“It’s not that you’ve been doing something wrong, it’s that the world is changing and we need to move with it.”
This sentiment, shared by the Royal Academy of Engineering at our latest virtual workshop, hit home for change makers who joined us to explore the updates needed to engineering curricula that will ensure the next generation of engineers are equipped to tackle 21st century challenges.
Over the last two months, change makers participating in our ongoing Systems Change Lab, co-delivered with the Royal Academy of Engineering, have begun testing the design of a new toolkit to help educators integrate sustainability, inclusion and ethics into higher education engineering courses.
In December, over 60 attendees gathered at the Royal Academy’s headquarters in London, to explore what a reimagined degree might look like and what the wider enablers of change could be. Watch back keynotes from sustainability consultant, Founder of Fighting Dirty and ex-UNESCO Envoy for Youth & Environment, Georgia Elliott-Smith and Engineering Leaders Scholar, Patrick McAdam.
Conversations on the day highlighted a collective vision for engineering education that is adaptable, globally responsible, and focused on developing well-rounded professionals equipped to tackle complex challenges. The diverse perspectives shared underscored the importance of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, embracing active pedagogies, and aligning engineering education with the evolving needs of society.
With a clearer vision for what engineering curricula could look like in practice, if global responsibility was integrated throughout, change makers were invited back to a virtual workshop in January to explore and provide feedback on a new toolkit: the Reimagined Degree Map. The Map, set to launch in March 2024, is designed to support engineering departments navigate the decisions that are urgently required to ensure degrees prepare students for 21st century challenges.
At the workshop, we asked change makers to imagine themselves in the shoes of a university educator who has the role of strategic responsibility for the undergraduate engineering degrees (e.g. a director of undergraduate engineering education).
Reflections from the Lab illustrated that the challenge these educators face is as much about leading change with colleagues and other stakeholders as it is about course content and pedagogies. Often, the changes needed are outside the direct control of educators. Seen through this lens, the effort can quickly seem overwhelming, and the toolkit needs to help educators navigate change in a way that is manageable, with lasting effect.
“Educators often find themselves in a position where the senior leaders have already powered ahead with a technical focus and no consideration of society or the environment.”
– Change maker attending the virtual Lab in January
Central to discussions was a feeling that we urgently need to provide space for educators – space to reimagine what engineering degrees could be and space to nurture current and future teams of educators to feel empowered to innovate and challenge the status quo.
We’ve seen how the creation of this space can enable previously unimaginable changes in the ways we teach engineering. A leading light, The Engineering & Design Institute (TEDI-London) was set up in 2020 with the vision to transform engineering education by developing engineers who are empowered to make a difference from day one.
Since its inception, TEDI-London has taken a non-traditional approach to teaching for its Global Design Engineering degree. Where engineering has previously been taught in disciplines (e.g. Mechanical or Civil), TEDI-London has adopted an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on topics from social sciences, business and beyond. Where a majority of universities continue to teach through lectures, TEDI-London delivers all of its teaching through project-based learning on real projects set by industry. And where many institutions recruit teams with strong technical expertise and academic backgrounds within engineering, TEDI-London has opened its doors to those with industry experience and from a range of disciplines, prioritising non-traditional capabilities such as social awareness.
TEDI-London is successfully challenging concerns around the practicalities of updating engineering curricula in line with the changing needs of our world. The institution is working proof that recruiting and upskilling passionate educators is a key enabler of imagining and delivering innovative degree courses. It is these strategic decisions within universities that can enable or block positive changes, which ultimately transform the way engineering is taught.
So what next?
Join us at the launch of the Reimagined Degree Map – the link to register and more information can be found here.
This event is part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s wider Engineer 2030 project, and will involve presentations and panel discussions with the key stakeholders involved in this important work. There will also be a drinks reception and networking at the close of the event.
Engineers Without Borders UK is running a Systems Change Lab on behalf of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s wider project, Engineer 2030. Engineer 2030 aims to determine the foundational knowledge, skills and behaviours needed by engineers and technicians to meet 21st century global challenges and to understand the systems, cultures, and policies currently in place in the UK to deliver this.