X Close

Re-imagining Engineering Education



Designing inclusion into engineering education.

By John E Mitchell, on 2 July 2018

There still remain many challenges to drive further diversity in the field of engineering. Much of the focus so far has been on encouraging a more diverse range of people to apply for engineering degrees and apprenticeship programmes. While this is an important part of the jigsaw, if the biases, privilege and culture which this diverse cohort encounter in these programmes are not challenged and modified this work may well be in vein.
Universities have worked hard on their outreach and engagement programmes, pointing a spotlight in A-level physics teaching, careers advice and exposure to engineering in schools. However, far too rarely have we turned the spotlight on ourselves and questioned the culture and curricula of our own programmes.
Is the culture of the programme encouraging and supportive of those from different backgrounds? Does the curriculum we teaching promote inclusivity? Are the modes of delivery and assessment we use biased towards a particular group? Are all of the cohort gaining the same opportunities to develop their practical skills?
These are not easy questions to answer, nor are there always obvious solutions. However, they are issues that we must face and address head on.
The UCL Centre for Engineering Education, the Royal Academy of Engineering and Katalytic have produced a report, based on the experiences of leading engineering education practitioners worldwide on some of the approaches that can be deployed to address these issues. Centered around four pillar; Culture, Curriculum, Delivery and Practice, the report seeks to engage educators in a reflection on how their practice offers an inclusive environment to a diverse cohort.
The report will be launched on the 9th July at the Royal Academic of Engineering as the centrepiece of a two-day symposium looking at practical experience of designed inclusive engineering curricula.
Further details can be found at:

Where to publish your Engineering Education Research?

By John E Mitchell, on 27 February 2018

As we innovate in engineering education, we naturally want to share what we’ve learned with world. I often get asked, Where should I publish my engineering education research? What is this conference like? Will this sort of paper be accepted?

The list below is a very personal snapshot of the typical places I look at when both looking for what is going on in the field, but also when I’m looking to publish. Of course, I’m not beyond having my head turned by a conference in an exotic location I’ve never been, or pertinent special issue, but these are the ones I look out for every year (although don’t always get round to attending or submitting to). Feel free to comment if you think I have misrepresented any of these, or if you’d like to suggest others.


There is a broad range of Journals available in engineering education from the practitioner based to the rigorous, social-science theory heavy end of the spectrum. This is a very personal view of the type of things that get published in each journal. It draws heavily from two excellent pieces of work; the analysis of journal metrics in engineering education by my colleague Dr Abel Nyamapfene and the HEA published report Publishing Engineering Education Research by Judith Shawcross and Tom Ridgman of the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing. There are different merits to each one, but sadly, there is very little open access in the Engineering Education world.

Journal of Engineering Education – American Society of Engineering Education

One of the highest impact journals in all Education (not just Eng Ed). Typically large studies (think NSF funding scale with 100s of data points) either across partners or longitudinal studies. High level of social science rigour.

IEEE Transactions on Education – IEEE

Slight emphasis on Electronic/Electrical Engineering (it is published by the IEEE) but does have a broader range of topics. Likes quantitative studies.

European Journal of Engineering Education – European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI)

Range of papers from highly quantitative analysis to more case study papers. Has had long lead times, but has recently cleared much of the backlog. A really good quality of papers but still very readable for those looking to find something that they can use in their own teaching.

Research in Engineering Design – Theory, Applications, and Concurrent Engineering – Springer.

Focus on design theory and methodology in all fields of engineering, with publications typically in the areas of mechanical, civil, architectural, and manufacturing engineering.

International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education – University of Manchester, with a focus on practitioner led case-studies within Electrical (and Electronic) Engineering.

International Journal of Engineering Education

Originally launched by the Dublin Institute of Technology, IJEE publishes wide range of papers including case-studies and small scale studies. Does not offer open access and has some access issues as it is not through a mainstream publisher and hence unlikely to be an bundle of subscriptions. Often runs special issues.

Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice – American Society of Civil Engineers. Claims to have broad reach but some obvious emphasis on civil engineering.

Higher Education Pedagogies – UK HEA through Taylor Francis. Is the only remaining title in the HEAs portfolio of publications that used to include the Engineering Education Journal. Offers open access. Has a broad remit of topics in education.

Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem Based Learning (IJPBL).

Published by Purdue and open access (hurrah!). Covers studies in PBL in all disciplines.

Journal of Problem Based Learning in Higher Education

Broad coverage journal on PBL out of the home of PBL in Engineering, Aalborg. Open Access.



EERS – UK&I Engineering Education Research Symposium.

Now under the umbrella of the Royal Academy of Engineering this annual meeting of the UK and Ireland Engineering Education Research Network brings together an enthusiastic and supportive group of researchers in the UK. Will be in Portsmouth in 2018. Typically in November with a relatively short submission cycle.

