Integrating the academic and professional values in engineering education – ideals and tensions

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Higher engineering education is simultaneously academic, emphasising theory in a range of subjects, and professional, preparing students for engineering practice. While technical universities hold this “dual nature” as an ideal, it is also a source of tensions. The pursuit of the ideal in curriculum reform is here represented by the CDIO Initiative. It was founded in the year 2000 by MIT, Chalmers University of Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Linköping University, and presently engages some 150 institutions worldwide. The CDIO community challenges zero-sum interpretations of the academic-professional tension, and advocates an integrated curriculum with theoretical and professional aspects in a meaningful relationship. The approach is illustrated here by the case of the Mechanical Engineering programme at Chalmers. Then, taking a critical view, the organisational conditions for the integrated curriculum are analysed with an institutional logics perspective. It is proposed that engineering education is influenced by the logics of two professions: one is the engineering profession that we educate for, and the other is the academic profession of the educators. Tensions are located both in the curriculum and in the technical university organisation. Finally, the CDIO Initiative is described as a driver of institutional innovation in the organisational field.




Edström, K. (2020). Integrating the academic and professional values in engineering education – ideals and tensions. In Higher Education Dynamics (Vol. 56, pp. 145–164). Springer Science and Business Media B.V.

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