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In the UK, most engineering programmes are accredited and all of them have external examiners. Both systems are described here.
Many engineering programmes in the UK are accredited using procedures established by the Engineering Council, UK Spec and AHEP. These can all be accessed by the link below.
The US-based Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is used by many universities in and beyond the US.
All UK university programmes are subject to QAA procedures and benchmark statements.
More details …
Most engineering programmes in UK universities are accredited to standards (learning outcomes) set by the engineering profession and maintained by the UK’s regulator for the profession, the Engineering Council. The required standards are set out in the Engineering Council’s handbook: The Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes (AHEP). Degree programmes may be accredited as providing some or all of the required knowledge and understanding for registration as an Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or a Chartered Engineer (CEng).
The process for accreditation is determined by the Engineering Council and carried out by one of the Professional Engineering Institutions with a licence to do so.
A range of information for universities about the process, requirements, and value of accredited status is available here: The professional engineering institutions publish their own detailed process and interpretation of the standards for their own sector of the profession, which meet the Engineering Council’s requirements. The following paragraph is taken from this booklet:
“The accreditation process is essentially one of peer review; it is applied to individual programmes, not to the department or institution overall. An educational institution seeking accreditation for an engineering or technology programme should contact the relevant professional engineering institution listed here for advice on the procedure and the requirements for their sector of the engineering profession. Each professional engineering institution has its own published process for accreditation. Typically, the educational institution will make a submission in advance of a visit that includes the following information:
- The learning outcomes of the programme(s)
- The teaching and learning processes
- The assessment strategies employed
- The human, physical and material resources involved
- Professional registration of its staff
- Its internal regulations regarding progression and the award of degrees
- Quality assurance arrangements
- Evidence that the programme is at the appropriate level of the relevant framework for HE qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or in Scotland
- Entry to the programme and how cohort entry extremes will be supported
- How previous accreditation recommendations and requirements have been dealt with.”
Accredited status is typically awarded for five years before re-accreditation is required.
The external examiner system
All UK universities which teach engineering voluntarily engage in the external examiner system. For every engineering programme or group of programmes an experienced academic from another university is appointed to advise on the standards being set, and the processes by which the students are assessed. There is no national register of external examiners and in most universities such appointments are for a fixed term such as three years. The external examiner system is one of the ways in which good practice in the teaching and assessment of engineering is spread throughout the country.
More details ….
All engineering degree programmes in the UK have one or more external examiners. The Finch report on external examining, published in 2011, comments that, in the UK higher education system, each institution with degree-awarding powers has responsibility for setting the standards of its degrees within the context of common guidelines (that is, subject benchmark statements, professional body requirements – accreditation for engineering – and so on) and is subject to internal quality assurance procedures and external audit/review by an independent agency (the QAA). External examining is a very important part of this system.
Finch recommends that the role of the external examiner should be to advise the university offering the programme about:
- Alignment of outcomes/comparability of standards. This covers whether the programme is coherent; whether courses at the same levels within the programme are set at a comparable standard; whether the level is consistent with the level set in the relevant national qualifications framework; whether standards of student performance are comparable with similar programmes with which the examiner is familiar.
- Fairness and rigour, including whether the marking scheme and arrangements for classification are appropriate; whether the examination process was carried out properly; whether the internal marking was of an appropriate standard.
- Overview and enhancement, including what the examiner would identify as the strengths and weaknesses of the programme; whether he/she has suggestions for improvements based on experience at other institutions.
Progress following the Finch review has been summarized in a report prepared by the Higher Education Academy in June 2015.
External examiner reports, and any resulting follow-up action, form an important part of the evidence required during the engineering profession’s degree accreditation process.
The Engineering profession’s standards for degree accreditation have been adopted by the QAA as the standards in its engineering subject benchmark statement. Therefore, the engineering academic community is not subject to unnecessary duplication.
External examiners are usually senior academics from another university. There is currently no central register for external examiners in engineering but each school or department of engineering in the UK should be able to tell you the names of its external examiners.
One person’s “magic” is another person’s engineering