HEA STEM Conference

UK based conference covering a range of STEM education issues from the UK Higher Education Academy. Been January/February in the last couple of years (although has been later in the year previously). For the 2018 conference submission deadline was early October with the submission form requiring a 150 word Abstract.



SEFI: Annual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI being from the French translation). Typically held in mid-September in locations such as the Azores 2017, Tampera, Finland in 2016 and Birmingham, UK. Relatively short submission timeline. The next three conferences are Copenhagen 2018, Budapest 2019 and Twente 2020 (see what they did there?). Very wide range of research accepted from case-studies to rigorous research studies. Typically around 300 delegates and an excellent opportunity to meet others across Europe in the area and to get involved with the working groups that develop policy papers and activities across a number of specific themes.

EDUCON: The European meeting of the IEEE Education Society.

Typically April/May time with paper submission in . 2018 in Canary Islands, 2017 Athens, 2016 Abu Dhabi, 2015 Estonia, 2014 Istanbul. Typically held in late March or April with an Abstract submission in the October before.

ICL – International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning

Typically late September with submission of structured abstracts in the March/April of that same year. Organised by IAOE (International Association of Online Engineering)  and IGIP (International Society of Engineering Pedagogy) Usually European based – recently Florence, Kazan(Russia), Dubai (with WEEF), Belfast, Budapest, this year (2018) in Kos, Greece.


International (World-wide)

Research in Engineering Education Symposium – REES

The conference of the international Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN). Biannual and truly worldwide. 2017 was in Bogotá, Colombia while 2019 moves to Cape Town, South Africa. Usually a great set of speakers and a truly international gathering of some of the brightest minds in the field. Usually quite a travel, but well worth it.

CDIO Conference

You don’t have to worship at the altar of CDIO to attend – all are welcome! Typically focuses on active learning topics in keeping with CDIO such as PBL put also covers a range of topics relating the development of authentic engineering curriculum, project work and experiential learning. Moves worldwide. Recently in Calgary, Turku, Finland and this year in Kanazawa Japan.  Typically held in June with an abstract submission deadline in the November of the year before.

Engineering Education for Sustainable Development EESD

World-wide conference that occurs a little randomly (2016, 2015, 2013, 2010 saw conferences) with a very specific title, but tends to be more broad in content. Typically September (although occasionally a bit earlier). Had a history of being in Europe until recently,  Burges, (2016), Vancouver (2015), Cambridge (2013), Sweden, Spain. 2018 co-sponsored by ASEE in New Jersey, USA.



ASEE Annual Conference: The big one!

Now in its 126th year, the annual conference of the American Society of Engineering Education is the big one. Over 400 technical sessions in this North American based extravaganza of engineering education. Really a conference of conferences. ASEE has divisions on different topics and each produces a track of their own with their own requirements for the types of papers they will accept. Typically June with an abstract submission in the October the year before. – 2018 Salt Lake City, 2017 Ohio, 2016 New Orleans, 2015 Seattle, 2014 Indianapolis.

Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)

The main conference of the IEEE Education Society. Usually in North America, although occasionally it recognises that there is a wider world (2014 in Spain the first time since 1990). 2018 San Jose, 2017 Indianapolis, 2016 Erie, PA, 2015 El Paso. Usually in October with abstract deadline in January/February. The IEEE is paranoid about acceptance rates as the key measure of a conference’s quality so typically FIE only accepts about 50% of submissions. It runs a two stage review process to achieve this. Typically about 500 to 600 attendees.

International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE)

A relatively recent development of the IEEE in the Asia Pacific Region. 2017 in Hong Kong, 2016 Bangkok2015 Zhuhai, China, 2014 New Zealand. Usually held in December with paper deadlines quite short, often September even October.

A2E2 – Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference.

If you afford to escape the UK winter and head south then the A2E2 conference, typically held in December is well worth considering. Australia in particular is well known for a vibrant engineering education programme with many leading names in the field and wide spread curriculum reform initiatives  (I love the work of Julie Mills , Sally Male and Roger Hadgraft to just name a few).

New Models in Engineering Education

By Paula S Broome, on 15 December 2015

Our second conversation event was inspired by the New Model in Technology and Engineering. It is a proposed new university to be based in Herefordshire and, on the day after our event, received very public backing from the chancellor in his autumn statement.

NMITE proposes to offer an approach to engineering education which has turned heads in the Engineering Education firmament. Plenty of us, I believe, are looking at what the proponents want to achieve with some envy. Here is an opportunity to re-think – and to concentrate upon – the educational experience.

