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Marshall legacy - your ideas


THE CHALLENGE to find way of spending the ú300,000 residue of an ICE bequest has been heartily adopted (NCEI February).

In the four years since ICE member Gerald Marshall bequeathed his ú500,000 estate to the Institution, Council has spent just over a third of the money - the majority on renovation of the library and digitisation of its extensive collection.

With ideas for the balance run dry, a committee chaired by president Mark Whitby has been set up to consider options, with the stipulation that the chosen idea is seen to be 'buying betterment'.

To help Whitby's committee, sister magazine NCE asked readers to send in ideas and was flooded with recommendations, in advance of the ICE Council's decision making meeting. Here is the top 10 of their ideas of what to do with the Marshall Legacy.

1. A nautical Institution A boat on the Thames catering for around 20 passengers and kept at Embankment pier, close to the Institution is one idea to be floated past the Marshall Legacy committee. Decorated with the Institution's name, the launch could be hired for client entertainment, for taking MPs on Thames cruises, for ferrying journalists to river-side construction sites, or for educational tours of engineering attractions.

2. A learned Institution The Institution of Civil Engineers is first and foremost a learned society. The ICE has over 40 expert panels, boards and committees dedicated to advancing knowledge in technical, commercial and environmental matters. Spreading this knowledge was considered by many to be a fitting use of the money.

Some advocated setting up a scholarship fund to finance Institution-backed research and development activities at accredited universities. Others suggested establishing bursaries at two universities to work on ways of teaching health, safety and environmental management.

3. A qualifying Institution The Institution's second fundamental is as a qualifying body. So to use the fund to overhaul definitions of what constitutes a qualified civil engineer would be a bold move.

It is proposed the ICE should establish an entirely new professional qualification, outside the Engineering Council system.

Registration of civil engineers would be made compulsory by law.

With such a scheme, so the plan goes, the higher standard RegCivilEng would become recognised the world over.

4. Equal opportunities Institution The Disability Discrimination Act 1996 states that from 2004 organisations such as the ICE will have to 'take reasonable steps to remove, alter or provide reasonable means of avoiding physical features that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service.'

The Institution has been looking at ways to improve its disabled access - currently via the service entrance at the back of the building - for some time. But getting planning permission to carry out alterations to the listed frontage of One Great George Street is difficult. One member feels that ú300,000 could go a long way.

5. A better promoted Institution According to the ICE Annual Review, last year graduates from local associations visited over 400 schools across the UK giving presentations. Since March 2001 over 6,000 copies of Edifice, the ICE's interactive promotional CDRom, have been sent out to schools. But the readers want more. Many called for the fund to go on more presentations at schools and colleges, with a particular demand for it to be targeted at parents and teachers.

Another suggestion was to use the fund to promote civil engineers working in the public eye, with the aim of producing civil engineering role models for future engineers.

6. An Institution for heritage Brunel's site office during construction of the Great Western Railway - undertaken at the height of his career - still stands in front of Chippenham Station in Wiltshire.

The ICE should adopt the building, turning it into a museum, heritage centre and a celebration of one of the UK's engineering giants. Brunel is a hugely popular historical figure, synonymous with innovation. Public interest in his work and life is the ideal vehicle for spreading awareness of modern engineering.

7. A humanitarian Institution Donating the entire sum to Engineers Against Poverty, if handled correctly, would do more to enhance the status of the Institution and the profession than a refurbished library ever could, one respondant argued.

A slightly less radical proposal was to set up a scholarship allowing young ICE members to go on RedR or WaterAid assignments as part of their professional development, at no cost to the relief agency.

8. An international Institution Using the fund to help transform the ICE into the European Institution of Civil Engineers was another bold suggestion. The money would be used to set up a European office from which to manage ICE publications so that they can be simultaneously published in French, German and Spanish.

9. An Institution for the future Using the money to set up a scholarship fund attracted more readers' suggestions than any other. A range of scholarships were proposed, with university students and graduates the favourite beneficiaries. Ideas included final year sponsorship, foreign exchange schemes, grants to employers taking part in sandwich courses, and direct help for smaller companies wishing to set up a training scheme.

One of the more unusual proposals was a scholarship scheme where, each year, 10 young people from developing countries would be given 10 years 'free' ICE membership.

10. Do nothing While no-one suggested banking the money to supplement the Institution's other income, it is nonetheless an option the committee is considering.

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