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Humanities And Social Sciences On The Outer In Australian Engineering Education

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

New Approaches & Techniques in Engineering II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.707.1 - 10.707.10



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Josef Rojter

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Humanities and Social Sciences on the Outer in Australian Engineering Curricula

Dr. Josef Rojter School of Architectural, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Victoria University of Technology, PO BOX 14428 MC Melbourne City,Vic 8001, Australia. The relatively poor social standing of the engineering profession in Australia relative to other major professions, and its general inability to attract both a higher proportion of women as well as a high caliber of more intellectually able young people, has been of concern to both the profession and engineering educators. This paper argues that this is due to the unclear perceptions of the engineering profession as being “hard hat” and highly technical in nature; a perception which is at odds with the realities of the world of engineering practice, where the application of broad knowledge and an understanding of the human dimension of engineering enterprise is required. These realities are not generally reflected by the engineering curricula at Australia universities. In many schools there is an excessive emphasis on highly technical matters in engineering curricula, which excludes not only greater technical diversity but also the skills and knowledge of human affairs necessary in engineering practice. An analysis shows that despite many recommendations in Australia for a greater emphasis on social sciences and humanities in engineering curricula, the expansion in these non-technical areas has been slow to take anchor within the schools, departments and faculties of engineering in Australia. It is argued that this is essentially a problem of the academic culture operating within engineering schools and faculties in Australia, which is based on scientific norms derived from science. Finally the idea of cultural change within engineering schools and departments is explored.

INTRODUCTION The strategic role that the engineering profession occupies in the national well-being has ensured the profession to public and private scrutiny in its professional practice and its education. In proportional terms there has been a decreasing enrolment in engineering education, at Australian universities, over a number of years [1],[2]]. In comparison to the European Union where approximately 16 percent of tertiary students are enrolled in engineering/architecture [3], the corresponding figures for Australia show approximately 7.7 percent [1]. Furthermore the quality of students entering engineering courses in Australia has also been an issue over many years. Yates has pointed to a long tail of students with relatively poor academic achievement in the final year at school entering engineering education [4]. This reflects adversely on engineering profession when compared with the type of academic talent attracted to professional courses such as medicine, law and business.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright @ 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Rojter, J. (2005, June), Humanities And Social Sciences On The Outer In Australian Engineering Education Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15126

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