This project won’t, by itself, plug the projected shortfall of engineers. It does, however, have the potential to stir things up a bit. This is particularly true in the HE sector which, I would argue, is changing its ways rather slowly. The conservatism of many engineering faculties is often blamed – usually somewhat implicitly – on the perceived restrictions placed on degrees by accrediting bodies. My own experience is that the UK Engineering Council and PEIs are open minded and actively encourage innovation and change. One example, which is close to my heart, is the perennial issue of whether students require Maths / Physics A level to study engineering. For me the case is sealed by two former UCL students whose options to study Engineering at University would have been limited at best reaching the shortlist for the New Civil Engineering graduate of the year award. Many now back the stance but few other engineering departments – including our sister departments at UCL – are following the lead. Conservatism and inertia, it seems, rule the day.

I’m therefore hopeful that NMITE will act as a catalyst for some radical changes in Engineering Education in HE and that it will pave the way for different organisations with different models to join the fray with different educational offerings.

I’ve concentrated my comments here on HE since it’s the area that I’m familiar with and it feels like the sector which has been most sheltered from the winds of change. It is also, though, the route through which most decision makers will have passed en route to the gold standard of Chartered Engineer. I would venture to suggest that whilst welcoming changes to the way we educated engineers at University which should try to find common ground with other engineering educators. I believe, for example, that there should be lots of other ways to graduate from top universities other than to demsonstrate academic brilliance through A levels. Engineering is a broad discipline which requires a broad and expandign range of talent. I believe industry are – through necessity – responding to the challenge. I think that educators must too. And, arguably the profession too.

The conversation was led by Kel Fidler – an engineering educator who was formerly VC at Northumbria University and also one of the architects of UK SPEC – and Karen Usher one of the NMITE proponents. If you missed the event, you can watch the video here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/centre-for-engineering-education/library. Please take a look and continue the conversation by responding to this post.

-Dr Paul Greening, Co-Director, UCL Centre for Engineering Education

Apprenticeship: a question of targets or model of skill formation?

By Paula S Broome, on 5 October 2015

Is apprenticeship a mechanism to achieve Government education and training targets or a way for firms to meet their skills needs and enculturate someone into an occupation? This question continually cropped up at the UCL Centre for Engineering Education’s first conversation last Monday evening after the two conversation’s provocateurs – Graham Schuhmacher, MBE, and Professor Lorna Unwin, OBE, both well known nationally and internationally for their commitment to apprenticeship – had challenged the conversation’s attendees to rethink the purpose of apprenticeship.

Many of the attendees rapidly engaged with this challenge pointing out that successive government’s obsession with apprenticeships targets had: hollowed out its meaning and value; neglected the important link between apprenticeship and occupation; put too much emphasis on Level 2 without ensuring adequate progression routes are in place; and failed to provide apprentices with the type of support seen as automatic for young people who stay in full-time education. They also discussed the way funding has not sufficiently differentiated between large employers and SMEs.

Despite highlighting these problems, contributors to the conversation also hit a very upbeat and positive note. They recognised that the only way to instigate fresh thinking about apprenticeship is to focus on the way in which apprenticeship facilitates skill development in different work environments, because this is what makes the difference for apprentices and employers.

The conversation concluded therefore by leaving the CEE with the challenge of taking the above agenda forward. Watch the CEE website for news about this development.

-Prof. David Guile, Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Engineering Education

Welcome to the UCL Centre for Engineering Education Blog!

By Paula S Broome, on 25 September 2015

We aim to be at the heart of a conversation about how we educate the engineers of the future. We hope that this blog – and your opportunity to comment – will contribute significantly to the discussion.

The Centre has its origins in the summer of 2013 and was, from the beginning, a collaboration between the Instite of Education and UCL’s Faculty of Engineering. Together, we felt, we could bring a useful perspective.

The Centre has emerged amidst much soul searching in the profession. Many predict an enormous shortage in the talent pipeline. Others wonder why this doesn’t seem to be reflected in engineers’ salaries.

THere is also a lot of reflection that despite large amounts of investment in promoting careers in engineering there are only modest increases in numbers joining the profession.

Our aim is to bring some fresh thinking and to ask some difficult questions.

Our first conversation event is a good example. We are asking whether this country really serious about apprenticeship or has it now become just another policy gimmick?

In a second Conversation in November hosted by the INstitution of Mechanical Engineers we are asking two experts to look at potential new and disruptive education offerings on the horizon.

IN the future we also want to explore whether there is too much unhelpful stratification of routes into the profession. We wonder whether an unhelpful gulf has emerged between so called vocational routes into engineering and academic routes. Arguably too much of the discourse about the skills shortage focuses on HE.

It is clear to us that the engineering profession, globally, is changing quickly. We aim to be promoting models for how, educationally, we respond to this.