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Late study re-ignites SARTOR debate

THE INSTITUTION of Civil Engineers has been accused of threatening to disenfranchise poorer civil engineering students by its approach to Engineering Council backed education reform.

Professor Richard Neale, head of Glamorgan Universitys School of the Built Environment, hit out at the ICE after being asked to take part in a survey to measure the effect of the EngCs Standards and routes to registration reforms on civils further education.

We are meeting social needs, said Neale, and SARTOR runs contrary to everything were trying to do. Our students are drawn from an area of significant economic deprivation and SARTOR disenfranchises them. Like many of the new universities, we are looking down the barrel of gun over SARTOR.

The first courses operating under the SARTOR rules will begin in autumn 1999. If a degree course is to be accredited, 80% of students must have at least 18

A-level points. Those students not making the grade will be expected to take a BSc course and become incorporated engineers.

But Neale explained that Glamorgans threshold for its BEng course is just 14 points a level below the SARTOR minimum but set to attract those who may not have had educational advantages of richer parts of the country.

Neales comments came after responding to a survey sent out by ICE director of education, training and membership Richard Larcombe, designed to help ICE predict the possible effects of ramping the [entry] requirements as required in SARTOR.

The Glamorgan academic wrote back: I am astonished that the Institution seems only now to be engaging in research which will indicate quantitatively what effects the introduction of SARTOR will have on the education system which underpins it. Is this not similar in principle to erecting a civil engineering structure and analysing it afterwards?

While he agreed with SARTORs aim to raise standards, he claimed this should be done by measuring the quality of graduates.

An ICE spokesman confirmed that the survey was the first of its type to have been carried out. But he pointed out that the Association of Civil Engineering Departments had commissioned similar research two years ago (NCE 25 October 1996). That survey predicted that SARTOR would mean the closure of a third of civils degree courses.

Alastair MacLellan

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