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The role of experienced practitioners in engineering education : the end of an era?

Craig, Nigel and Tennant, Stuart and Murray, Michael and Forster, Alan and Pilcher, Nick (2016) The role of experienced practitioners in engineering education : the end of an era? In: 6th International Symposium for Engineering Education, 2016-07-14 - 2016-07-15, University of Sheffield.

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    Delivering excellence in higher engineering education is dependent on many variables. This includes programme design, delivery and content, university support and the knowledge, experience and enthusiasm of faculty members. Over the past decade there has been a notable shift in engineering faculty recruitment policy. No longer is the professional and industrial experience of the engineering practitioner revered as a co-opted member of the engineering department. Despite their potential contribution as grounded, practical and relevant engineering lecturers, their impoverished knowledge of research funding mechanisms and lack of research capital is an acute disadvantage. This is a discussion paper exploring the marginalization of experienced practitioners in engineering education and the changing role of the educator as a career academic. The career academic is highly qualified and typically well versed in research activity; however, unlike their industrial counterparts they are devoid of any meaningful practical engineering experience. This changing role of the educator in engineering education has far-reaching consequences for teaching and learning and future industry skills. Given the longstanding connection between theory and practice in engineering education, this departure in pedagogical policy arguably signals the end of an era. The systematic fragmentation of engineering theory from industrial practice within higher education institutes arguably needs to be challenged. Recent government rhetoric to focus on the pedagogical aspects through a Teaching Excellence Framework is arguably aiming at the wrong target. Instead, reconstructing engineering programmes fit for the twenty-first century will require alternative teaching strategies, revitalised industrial advisory boards and uncommon leadership within engineering faculties.