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Studying the options


Flexibility seems the byword for courses in 2003. New ways of teaching are being explored, modular course structures are increasing and there are many ways to convert, extend or develop existing qualifications into a full engineering qualification or degree.

Part-time modular courses, particularly, are beneficial where company sponsored students cannot be spared too long out of the office, or where senior staff are seeking further skills.

Specialised or industry focused syllabuses are also emerging.

Southampton University for example is developing a modular sustainable waste management MSc aimed specifically at the industrial sector, with eight course units to be taken over two to five years. There is also a dissertation component.

'You can pick and choose how you tackle it, ' says Heidi Shaw from the civil and environmental engineering department.

Completing just four units gains a postgraduate certificate, each unit contributing 15 points toward the required 60 CATS points, says Shaw. 'The units also count individually as continuing professional development units.'

Course units are taught in intensive five day residential stints with additional work undertaken away from the university. Industry provides leading figures for lectures and advises on content.

Southampton offers three other MSc courses in a more conventional teaching format - engineering for development, aimed at developing countries' problems, transport planning and engineering, and environmental coastal engineering in conjunction with the Southampton Oceanography Centre.

'We also have an M.Res which is a masters through research, ' says Shaw. Coastal engineering for climate change involves just three months of structured teaching with a nine month research project. 'This can also lead pn to a PhD, ' says Shaw.

For some elements of its waste course, Southampton exchanges lecturers with Leeds University, where a similar environmental and industry emphasis can be found. Two of its courses - solid waste management and infrastructure asset maintenance and management - are backed by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council.

'The management courses particularly have seen major growth in the international to UK student balance, ' says lecturer Steven Male, in the School of Civil Engineering. This reflects course content though it is also due to increasing costs for UK students, he says. The result of that is also a much higher demand for part time courses.

'We now use modules with four day intensive teaching plus private study. We are also getting away from one day a week release to one day per fortnight.'

Flexibility in another sense is important for Portsmouth University and Kingston University which focus particularly on courses giving access to chartered engineer status. Bill Evans at Kingston says its flagship three year BEng offers 'matching section' courses which bring this to the level for chartered status.

But the university also has the lower entry level IEng course and two year foundation engineering courses, tailored for industry in railway engineering and construction engineering.

Students doing well on these courses can get second year entry into the BEng course.

Portsmouth too has 'shortcut' routes to the second year of its BEng or the longer MEng courses, which can be useful for overseas students who have often done a basic course in their own country. And like Kingston there are 'matching sections' to convert the BEng into the MEng for chartered engineer status.

Portsmouth civil engineering MSc can be teamed with earthquake, structural, and environmental engineering. The matching section courses use MSc elements, with a single intensive semester followed by industry based learning.

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