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Higher Technological Education and British Policy Making: A Lost Opportunity for Curriculum Change in Engineering Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.666.1 - 24.666.25



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Paper Authors


John Heywood Trinity College-Dublin

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John Heywood MA MSc LittD (Dublin) M.Litt (Lanacaster).
Professorial Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College – The University of Dublin and formerly Professor and Director of Teacher Education in the University (1977 – 1996).

In addition to a higher doctorate he is the holder of a Masters degree in engineering education (MSc). He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and a Licentiate and Fellow of the College of Preceptors.

His major studies are co-authored book “Analysing Jobs” about what engineers do at work; three editions of “Assessment in Higher Education” ; “Learning, Adaptability and Change; the Challenge for Education and Industry” and the American educational research award winning “Engineering Education: Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction” published by IEEE/Wiley. He is a recipient of a Science, Education and Technology Division Premium of the London IEE for his contribution to engineering education.

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The opportunity for technical colleges in England to undertake a radical change in thecurriculum came when in the nineteen-fifties a sect group of these institutions (Colleges ofAdvanced Technology) had their status raised to offer a degree equivalent diploma for theeducation and training of engineers and technologists for industry. While there were differencesbetween the programmes offered and university courses they were not radical and mirrored thecourses from which they were supposed to differ.The reasons for this lost opportunity lie deep in the culture that formed the values and beliefs ofeducational policy makers during the industrial revolution. A divorce emerged between theacademic and the practical in which training for industry was not considered to be something thatuniversities do. By the end of the nineteenth century a technical education sector had developedin spite of very poor support from industrialists. Some students in Polytechnics were able topursue studies for degrees of the University of London.The policy makers who suggested the framework (The Percy Committee) came from theeducational élite that valued the pure as opposed to the practical. They were focused on the needto increase the qualified workforce and paid no attention to the structure of the sub-system theywere proposing. Thus universities would train the research and development workers of the futureand the technical colleges the engineer managers to degree level. They should be awarded adiploma but it would have degree status. A counter culture developed in the colleges as the staffsought the status of universities for their institutions. It is by no means clear that they would havebeen able to develop a radical alternative since there was little in the way of a substantialphilosophy or educational theory to guide thinking in a radically new direction.The paper is presented in the form of a historical narrative. The principal threads (culture, socialclass, status, sub-system and available knowledge) are brought together in a final section that alsoconsiders implications for the present. The paragraphs have been numbered for the convenienceof cross referencing to this final section.

Heywood, J. (2014, June), Higher Technological Education and British Policy Making: A Lost Opportunity for Curriculum Change in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20557

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