The ongoing debate within the pages of NCE on entrance standards for university civil engineering courses, and their relevance to what makes a good engineer, has thrown up many interesting anecdotes and points of view. There appear to be numerous routes to becoming a Member of the Institution, some traditional, others maverick, but in the end all benefiting the profession as a whole.
Thus I wonder if the Institution is entirely correct in concentrating on raising the number of A level points required to study civil engineering, as a method for improving standards and status. Most forward thinking employers are looking for 'softer' skills to complement good analytical and technical ability, and many would bemoan the fact that future engineers are limited to three A levels, thus causing a narrowing of their educational experience from the age of sixteen.
A potential solution may be the International Baccalaureate. This qualification allows up to six subjects to be studied to university entrance level, and has the added appeal of being recognised throughout Europe and further afield. A 16 year old could, for example, carry on studying two European languages and economics, while retaining maths, physics and chemistry. Perhaps more effort should go into lobbying Parliament to remove A levels and replace them with a qualification more suited to the industry in the 21st century.
A secondary benefit would be that by engaging in public debate on a very topical issue, the ICE would enhance its profile at the centre of public life.
Ivan G Jackson (G), 16 Danesfort, Moira, County Down, BT67 0SG