The Woman Engineer – Summer 2016

The Woman Engineer – Summer 2016

woman_eng-masthead2Article featured in The Woman Engineer – Summer 2016

Abandoning an obsession for maths and science

“Engineering schools can be passion-killers. Talented young people arrive with burning ambition, inquisitive minds and a determination to change the world for the better. All too often that is sucked out of them within weeks. Some institutions take pride in drowning students in maths and physics until the only survivors are those who cling to the safety of textbooks rather than creating solutions or collaborating with others.” This is the stark warning from the team behind the UK’s newest university, The New Model in Technology & Engineering (NMiTE), which is scheduled to open in 2019 in Hereford. Taking its inspiration from America’s highly regarded and innovative Olin College of Engineering (www.olin.edu), NMiTE is pledging to deliver a new curriculum and to achieve gender parity among its students and staff. How? NMiTE will ask potential students: What is engineering for? Those who answer, ”to help solve the world’s great challenges and problems” – and who demonstrate grit, passion and curiosity – will be welcomed as students. Professor Peter Goodhew, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and one of NMiTE’s engineering advisers, explains: “Only when they know why they are studying engineering will we move on to help them understand how engineering can help and therefore what they need to learn.”

Liberal Engineering

The new NMiTE curriculum will focus on liberal engineering, with both design and the humanities at its core. Engineering will be learned in the context of one or more of the NMiTE themes – feeding the world; shaping the future; living in harmony and a healthy planet. Each of these embraces several of the great humanitarian challenges of the 21st century and requires dedicated engineering to address its problems. The necessary engineering might require supporting with mathematics (and obviously must obey the laws of physics) but students will not be required to offer these skills on entry; their human qualities, the grit, passion and curiosity mentioned earlier, are equally important. NMiTE students will be working on projects alongside industry and can expect to be highly employable. NMiTE is working closely with the University of Warwick and Boston-based Olin College of Engineering. Since its establishment 16 years ago, with a 50:50 male to female student and faculty balance, Olin is now recognised as one of the world’s leading engineering education innovators. The NMiTE team believe that women in particular will be attracted to a university which values people skills, problem solving and tackling global challenges. Peter Goodhew told The Woman Engineer. “Equality is not an abstract concept; at NMiTE we propose to practise what we preach. As a tiny example, our current curriculum group comprises two men and two women.” When it opens in Hereford in 2019, NMiTE will be Britain’s first wholly new, engineering-only university for at least 40 years. Its new curriculum and commitment to diversity will not be the only innovations; students will study for 46 weeks a year -just like being at work – and will earn their MEng degree in three years instead of the more usual four. Goodhew concludes: “We would be delighted to hear from WES Members and their employers who are interested in helping shape the NMiTE curriculum. Go to nmite.org.uk/curriculum to join our curriculum workshops in May and June.”


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