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Focus on the basics


In the recently published ICE report Learning to Live with Rivers, it is stated that there is a skills shortage in river engineering, which can only be addressed by a well-funded MSc course.

This should not be seen as a quick fix, but as an exhortation to address fundamental problems in the way that postgraduate engineering education is funded.

Privatisation of the water industry, the continual reorganisation of the Environment Agency, the lack of interest or ability of consulting engineers to invest in education and the fashionable obsession with asset management, have all contributed to the shortage.

This has severely damaged the postgraduate provision in hydraulic engineering.

Too much short-term thinking has been applied to national higher education outputs. Engineering education requires continuous support, albeit in a developing technical and social frame. Quality, not fashion, must dictate success in funding.

We need river engineers who have the expertise to manage flood risk and design the infrastructure. The fundamentals do not go away, and we must work hard to maintain our practice of them.

Dr EM Valentine, senior lecturer in hydraulic engineering, department of civil engineering, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

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