Shelf-life of post-graduate engineering education: relevance and currency in an age of dynamic industry expectations

Publisher:
Australasian Association of Engineering Education (AAEE)
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Citation:
24th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE2013), 2013
Issue Date:
2013-01
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BACKGROUND In response to the changing environment, industry requirements and the underpinning AQF specifications for higher education awards, UTS Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT) has embarked on a research project to review their Masters programs to ensure that the commitment to practice-based fields in both Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) education remains relevant. Both fields share synergies for teaching and research, and both professions are constantly evolving in a dynamic environment. For context, postgraduate courses in this study are the Masters of Enginering (ME), Engineering Studies (MES), Engineering Management (MEM), Internetworking (MSc.I) and Information Technology (MIT). This paper draws on research insights that form part of a larger project that entails stakeholder consultations (students/graduates, industry and academics) as part of the 3 yearly Faculty Masters review and renewal process. The research completed to date includes quantitative and qualitative perspectives of current students and recent graduates regarding their learning and professional expectations and actual experiences, including relevance and currency in industry. PURPOSE The key purpose of this paper is to present the insights based on research conducted with stakeholder perspectives centred on their needs, expectations and actual experience. Consequently the purpose is to evaluate the currency, relevance and value of current postgraduate program contributions to industry and the Engineering and IT profession; and more importantly in addressing future industry needs to ensure that Engineering and IT education programs remains robust, relevant and sustainable in dynamic industry environments where rapid change is the norm. DESIGN/METHOD The study utilised a mixed-methodology with quantitative and qualitative perspectives. 308 students and graduates were surveyed online to gauge their attitudes with regards to the relevance and contribution of the respective Masters programs undertaken in enhancing career and employment opportunities. Another 13 students and graduates were involved in semi-structured qualitative interviews to explore what drove student choices in undertaking the programs, key contributions to learning and to their current professions, areas to improve on and what an ideal Masters program might look like. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS Students indicate that they expect a program to be industry relevant; to be up to date with market needs; to foster linkages across research, academia, their cohorts and industry; to provide extensive practical opportunities and include a balance of technical application and managerial development. Programs also need to provide sufficient choice and flexibility to meet student goals and future career aspirations. Age and personal goals; as well as employer support, educator industry experience and the economic environment play a key role in professional sentiments towards program relevance in meeting industry needs and thus enhancing career opportunities. To extend the shelf-life of a postgraduate qualification in a dynamic environment faced by professionals today, universities need to work in close collaboration with industry partners to ensure that industry-relevant issues are authentically addressed in the students learning experiences. Therefore a postgraduate educational framework that encompasses a balance of core and elective subjects; provides authentic industry viewpoints; builds network relationships; fosters knowledge transfer across research, students, alumni, academia and industry; facilitates industry-relevant or industry-involved project work and internships in a blended-learning environment could further enhance expert-level graduate capabilities in a multidimensional and dynamic environment to ensure industry relevance and currency.
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