Some 26 countries around the world have agreed new and updated best practice in the accreditation of engineering degree programmes described in a document entitled “Best Practice in Engineering Programme Accreditation”. The document represents a joint initiative between ENAEE and the International Engineering Alliance, which comprises the so-called Washington, Sydney and Dublin Accords.
The countries include many EU member states and also several non-European nations, including the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Kore, Malaysia, Singapore and India.
The best practice document adopted at the general assembly is significant because it represents an agreement and common understanding of best practice in engineering accreditation by the 26 countries and agencies.
It is intended for use partly by bodies setting up as accreditation agencies or existing agencies as they update their policies and procedures. It does not impact directly on education providers but, rather, helps to shape the accreditation system.
The overall aim of the new guidelines, which were formally launched at a ceremony in Brussels on Tuesday, is to “raise the bar” for engineering degree programmes.
Denis McGrath, vice president of the Brussels-based European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE), said, “These are important guidelines which represent a major contribution towards the development of high quality engineering education in Europe and further afield.”
Speaking at the meeting, McGrath said, “This is very significant, particularly when you consider that no less than 26 countries worldwide have come together to agree on what are some basic principles for the engineering profession. “We all want what is best for engineering students and this international partnership is proof of that.”
The other significant document launched was the “EUR-ACE Framework Standards and Guidelines” (EAFSG) which represents a set of agreed standards for programme evaluation, covering 13 authorised agencies in 13 European countries.
The documents were formally unveiled at the ENAEE general assembly at Cercle Lorraine in Brussels.
Professions such as engineering carry out work which directly affects the lives of the public and in order that these actions are carried out safely and ethically, graduates must possess specific competences. To ensure that engineering education programmes produce graduates who possess such competences, they are subject to accreditation and labelling by their professional bodies.
Through its labelling scheme, the EUR-ACE system provides a set of standards to identify high quality engineering degree programmes in both Europe and internationally.
The EUR-ACE quality label is verification of high quality engineering education and also provides employers with a quality label when evaluating academic qualifications.
“Such peer review accreditation systems are major contributors to the development of high quality engineering education,” commented Vice-President McGrath.
The EAFSG guidelines, published in July, relate in part to “programme outcomes”, in other words, the knowledge, understanding and skills which an accredited engineering degree programme must enable a graduate to demonstrate. Programmes seeking the label should demonstrate that they are managed according to quality assurance principles.
The Brussels launch comes in the wake of the decision in November last year to sign a “mutual recognition” agreement under which all agencies accept each other’s accreditation. It was adopted by 13 ENAEE authorised agencies.
Bernard Remaud, President of EUR-ACE, told the general assembly that ENAEE is “rooted” in the so-called Bologna process which aims at building a European higher education area.
Since 2006, when ENAEE was founded, the EUR-ACE label has been awarded to more than 2,000 engineering programmes in more than 300 universities in 28 countries.
Remaud said, “The label has, therefore, proven its reliability and adaptability. However, after eight years of implementation, it has been decided that the time has come to revise the EAFSG document, not by altering its fundamental standards but to reflect diversity and provide all that is necessary to enter the engineering profession.”
Looking to the future, he told the 50-strong audience there was “still work to do” adding, “We are steadily increasing the number of labels we award (about 400 per year) but we still go into too few countries. We have to address this along with raising our international visibility.”
The recently-upgraded ENAEE database of accredited engineering degree programmes is available free of charge and contains a list of all the engineering degree programmes which have been awarded the EUR-ACE label.
It is particularly useful for employers who can check that an engineering degree programme undertaken by a job applicant has been accredited and awarded a EUR-ACE label. Statistical analysis of engineering degree programmes is also available via the database (www.enaee.eu).
The information it contains will also be useful for students who can search for a programme in engineering to check if a programme has been accredited and given the EUR-ACE quality label.
Universities can also access information on the engineering qualification of an engineering graduate who is being considered for enrolment on a Master or PhD degree.
By Martin Banks