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Universities urged to relax civils entry rules

UNIVERSITIES COULD be allowed to relax entry requirements for civil engineering courses under proposals to be put to the ICE.

If accepted, students could get on to BEng courses with less than 18 A-level points and on to MEng courses with less than 24 A-level points, if they can demonstrate 'rigorous and auditable' standards and work experience.

The proposals come in response to concern over falling numbers of applications to civil engineering courses. In the last five years, applications have dropped 40%, with applications for 1999 down 362 to 3,080.

If approved they will be put to the Engineering Council, which will then have to consider reworking its Standards & Routes for Registration rules.

At present, SARTOR rules say engineers seeking chartered status must have 24 A-level points if they study for an MEng qualification.

Those who take BEng courses must have 18 A-level points plus a 'matching section' - one year of further study after graduation.

The proposal to rework SARTOR was the result of a two- month working party set by the ICE, Institution of Structural Engineers and Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers. The working party was chaired by Ove Arup principal director Richard Haryott with Professor David Anderson of Warwick University and Professor Clive Melbourne of Salford University.

Haryott chairs the Joint Board of Moderators which accredits engineering courses for the ICE, IStructE and CIBSE. He confirmed this week that lower A-level scores in some cases would be recommended.

He said: 'If someone with 20 or 22 A-level points applying for an MEng degree has a string of A grades at GCSE and has spent a year bridge building in Botswana then clearly they are of a high standard. What we will show in this paper is how that kind of standard can be measured.'

The paper will also propose to simplify the applications system for civil engineering courses, making it easier to understand.

School leavers and career advisers are said to be bewildered by a system under which 80% of 70% of each year's intake will require 24 points for an MEng course and 18 points to study for a BEng.

Haryott said: 'The system has become too complicated for school leavers and career advisers. We need to ensure that school leavers are not put off.'

The report will also give clearer guidance on the composition of the matching section for BEng graduates wishing to become chartered engineers.

Haryott said: 'We have mapped out a clearer route showing how much professional development and distance learning would be needed.

'We will also clarify current confusion about levels of academic broadening and technical deepening that will be required in the matching sections.'

ICE chief executive Mike Casebourne said this week that the Institution supported greater 'simplicity' and 'flexibility' in the entrance rules for tomorrow's chartered engineers.

He said: 'The ICE will consider negotiating with the Engineering Council to reduce the complexity of the SARTOR rules in order to open up access to our profession without reducing standards.

Sources close to the Engineering Council indicated that it was sympathetic to the proposals as long as high academic standards can be clearly shown.

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