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We didn't all sell 'dream solutions'

Letters

As one of the surviving band of engineers involved with a particular aspect of infrastructure provision, the motorway network, from the late 1950s to the present time, I believe Mark Whitby's advice of 'acknowledging our failures' (NCE last week) is mistakenly directed at engineers. I am very proud of the contribution made by engineers during the 'motorway era', to the economic and social well being of the UK.

For my part I can provide written evidence of my personal, opposition back in 1968 to the obsession of most architects and many planners of the 1960s for ego boosting developments, such as high rise dwellings for families who would have preferred more conventional solutions. I am not prepared to be ignorantly lumped in with those who mistakenly sought to promote this type of image- boosting infrastructure quite often against the grain of public sensitivity.

It is very important too that the pious zeal expressed in Whitby's article for the 'new breed of engineer - the urban engineer' does not encourage the current version of the 'town planner' to be swept away in a self righteous tide of private transport bashing, which as yet has not won broad public support.

Mike Callery (F), Aveyan House, Out Lane, Croston, Preston, Lancashire PR5 7HJ

Remember municipal engineers?

I was surprised to read Mark Whitby's unjustified attack on David Bayliss. Clearly Mark did not work in the 'Brave New World of the 1950s and 1960s' or he would realise that for every engineer who sold the dream solutions to the politicians, there were an equal number who cautioned them about the impracticality of their proposals.

The new breed of engineer of which Mark speaks - the urban engineer - has actually been around for a long time in the form of the municipal engineer.

Lord Rogers' Urban Task Force report will give new impetus to the renaissance of our inner cities, and the ICE's AME is working within the Urban Design Alliance to give engineers the tools they need to face these new challenges. The ICE has a long track record in urban regeneration, including Tomorrow's towns, published in 1993, and most recently Liquid Assets - making the most of urban watercourses, published last year. Next year ICE hopes to launch a road show on Places, Streets and Movement with the backing of DETR.

Personal criticism of senior members damages the profession and reduces its status. Making use of the expertise that is available is one way to regain it.

John Bircumshaw (M), vice president, chairman AME, Institution of Civil Engineers, One Great George Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AA

Management skills the key

Mark Whitby writes of 'a new breed of engineer - the urban engineer'.

Between the wars and for some years after 1945, this was a role undertaken by city and borough engineers at the head of multi disciplinary departments.

Men such as Manzoni, Paton, Watson and Nicholas, to name but four, were certainly eminent urban engineers. But more than that, their success depended on their skills as managers which involved political acumen and sensitivity combined with the ability to communicate effectively with council members to convince them of the need to undertake the various projects required for the maintenance and development of their town or city.

WR Shirrefs (F), 11 Rogersmead, Tenterden, Kent TN30 6LF

Not so simple Sartor

I would like to reply to Damian Arnold's article on Sartor (NCE 30 September).

Neither I nor the Engineering Council has any opinion on the right number of civil engineering degrees that should be awarded in the UK.

Sartor is a consensus document which was generated by a working group representing the whole profession. It is published by the Engineering Council.

Sartor is not intended to 'cull' courses, but by recognising the difficulties of mixed ability teaching in the UK's intensive short engineering degree courses, to establish criteria for two types of course, drawing on different strengths.

Entry standards, although based on the A level point framework universally used by UK universities, embrace Scottish Highers, GNVQs, BTEC and International Baccalaureate. Many other qualifications, including access and foundation courses, may be acceptable.

The popularity or otherwise of IEng degree courses has not yet been established, since this is the first year they have been available under the new regulations.

HESA statistics show UK universities accepted approximately 23,000 new undergraduate engineering and technology home students in 1998.

Broadly 50% of students on all newly accredited engineering courses must meet Sartor entry requirements this year. Next year it will be 60%. The guidance is more detailed than Damian Arnold's article implies.

IEng courses lead to Associate Membership of ICE.

Andrew Ramsay, director for engineers' regulation, Engineering Council, 10 Maltravers Street, London WC2R 3ER

Worrying trend

Your article on Sartor seems to show that IEng courses are not popular, not adequately promoted by the Engineering Council and are not being taken up by enough universities. Course closures rather than course changes appear to be happening. My crystal ball is showing a rather different picture to Andrew Ramsay's of the Engineering Council who believes that everything will be fine.

If 'BEng graduates from the newer universities were not a patch on people with BEng degrees from the old ones', then why do we at Nottingham Trent obtain 100% employability for our sandwich placement students and graduates? Sartor 3 appears to be perpetrating an unjustified bias which has worrying undertones.

We will continue to play our part in helping to implement Sartor. But we and others like us need encouragement not criticism from the Engineering Council, or else the profession and industry will be serious losers.

Professor RK Hawkins, head of civil & structural engineering, dean of construction and the environment, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham, NG1 4BU

Study options set straight

I am reported as saying (NCE 30 September): 'I also know of six universities which have submitted course details to the JBM but which will be turned down when their accreditation comes up.'

Your reporter has entirely misconstrued the reference to six universities as being those who have submitted documentation under Sartor 3 , a number of whom have already been approved and the remainder of which I expect to be approved. I could not possibly have any way of knowing which universities will be turned down since I am no longer a member of the Board.

Portsmouth is reported as being likely to replace its BEng programme with a construction engineering degree accredited by the CIOB.

This is not true. Portsmouth has every intention of continuing its MEng and BEng civil engineering courses accredited under Sartor 3 but will also run a course on construction engineering management in lieu of a civil engineering IEng course, which it believes will not attract enough potential student numbers.

Professor Brian Lee (F), University of Portsmouth , Faculty of the Environment, Department of Civil Engineering, Burnaby Building, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth, PO1 3QL

Horses for courses

As I read M4i executive director Ian Huntington's reaction to the new 7th Edition of the ICE Conditions of Contract (NCE last week), I was recharged with a small feeling of hope for our industry.

It is naive of the ICE to believe that a traditional form of contract can actually 'fully support and promote the benefits of team working'. Effective team working can only be achieved through a state of mind of the people involved and appropriate incentive mechanisms in place for those people and their host organisations, not by prescription from some form of contract.

A philosophy of 'How can we adapt what we have developed over many years to match the needs of the industry's future?' seems to have been adopted by the ICE in producing the 7th Edition. As Egan states in his summary to Rethinking construction: 'We are not inviting UK construction to look at what it does already and do it better, we are asking the industry and Government to join with major clients to do it entirely differently'.

Mr Huntington points out that the ICE cannot ride two horses at the same time. I would take this metaphor one step further and suggest that the ICE, presented with the modern day motor car, is asking: 'But where does the horse go?'

Keith Marr, Halcrow Business Solutions, Burderop Park, Swindon SN4 OQD

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