Universities need to be clearer about who they are trying to attract and what they are trying to achieve in order to resolve the current MSc problems.
While the latest UCAS figures show that undergraduates are not being put off civil engineering by the introduction of higher fees, geotechnics still faces a skills crisis without a funding solution for vital post-graduate training.
“MSc courses are a very important, if not essential, component of the development of ground engineering professionals along with school, a first degree and lifelong continuing professional development,” says City University emeritus professor John Atkinson. “But MSc courses cannot be
‘one size fits all’ if they are truly to meet the demands of the industry.”
According to Atkinson, the ground engineering sector is stuck in a cycle, complaining about lack of funding for post graduate training but not valuing the knowledge of the bright young things that have recently emerged from such courses.
“Universities need to focus on developing courses that are interesting and exciting for students but also relevant and up to date to produce an end product that industry needs,” he says.
“Entrants to geotechnical MSc courses normally have first degrees in geology or in civil engineering but these graduates have little in common and the same MSc course cannot serve both equally, yet many universities try to be all things to all people in a bid to ensure they attract enough students because of the lack of funding.”
Atkinson believes that employers are not helping break the cycle because there is not enough long-term planning when it comes to staffing needs and they are also not open to new ideas.
“We can’t all be captains of industry,” he says. “The ground engineering market needs people who are movers and shakers as well as those that keep the wheels turning.”
Nonetheless, most people still need postgraduate training to gain the skills and knowledge necessary for a career in ground engineering, whether they describe themselves as a geotechnical engineer or engineering geologist.
UK MSc courses in geotechnical related subjects
For a full listing of the courses on offer in the UK, course content and contact details, please see the table listed with this article.