PROPOSED CHANGES to widen criteria for ICE membership have been hailed by Roger Sainsbury as a sea change in attitude that will recognise civil engineering as an amalgam of specialisms.
His paper, presented to Council last week, states: 'Hydrologists, surveyors, transport planners and others play a part in what civil engineers do. They are civil engineers and should have as much right to become Members of their institution as does any other species of engineer. With this change of attitude, we shall offer a real welcome to these brothers and sisters in civil engineering. Without it we shall continue to appear grudging and condescending.'
The ICE's first generic description of what a civil engineer does would help to draw in new members, said Sainsbury. The paper recommends that someone with 'theoretical knowledge' and 'practical experience' who 'deals in things physical to plan design, build, use or circumvent those physical assets or obstacles' in a 'scientific' way - can be considered a civil engineer.
Said Sainsbury: 'It's the first time we have tried to do a generic description within which, in future, any particular case can be considered.'
But he insisted that standards would not be lowered by the plans which could lead to new chartered members who do not meet the criteria of the Engineering Council.
His paper states: 'We cannot afford for this widening to lead to any soft options which reduce our standing. We will establish the chartered class in each specialism, and not initially accept candidates for non- chartered classes.'
Past president David Green - apologising for ignoring the protocol that past presidents should not speak unless asked - was unhappy with the tone of the paper.
He said: 'What I feel is lacking is excitement and enthusiasm. The suggestion is 'if we don't go in this direction what is going to happen to us?' I detect a nervousness and anxiety about this paper.
'We need to welcome people in with specialisms we once called our own and are in danger of losing, but there also needs to be a change of structure to give these new members opportunities to participate and govern. In this, we should be looking to work in partnership with other institutions because the barriers are narrowing.'
A vote on widening of membership measures will be taken at Council on 15 December. Council members were urged to canvass the views of members in the local associations, with excitement and enthusiasm.