AT A meeting in April, council approved a proposal that there should, in principle, be a single class of member, embracing all who qualify by passing either the Incorporated or Chartered Professional Review.
The decision, which recognises the high standard and value of incorporated engineers, was taken after a 90-minute debate - one of the liveliest in recent history.
The next step is for President George Fleming to set up a working party to consider the details and consult with the local associations, and then return to Council for the final decision to go ahead 'in practice'.
At the moment, people passing the Incorporated Professional Review become AMICE and those passing the Chartered Professional Review are awarded MICE. But from this year, both reviews ramp up to a new higher standard which effectively divides the old CPR into two levels - CPR having begun with a four year degree and IPR with three.
The proposal is to have MICE CEng and MICE IEng, while AMICE retains its present identity and corporate status which Council voted for in December.
Scott Steedman opened the Council discussion with an impassioned plea for Council members to think carefully about how ICE should reward those who pass the new and demanding Incorporated and Chartered Engineer professional reviews introduced as a result of Sartor.
'Both Chartered and Incorporated professional reviews involved a rise in standards, small at chartered but a considerable leap at incorporated, ' Steedman said. 'The standard now required to meet the grade of incorporated engineer is similar to the standard we used to require of chartered engineers. If these candidates succeed at such a professional review - a review that on technical grounds alone cannot be distinguished from the chartered review - then on what grounds are they to be denied membership of this Institution.'
Member would always be the Institution's main grade, he added, and it should embrace everyone who achieves its demanding qualifications.
The vice presidents lined up to support the change. Mark Whitby claimed speed was essential as the first BEngs who would benefit from MICE route come out of university this year. Joe Dwyer said ICE had to recognise the changes made in the quality of the Incorporated Professional Review. 'This is an opportunity that comes only once; if we don't take it now we won't be able to for a long time.'
John Bircumshaw added his support.
'We should be an inclusive Institution, not an exclusive one, ' he said.
Immediate past president Roger Sainsbury vehemently opposed the idea of a single grade of member. He was concerned that relying on the Engineering Council CEng/IEng distinction to indicate the qualifications of an MICE meant ICE's membership being designated by an outside body. 'It takes away from the Institution and drives at the heart of the Institution, ' he said.
'If I found myself an MICE IEng, I think I would deregulate from the Engineering Council and travel the world as an MICE - the real article.'
John Ekins said he thought the current distinction in designation was divisive and unhelpful. Peter Cameron was wholeheartedly in support of a single category of MICE and warned: 'We need to beware the impression of greyness Council can give. We need to be proactive and not dilly dally.'
The vote was 5:1 in favour of proceeding with the single class of membership in principle. President Fleming co-opted Joe Dwyer, Mark Whitby, Scott Steedman, Hugh Norie, Carole Drummond and David Orr to a working party to report back to Council as soon as possible.
Fleming had maintained a neutral position during the debate but after the vote he said: 'In my view you have reached a correct decision. The institution must move forward and we should listen to the views of the graduates and students who make up 19% of our number.'