Launched by the Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), a new report examining how inclusivity and diversity can be embedded into Higher Education engineering provision focuses heavily on the Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP), UCL Engineering’s award-winning undergraduate teaching framework. ‘Designing inclusion into engineering education’ by Dr Jan Peters offers a “fresh, practical look at how diversity impacts on engineering”, whilst also providing “strategies for change”. The CEE, (a community of researchers and practitioners from UCL Engineering and the Institute of Education), and the RAEng launched the report after a successful first day of their Inclusive Engineering Symposium, held at Prince Philip House, the RAEng headquarters in Central London. Guests at the launch included Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science & Innovation, Chi Onwurah MP, herself a chartered engineer.
Given that university engineering courses have a responsibility to provide all students with the chance to achieve their potential, the report proposes a structured approach to enable every department, school and faculty to increase inclusion and diversity. Author Dr Jan Peters says it is “vital” to address inclusion in engineering education, with recent industry figures illustrating why. Some 15,000 UK residents graduated from UK engineering courses in 2015/16; 14.6% of these students were female and 26.1% were from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Previous RAEng research has highlighted unequal employment outcomes for engineering graduates from BME backgrounds, and from newer universities attended by less affluent students, whereas fewer than 1 in 8 of the UK engineering workforce is female. As Dr Peters states, “at each level of course conception, design and delivery we need to be open to how we can address inclusion within engineering design, and have conversations with clients and students about this.”
The report focuses on many aspects inherent in the IEP, such as communication skills and teamwork. The way students on programmes that follow the IEP are taught how to work in teams and with each other, plus given the opportunity to find out what kind of team worker they are, is praised. Dr Peters writes that this process helps “students learn to understand themselves better … [they] are encouraged to give each other space to take time to think and contribute to the team in a way that suits them, so they can be their authentic self … Having a vocabulary to describe each other in a positive way aids team dynamics and provides an analytical tool to aid communication.” Students become aware of how their peers work best, aiding inclusion, plus also develop the skills to effectively convey their strengths and prowess in interviews.
Professor John Mitchell, Co-Director of the Centre for Engineering Education, commented that “this report provides university departments with practical actions that will help them create inclusive environments so that all students gain their full potential from their educational experiences in engineering.” The RAEng hopes to recruit universities to co-create and trial resources and materials proposed in the report, in order to help implement the model of an inclusive engineering education. Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Engineering and Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “Creating quality engineers with an inclusive mindset, who will go on to advance the profession and be exceptional engineers, managers and leaders, is good for the industry. Moving beyond outreach programmes to recruit more diverse cohorts, we need to ensure that departmental and tutor group level cultures are inclusive, so that each student can achieve to the best of their ability.”
Report link: Designing inclusion into engineering education by Dr Jan Peters
The IEP is an award-winning teaching framework followed by most undergraduate programmes in UCL Engineering. Embedded into core degree programmes, interdisciplinarity, communication and teamwork skills are all emphasised, alongside creativity and the social context of engineering. Students also have the opportunity to apply their knowledge through problem-based and project-based learning.