'Time for a radical education reappraisal': Your letters to Professional Engineering

Professional Engineering

Engineering students (Credit: Shutterstock)
Engineering students (Credit: Shutterstock)

Education reform needed

"It is time for a radical reappraisal of engineering education. Following the Finniston Report of 1980, universities were encouraged to extend their three-year courses by an extra year to lead to an MEng degree. I believe this to have been a mistake. 

As a colleague of mine said to one of the Finniston consultation events, an extra year will not make a dull student any brighter. Today, with the hideous £9,000+ fees and living costs to pay back, graduates start their career with massive debts. So what do I propose?

First, reduce the university course to three years. A student will learn enough engineering science in three years to last a lifetime in most industries.

Second, require that entrance to a university course should depend on having first had a year (salaried and not as an unpaid intern) in industry on an approved scheme. The government should be required to give the company a tax break to cover the costs.

Impossible? But we did this extensively in the 1960s and 1970s until the short-sighted Thatcher government removed the tax breaks for training. Remember the popular thick and thin sandwich schemes? 

My proposal would give students experience of industry before embarking on their courses, together with some financial benefit. Also, it would reduce their debt by a year’s costs and start their paying career a year earlier.

Winners all round! Go on, you know it makes sense."

Professor Bob Adams, Oxford


Mixing up a chemical cocktail 

"Quite rightly, thinking people are deeply concerned at the incredible rate of accumulation of waste plastics on our planet.

But there is another problem which I have never seen mentioned and which I firmly believe will strike us back, sooner or later. That is the millions of tons of chemical products which we are indirectly depositing in our atmosphere, on land, and in our rivers and seas.

We use air fresheners, hair- and body-sprays, shampoos, shower-gels, bath solutions, hair-gels, sink and bath cleaners, tile cleaners, sink- and bath-drain cleaners, floor cleaners, window cleaners, washing-machine detergents and decalcifiers, dishwasher detergents,
and so on.

Every time I pause to consider the subject, I think of yet another household chemical. Just taking a stroll around my home, I counted 47 packages, bottles, cans and sprays of chemicals, and I am most certainly not a ‘cleanaholic’.

When one takes into account the countless millions of homes around our globe, however many tons a year must be being deposited?"

Eur Ing P Lovegrove, Didcot, Oxfordshire


What's in a name?

"You report on the latest Rolls-Royce engines (Reaction, Professional Engineering No 6). I am of the view that the statement made, “Joining them is Pearl, the latest in the Rolls-Royce aircraft engine line-up, and the first to take its name from a non-British river,” is somewhat suspect.

The Rolls-Royce aircraft engine RB211 did not, to my knowledge, ever have a British river name designation. ‘RB’ referred to Rolls Barnoldswick (after the Rolls-Royce jet engine production factory). I have not yet come across a British river called Barnoldswick! I therefore contend that the RB211 was the first Rolls-Royce engine to have a non-British river name and not the Pearl engine.

The Rolls-Royce RB211 aero-engine (also used for many industrial applications) was in service from 1972 to the 1990s before being superseded by the Trent. The RB211 was developed from the RB178 and RB207 (neither engine being put into production)."  

G K Morgan, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire 

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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