top of the latest high tech state-of-the-art. At some engineering colleges, as many as 40% of the recent graduates have taken such first jobs.

  Engineering education is perhaps the most studied and discussed field of college and university education in the U.S. – subjected to repeated studies by educators and practitioners. While it is currently viewed as strong and healthy in terms of content and approach, the declining enrollments and developments in the employment market place appear to require continued attention by those concerned about the long-term well being of the profession and the technical economy of the country.

  With these concerns, it behooves engineering educators and government agencies in foreign countries to look carefully at what they adapt from the U.S. engineering education model. For example, ABET has recently made a fundamental and broad change in its accreditation criteria, from a highly structured prescriptive set of criteria to an outcomes assessment format with only a few general specific criteria, called Engineering Criteria 2000. In seeking a model to make available to engineering educators in developing countries, the World Federation of Engineering Organizations Committee on Education and Training has recommended that such countries follow the previous ABET approach, rather than the new outcomes based approach.

   Alternatives To Traditional Programs

  Alternatives to traditional engineering programs have been proliferating over the past decade and a half.  Some of these are offered on established college and university campuses, but others are located on corporate campuses, and still others exist in virtual space.  All of these offer graduates additional entry points to employment in the booming technology sectors.

  James Madison University ’s College of Integrated Science and Technology has a program which was purposely designed to be neither pure science, nor pure engineering nor pure business, but to strategically integrate these areas of studies. The program’s mission statement  (http://www.isat.jmu.edu/mission.htm) contains a claim about its superiority to traditional, narrower programs and can be read as a critique of where engineering education is perceived to have fallen short:

  “The Program in Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT) educates students for positions that are often filled by graduates of the traditional sciences, engineering, and business programs. The ISAT graduate, however, is professionally prepared in a broader sense. ISAT students are educated to be technological problem solvers, communicators, and life-long learners. They are unique in having

·                                breadth of knowledge and skills across a variety of scientific and technological disciplines;

·                                formal training in collaborative and leadership methods, problem-solving techniques from many disciplines, and use of the computer as a problem-solving tool;

·                                the ability to integrate scientific and technological factors with political, social, economic, and ethical considerations in problem solving.” 

 Of the thirty-nine faculty members teaching full-time in the program, fifteen have doctorates in engineering.  Many of the others are in computer science, a few are classically trained physicists, and a large number specialized in applied sciences.  The curricular design, however, obligates the faculty to work together, regardless of their disciplinary background. 

  Students are voting with their feet. The first class of majors in integrated science and technology was admitted to James Madison University in August of 1993.  The first degrees were awarded to 37 students in 1997.  Since then, enrollment has been growing at a fast pace, with 164 students graduating with undergraduate ISAT degrees in 2000.  A continuing survey of campus recruiters and questionnaires sent to graduates indicates excellent success in placing them in jobs where their broad skills are highly valued and compensated.

  If developing countries want to educate their own citizens to remain at home and engage in nation-building, they can legitimately ask about trade-offs, much as the founding faculty of the program in Integrated Science and Technology did as they designed their curriculum.  What, for example, is the wisest trade-off between teaching high technical competencies required for employment as an engineer in the US and teaching about the strategic deployment of scarce resources and how to evaluate a proposed technical solution to a problem embedded deeply in a unique political, social, economic and cultural environment?  

  Other non-traditional approaches are also competing with traditional engineering education. Motorola University provides large numbers of technical and business oriented courses to current employees of the multinational high technology firm within which it is contained. Novell, Microsoft and other high technology companies offer commercial short course programs to prepare graduates for highly paid technical positions in the computer field – granting such titles as “certified software engineer”.  The University of Phoenix , a private institution with major electronic offerings and dispersed campuses serving adult learners, offers many programs aimed at preparing their graduates for entry into lucrative technical job markets. Should developing countries be emulating some of these approaches instead of or in addition to traditional engineering education programs?


What do these alternative approaches to engineering education offer as value-added to developing countries seeking to educate their citizens in ways that support economic development at home? Valuable aspects to be included in the education of new generations of engineers in developing countries would be: expertise in reaching out to non-traditional and under-represented populations; commitment to meeting the continuing education needs in the profession; training in business knowledge, skills and experience; explicit consideration of appropriate uses of technology in differing cultural and social environments; careful articulation with primary and secondary schools; and an emphasis on interdisciplinary work.

  As more and more American engineering educators are called upon to lend their expertise to their overseas colleagues in establishing or refining engineering programs, the first question all parties need to ask is where the students are expected to practice.  A U.S. look-alike program might well be counterproductive, turning out students fit for the U.S. labor market, but missing those skills which will be most useful to their own countries.

  Note: The above material was taken from a paper by Russel C. Jones and Bethany S. Oberst, presented at the 2001 annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, and published in the Proceedings of that conference – which are copyright by ASEE.




Reform in engineering education is needed in all parts of the world, as universities prepare graduates to enter the profession of engineering which has been transformed by massive technological developments and by globalization of all aspects of concern to engineers. Major reform movements in the United States and in Europe have been described above, and it is recommended that engineering schools in the Arab States Region become familiar with the advances being made in engineering education and adapt relevant changes and best practices to appropriately reform engineering education in their region of the World.

