HUNDREDS OF BEng civil engineering graduates have been freed to pursue chartered status after the Engineering Council (UK) finally approved the ICE's policy on matching sections.
Over the next three years up to 1,200 graduates will need to acquire a matching section to bring their BEng (Hons) up to standard before they can progress towards the chartered review.
Matching sections enable BEng graduates to reach the equivalent of an MEng through a further degree such as an MSc or by work-based learning equivalent to one year's extra study.
They will take on increased importance if the government's plan to raise tuition fees triggers a revival in popularity of the BEng degree.
Since the introduction of the MEng degree in 1992, the number of students graduating with BEng degrees has steadily declined.
Last year BEng degrees accounted for around 70% of all civil and structural graduates.
But with an MEng civil engineering graduate now facing a ú28,000 debt, many universities are preparing for a influx of BEng students.
Matching sections were introduced in EC(UK)'s standard raising document Standards and routes to registration 3rd Edition 1997 (SARTOR 3), which raised the minimum academic requirement for a chartered engineer from a three to a four year degree.
The measures began to take effect from last summer, but until now there has been no approved policy on how they can be obtained.
This has left up to 600 graduates without the means to become chartered engineers.
The detailed development of the matching section for civil engineering graduates was left to the ICE, which now admits it was slow to act.
'This should have been taken care of much sooner, and this situation is really not acceptable, ' said ICE vice president for professional development Richard Haryott.
'But now we have an approved four page policy statement which says in a simple and clear way exactly what is required.'
The document makes it clear that a matching section is simply the second part of 'completing the academic base'. It covers both BEng graduates looking to progress to CEng and BSc/HND graduates looking to progress to IEng.
It has four essential components:
l'Technical deepening' to extend knowledge beyond degree level l'Technical broadening' to widen knowledge and include areas not covered in a degree l'Non-technical broadening' to develop the skills required for team working, leadership, social and business awareness, through further studies such as law, finance, management, risk assessment and environmental issues.
l'Individual, group and multidisciplinary projects' to gain experience of team working, centred on real professional and business issues.
But the key, according to the ICE, is that the matching section is flexible and dovetails with an individual graduate's education, job and career direction, and the requirements of the ICE's initial professional development (IPD).
The four components must each make up at least 15% of the total, but a matching section may well be unique to the needs of a particular graduate.
The matching section may be obtained through JBM accredited courses, programmes of further learning provided by an employer, self managed programmes, or any combination of the three.
All relevant MSc, MRes, PhD, MBA and other taught masters courses offered by JBM accredited universities will be accepted.
'Prior learning' through structured industrial placements or part-time study can account for 30% of the total experience.
Whatever option a graduate chooses, the total experience must be broadly equivalent to that gained in a full academic year, around 1,000 hours of learning.
Graduates on self or employer managed programmes must get a learning plan approved by a supervising engineer.
INFOPLUS The four page policy document is on www. ice. org. uk
Decline of the BEng
Year BEng MEng BEng graduates graduates graduates as % of total
1992 2161 132 94
1993 2049 168 92
1994 2403 259 90
1995 2489 296 89
1996 2422 484 83
1997 2396 557 81
1998 1983 485 80
1999 1934 656 75
2000 1650 608 73
2001 1529 636 71