24 May, 2017 / BY Russell Poppe

Engineering degrees - art or science?

JJS Manufacturing Insights I think it was a 26th order differential equation, but I can’t be absolutely sure as I was struggling to keep my sleepy eyes open. It was certainly a lecture on vibration analysis, part of my engineering degree, though again we had slipped away into the surreal world of advanced mathematics. Not that I minded a bit of maths, but it wasn’t really what I had signed up for. Had I made the right choice of degree? Is this what the next 45 years held in store for me? Would that be me one day, in front of a lecture theatre, torturing undergraduates with arcane squiggly lines on a blackboard?

Now don’t get me wrong. Engineers naturally have inquisitive minds, so a grasp of the fundamentals of why things work is both important and interesting. Basic physics, and the maths that helps describe it, are essential. Learning maths and physics trains the mind to think logically, and this is vital to successful problem solving. But so too is creativity.

It seems the IET have recognised this and proposed some new approaches to engineering higher education, as described by Michael Tyrrell writing for Production Engineering Solutions. Well worth a read, and finding out more, as this could be key to solving several issues in our industry. A great example of creative thinking indeed.

These approaches include:

Changing entry criteria to remove the roadblock for those who have studied humanities or arts subjects instead of maths and physics to an advanced level at school Refocusing the higher education curriculum away from ‘theory’ to creating solutions to make a better world Offering internships, placements and work-related learning opportunities during the degree course Making courses more appealing and accessible to women and mature students, creating a diverse profession.

The IET believes adopting these approaches will help to address skills shortages and gaps – and is calling for fundamental changes to the entry criteria that most UK universities currently require before students can start engineering undergraduate degree programmes.


Written by Russell Poppe

Russell describes himself as a Manager, Engineer, manufacturer, teambuilder, organiser, strategist, and occasional content writer. Russell loves to help businesses thrive and grow in the best way that he can and has a wealth of experience in the engineering and manufacturing industry, particularly within electronics. Russell’s previous roles have encompassed general management, engineering, development, manufacturing, quality, and marketing, always with a strong focus on customer service.