The global state of the art in engineering education by Dr Ruth Graham initially interviewed 50 global thought leaders in the field, with UCL appearing as one of the top ten cited ‘current leaders’ for engineering education, and the third most cited emerging leader.
In order to rethink their own engineering education provision, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – the top university in the world according to the QS rankings – commissioned Graham’s report as part of their New Engineering Education Transformation initiative. The IEP comprises one of four report case studies alongside SUTD in Singapore, CSU Engineering in Australia, and TU Delft in the Netherlands.
Whilst UCL’s heritage and standing as one of the world’s leading research institutions accounts for the current leader citations, the emerging leader appraisal by higher and engineering education peers from around the world reflects the ground-breaking, innovative nature of the IEP. One of only four institutions in the report to be cited as both a current and emerging leader, UCL Engineering is described as offering a “world-class model” for other engineering education providers, with both the scale and nature of the IEP commended by interviewees, who acknowledge the significance of such investment in undergraduate education by a university of UCL’s stature
The report explains how UCL Engineering “stands apart … in the scale of [the IEP] application”, and in its integration across programmes. The report also states:
Where peer engineering [programmes] may offer multidisciplinary, project-based experiences, they often cater only to small student numbers or are isolated from the rest of the curriculum, with students struggling to connect these experiences to their learning in the ‘core’ engineering modules. In contrast, the IEP education is integrated across the core curriculum for all engineering students. UCL Engineering engages a thousand incoming engineering students each year, from across eight departments, in immersive and authentic engineering projects that are integrated into a coherent curriculum structure.
Developed from a realisation that employers were demanding teamwork, communication and technical skills alongside practical and interdisciplinary experience, almost the entire UCL Engineering undergraduate intake begin the IEP each academic year. The main differences to traditional engineering programmes include the opportunity for students to work with each other across disciplines, the focus on ‘soft skills’ such as communication and teamwork, and the requirement to study an IEP Minor subject (three related modules on areas ranging from Modern Foreign Languages and Environmental Engineering to Biomechanics and Programming). Students also regularly have chance to put their theoretical knowledge and technical skills into practice via problem-based learning tasks, often in interdisciplinary teams.
IEP Director Emanuela Tilley emphasised the prestigious nature of the IEP being recognised by its peers in Graham’s report, an accolade which comes shortly after the teaching framework’s success in the Higher Education Academy’s Collaborative Awards for Teaching Excellence. Emanuela noted that the report’s focus on the IEP
… is testament to just how differently undergraduate engineering is being taught at UCL – and how much our peers are paying attention to this. Whether it is through flagship IEP elements such as How to Change the World (an interdisciplinary, intensive two-week programme run for second years by our UCL STEaPP colleagues), letting students apply theory as soon as possible through problem-based learning, or the opportunity to study a different subject area in-depth via the IEP Minor modules, the Integrated Engineering Programme encourages our students to think creatively, collaboratively and with conscience.
Professor John Mitchell, former IEP Director and UCL Engineering Vice Dean Education, echoed this theme, commenting:
the MIT report is a wonderful recognition of all the work put into the IEP by its huge, inter-departmental team across UCL Engineering, a team which has put in so much effort to deliver a truly innovative engineering education programme. As the report recognises, the IEP stands out as a model that can be implemented in an established, research-intensive university to enhance the experience of engineering students.
A further anticipated trend highlighted in the report is an expected global move towards a “socially-relevant and outward-facing engineering curricula.” The social context of engineering already forms a vital part of the IEP, as Director Emanuela Tilley notes:
the responsibilities of modern, 21st century engineering are accentuated, not only in How to Change the World, but also in our Challenges – two ambitious five-week design projects tackled by students in their first year. At UCL Engineering, and on the IEP, we trust our students from day one, and encourage them to think and learn differently, in the hope and expectation that they will go on to change the world. The global recognition that the IEP is now receiving is proof that we are heading in the right direction.