Achieving excellence in engineering education: the ingredients of successful change

  • Graham R
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A series of reports from The Royal Academy of Engineering (The Royal Academy of Engineering, 2006, 2007, 2010) has demonstrated that change in undergraduate engineering education is urgently needed to ensure graduates remain equipped for the new and complex challenges of the 21st century. However, the necessary transformation in the structure and delivery of undergraduate provision has yet to take place across the sector. There is a growing appreciation that the slow pace of change reflects the difficulties of catalysing and sustaining educational reform within engineering departments and schools. The case for reform is recognised; the challenge is to make it happen. The pressing issue for engineering education is not whether but how to change. The report turns the spotlight on this issue. It examines how positive change can be achieved across the engineering curriculum, looking specifically at how reform can be initiated, implemented and sustained within engineering departments and schools. The report draws on the experiences of those involved in major programmes of engineering education reform across the world with the aim of distilling the common features of success and failure. A two stage study was conducted between January and October 2011. Firstly, interviews were conducted with 70 international experts from 15 countries, each with first-hand experience of curriculum change in engineering. The interviews provided insight into a wide range of examples of curricular reform from across the world, offering a high-level view of the features associated with successful and unsuccessful reform. Secondly, six examples were selected from those identified through the expert interviews to investigate in detail how significant educational reform can be achieved. The six case studies are all highly- regarded, selected to provide a spectrum of drivers for reform, change strategies, levels of ambition, geographical locations and stages in the change process. A further 117 individuals were consulted for these case studies. The study identifies four common features of successful, widespread change that appear to be largely independent of geography or institution type. These are discussed in turn below.

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  • R Graham

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