Students will expect more from universities if they have to pay more for their education.
Students must work harder, universities must offer courses with a global outlook, and businesses must view graduates as an investment if universities raise tuition fees to £9,000 a year.
These messages emerged from a debate held last week to discuss the impact of the higher tuition fees on the engineers of tomorrow.
Students, university representatives, business leaders and ICE President Peter Hansford attended the ICE organised debate on tuition fees in Reading last Friday.
Changes to the way university courses are funded could cause many students, particularly on four or five year MEng courses, to graduate with debts of £60,000 or more.
Change teaching call
Consultant Jacobs operations director Terry Fuller urged those present to view the changes as a driver for change to the way the courses are taught.
He said English universities are now not just centres of academia but businesses, and “part of the supply chain”.
He said that courses will have to reflect the global recruitment opportunities for young, emerging workforces.
He pointed out that “the engineering sector will struggle to compete with the financial sector, which can afford to buy off student loans”.
Loyalty to companies, Fuller said, would help graduates to move swiftly up the career ladder.
Graduates and Students Network representative James Conway said that he knew of many peers prepared to jump ship to other companies offering better salaries. “Loyalty works both ways,” he said, and if a university education costs such a large amount, graduates would expect a lot more return for the investment they make in their educations and postgraduate employment.
Hyder Consulting director and debate chairman Roger Barsby echoed this sentiment. He said graduates at his company were increasingly asking for more experience so they could become chartered. A lack of projects in the UK, he said, has led the company to send graduates abroad to get the experience they need.
Jacobs consultant Howard Gander suggested a star rating system for university civils courses so prospective students can make more informed choices, as degrees become more and more of a serious investment.
The fundamentals of civils training were being neglected, he suggested, adding that “the hours spent in lectures, tuition, and laboratory work per week is significantly less than what it was thirty to forty years ago”.
“We are now entering uncharted waters, and I believe that the Institution needs to totally reassess the course accreditations of all universities. The ICE should be quite rigorous in reviewing all courses for their technical content, lecture and tutorial staff/student ratio and laboratory work.”