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Soft argument

Letters

Regarding Damian Arnold's article on courses and CPD activities in the profession (NCE 3 March), I should like to clarify my view on 'soft skills' versus 'fi rst principles'.

In a degree course on a vast subject such as civil or structural engineering there is inevitably a limitation on the available time-frame.

This needs to be sensibly divided into various activities constituting the 'parent' subject.

My concern is that increasing the time devoted to soft skills such as procedures, information and management systems could restrict the time available to learn the 'core' knowledge-related substance of the profession - such as concepts, theories, analyses, design, assumptions, codes, calculations, drawings, practical issues, creative ideas and so on.

Proper understanding of these latter issues requires time and effort from the learner. Universities are ideally placed to provide excellent opportunities to pursue such aspects of the subject which are difficult to come by later in careers.

My contention is that such grounding is more likely to produce engineers confident in their knowledge and ability to take up the challenges of the future.

Professor Arvind Kumar, director of Bridge Engineering Centre, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH

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