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Council opts for partnerships over merger as key to future


INSTITUTION OF Civil Engineers (ICE) Council members this week voted to retain the ICE's independence from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The decision backed the recommendation of the ICE Executive Board and effectively draws a line under recent discussions over options to bring the two institutions together in a formal merger in the foreseeable future.

However, following detailed discussion of ve alternative visions of the ICE's future, Council backed a proposal that will see the Institution seek out opportunities to forge relationships and share back ofce functions with other 'like-minded organisations', including the IMechE.

ICE president Quentin Leiper said he agreed that this option to strengthen relationships with other bodies in engineering and the built environment, including the IMechE, was the right way forward.

'We have voted to work in a more proactive way to the benefit of society and our members, ' said Leiper. 'We will be communicating this to the IMechE, giving it all the positive comments we've heard today and making it clear that the partnership is strong and that we wish to continue with it.' As there are no changes required to bylaws for this agreed way forward, ICE is not required by its Royal Charter to con rm the decision by a membership ballot.

Commenting after the decision, IMechE president Alec Osborn said: 'We are naturally disappointed that more extensive convergence will not be pursued. We will continue to explore where we can increase benets to members and enhance the reputations of both bodies.' The five alternative scenarios discussed by Council were set out in a paper prepared by a special working group led by vice-president Jean Venables.

The alternatives proposed ranged from the status quo through to full merger with the IMechE (see box). The options were prepared by Venables following discussion and debate by Council, regional ofcers and officials, and graduate and student representatives.

The so-called Independent Plus (IP) option was backed by 27 Council members, with the remaining 18 votes cast in the secret single non-transferable voting system backing other options. Only five council members favoured a full merger.

Venables emphasised that while there are many more questions that could have been posed while assessing the options, the essence of the debates had been captured and the key issues included in the paper presented to Council.

'The Working Group was unanimous in its preference for Option IP, ' said the paper presented to Council. 'The Executive Board discussed this matter in depth, reecting its strategic importance, and unanimously supported option IP as the way forward for the foreseeable future, recognizing that the matter can be reviewed as the landscape changes.' The working group will now provide a report to assist the ICE Executive as it plans the most appropriate way to deliver the Independent Plus plan.

On the table:

Council members were offered five different visions of the future:

l Model I: Stay as the ICE, working with other institutions on specic issues.

l Model IP: Stay as the ICE as above plus become much more proactive in forming policy/inuencing positions and linkages with like-minded organisations.

l LF: Stay as an independent institution within a loose federal association/society of something else.

l TF: Retain the ICE name within a tight federal association/ society of something else.

l FM: Full merger into a new Institution of Something Else. One institution covering civil and mechanical engineering.

(See www. nceplus. co. uk for the background to the decision. )

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