June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.1374.1 - 15.1374.14
WHO WANTS TO STUDY ENGINEERING IN AUSTRALIA: MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF IDENTITY, ATTRACTIVENESS, AND OF MARKETING
The reluctance of senior secondary students, and more importantly females, to choose engineering as a preferred course of study in higher education combined with relatively high attrition rates in engineering schools at Australian universities can be traced to two fundamental sources. These relate to the marketing of the engineering profession and its professional status, and the image with an overemphasis of the educational professional engineering discourse on big science. Despite an acute shortage of professional engineers in Australia, the profession has not marketed itself well in the public eye. It is yet to find its end product and professional standing other than being a subset of big science. The lack of definition of engineering as a unified and a unique profession carries over to engineering education. This paper identifies the lack of unity and ideology in educating for engineering professions as a key reason for its lack of attractiveness. It argues for a more diverse approach to professional engineering discourse both in marketing the profession to the public domain and in its application in engineering education. It suggests that developing engineering curricula that depart the singular notion of professional engineering as that of applied science to one with an emphasis on more vocational elements as means to produce engineering as a more attractive course of study and more likely to enhance engineering professional standing in the community as a civic profession.
Keywords: Innovative curricula, education research, professional education issues
Increasing demand for professional engineers in an occupational environment of an estimated shortfall of 20,000 professional engineers in Australia is great current concern 1. The current national annual output of 6000 engineering graduates is inadequate for replacing professional engineers leaving the profession for other careers or due to retirement as well as meeting projected demand. It is thus not surprising that the recent growth of domestic enrolment in engineering courses at Australian universities had a positive impact on engineering schools, and faculties, government agencies and industry bodies2. Yet, despite the optimism among engineering educators, the reality is that the domestic enrolment in engineering represents only 6.8 percent of the total commencing university enrolment in Australia. This enrolment figure does not reflect sudden interest in engineering and represents the middle of historical fluctuations in engineering enrolment which have traditionally been somewhere between 5.1 and 7.2 percent of total higher education enrolment. The gender imbalance in engineering enrolment is of particular issue. Though 13.4 percent of males commencing bachelor degree choose engineering as their preferred choice of study, the corresponding figure for females has been declining from 2 to 1.87 percent. Females constitute 15.4 percent of the commencing enrolment and 14.6 percent of the total engineering enrolment. This figure has been constant for the past 10 years.
Rojter, J. (2010, June), Who Wants To Study Engineering In Australia? Meeting The Challenge Of Identity, Attractiveness, And Of Marketing. Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16067
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