 W ith globalization of the engineering profession and the organizations within which engineers perform their professional services, current engineering programs must prepare their graduates for practice in the international arena. Recommendations on the elements that should go into modern engineering programs are made above, and it is recommended that engineering schools in the Arab States Region broaden their programs to include appropriate ‘soft skills’ development and provide their students with an international perspective.

 The global nature of engineering and engineering education also has led to much more interest and emphasis on the credentialing of engineering graduates, including quality assurance mechanisms on which equivalency agreements can be built. International companies want to be assured of a high quality pool of technical workforce members before they will invest in operations in a new country, or expand existing ones. Local companies that get into international trade in products and services need similar high quality technical workers, particularly engineers, who are respected throughout the global marketplace. In both cases, documentable quality assurance methods are needed. In the discussion above, peer review based accreditation is recommended as the fundamental quality assurance mechanism for engineering education.

  Countries that have many engineering schools can set up appropriate peer review based accreditation systems within their country boundaries. Countries with a single or small number of engineering schools need to look beyond their borders for quality assessments – either bringing in visiting teams from respected accreditation bodies from elsewhere, or gathering together in regional accreditation bodies which cross national borders. Several countries in the Arab Region have utilized substantial equivalency reviews by ABET as an interim step. It is the recommendation of the author of this report that the engineering schools in the Arab States Region consider developing a regional accreditation system for engineering program accreditation, based on peer review exchanges among the countries participating.

  The current activity of reviewing the status of engineering education and its quality assurance in the Arab States Region is to be applauded. The author of this report thanks UNESCO for the opportunity to participate in this important process.



1.                    “Megatrends in International Engineering Education,” 2003 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings, American Society for Engineering Education, Washington DC (Bethany S. Oberst and Russel C. Jones)

2.                    Capacity Building : Engineers for Developing Countries,” 2003 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings, American Society for Engineering Education, Washington DC (Russel C. Jones and Bethany S. Oberst)

3.                                            “Developments in Engineering Education and Accreditation in the United States ,  Société européenne pour la formation des ingénieurs (SEFI), Annual Meeting Proceedings, Paris , France , 2001 (Russel C. Jones)

4.                    “Education for International Practice,” Engineering Education: Rediscovering the Centre: Conference Proceedings Société européenne pour la formation des ingénieurs (SEFI), Copenhagen , Denmark , 1999 (Russel C. Jones and Bethany S. Oberst)

5.                                            “Developments in Engineering Education in the United States”, Newsletter of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, Vol. 7, No. 2-3, June/September 1995 (Russel C. Jones)

6.                    “Global experience for engineering students through distance learning techniques,” Engineering Education and Training for 21st Century Requirements, World Federation of Engineering Organizations, Warsaw , Poland , 2000 (Russel C. Jones and Bethany S. Oberst)

7.                                            “Global Accreditation Trends”, Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Education, July 2003, Valencia , Spain (Russel C. Jones)

8.                    “International trends in engineering accreditation and quality assurance,” The many facets of international education of engineers, Jean Michel, ed. Société européenne pour la formation des ingénieurs (SEFI), Annual Meeting Proceedings, Paris, France, 2000 (Bethany S. Oberst and Russel C. Jones)

9.                                            “Accreditation and Quality Assurance” special issue of the International Journal of Engineering Education, edited by Russel C. Jones; 11 papers on quality assurance; published as volume 16, number 2, 2000

10.                                        “Guidelines for Definition of Necessary Basic Knowledge in Engineering Education”, Ideas, WFEO Committee on Education and Training, No. 8, November 2001 (Russel C. Jones)

11.                                        “Defining the Outcomes: A Framework for EC-2000”, IEEE Transactions on Education, Vol. 43, No. 2, May 2000 (Mary Besterfield-Sacre et al)

12.                                        “Effective Strategies to Assess the Impact of e-Learning”, Proceedings of ‘e-Technologies in Engineering Education’, United Engineering Foundation Conference, Davos , Switzerland , August 2002 (Barbara M. Olds)

13.                                        “Outcomes Assessment: Its Time Has Come”, Chemical Engineering Education, Vol. 33, No. 2, 1999 (Joseph A. Shaeiwitz)

14.                                        “Electronic Portfolios as a Tool for Assessing Student Outcomes”, Proceedings of 29th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, November 1999, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Gloria M. Rogers and Julia M. Williams)

15.                                        “Designing, Developing and Implementing Outcomes-Based Assessment Programs to Respond to Multiple External Constituents”, Proceedings of 29th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, November 1999, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Jack R. Lohmann)

16.                                        “Cross Border Engineering Practice”, Proceedings of the Global Congress on Engineering Education, edited by Zenon J. Pudlowski, UNESCO International Center for Engineering Education, Cracow, Poland, September 1998 (Russel C. Jones)

17.                “It’s Time to Rethink Engineering Education Conferences”, The Renaissance Engineer of Tomorrow,  Société européenne pour la formation des ingénieurs (SEFI), Annual Meeting Proceedings, Florence, Italy, 2002 (Russel C. Jones and Bethany S. Oberst)

18.                “Foreign Adaptation of US Engineering Models,” Engineering and Technology for Sustainable Development: Proceeding of a Regional Meeting, Bagamoyo, Tanzania (2001), Burton L.M. Mwamila and Erik W. Thulstrop, eds., Sponsored by Sida/SAREC of Sweden (Russel C. Jones and Bethany S. Oberst)