Engineering degree students need creativity more than maths and physics A Levels

Entry into engineering degree courses needs a radical overhaul with less emphasis on maths and physics and a greater focus on creativity, a conference of senior representatives from industry, higher education and government has heard.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), in partnership with the Engineering Professors’ Council, is bringing together engineering experts and higher education leaders from across the world to see how the UK higher education sector can learn from institutions in the UK and globally who have adopted pioneering approaches within their engineering degree courses.

The New Approaches to Engineering Higher Education event will mark a sea-change, signalling key global initiatives that are making engineering degrees more attractive to students and better suited to the changing needs of industry and society.

These approaches include:

  • Changing entry criteria to remove the roadblock for those who have studied humanities or arts subjects instead of maths and physics to an advanced level at school

  • Refocusing the higher education curriculum away from ‘theory’ to creating solutions to make a better world

  • Offering internships, placements and work-related learning opportunities during the degree course

  • Making courses more appealing and accessible to women and mature students, creating a diverse profession

The IET believes adopting these approaches will help to address skills shortages and gaps – and is calling for fundamental changes to the entry criteria that most UK universities currently require before students can start engineering undergraduate degree programmes.

IET president, Jeremy Watson CBE, said: “There is an urgent need to get more young people studying engineering, but we’re currently excluding vast numbers of students because they have not formally studied Maths and Physics.

“This is an outdated view that we need to change. We’re not saying that these subjects aren’t important but the role of an engineer is about solving creative challenges so we must also harness students’ creativity.

“The important principles of maths and physics can be taught in a relevant ‘work-ready’ way as part of a degree. It is also crucially important that engineering courses refocus on teaching problem solving and creating solutions to improve our world and society. This should also include an element of high-quality work experience so that students are adequately prepared for the workplace and are equipped with the skills employers demand.”

Institution of Engineering and Technology

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