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Accreditation talks bring international mobility nearer

Institution news

UNIVERSITY HEADS and leaders of professional institutions met in Bucharest, Romania, in July to discuss World Trade Organisation plans for international harmonisation of civil engineering accreditation and licensing.

The World Trade Organisation's (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Service, known as GATS 2000, is designed to remove barriers to civil engineers' mobility by 2002. Under the agreement, engineers of a recognised standard will be able to work the world over.

'The reality is that the best engineers want mobility, recognising that their careers will only develop from new experiences and movement to where the work exists, ' said former ICE international director John Whitwell, opening the European Council of Civil Engineers (ECCE) conference.

'Countries that are going to succeed in the future are those who welcome mobility and refuse to accept isolation.

Countries that resist globalisation will sink because they will not be able to keep up with the incredible rate of change. We need to encourage engineers to move, and to do this we need to give them qualifications that will be recognised wherever they go, ' Whitwell added.

GATS 2000 sets out four criteria for a new, international professional qualification: It must not discriminate against any one nationality. It must be seen by national governments as fair and reasonable and must have their support. It must be workable, manageable and ensure that holders have the technical and professional competence to analyse and solve complex problems. And it must be backed by quality assurance procedures, be totally transparent, and underpinned by a code of professional and ethical conduct.

The ICE, which is involved in the Engineering Mobility Forum (EMF), is well placed to take a leading role in development of the qualification, Whitwell claimed. EMF and another initiative, the Asia Pacific Economic Community Engineer organisation, have already applied for WTO recognition (see box).

EMF closely resembles an ICE accreditation and licencing recognition system already recognised by the WTO. EMF requires engineers to complete seven years of post graduate training, with at least two years spent in a position of responsibility.

ECCE has established a working group to examine options for establishing a European qualification comparable to EMF. Discussions are being attended by 11 of the 22 members of ECCE.

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