Abstract of paper presented to World Conference on Engineering Education
WORLD CONFERENCE ON EDUCATION
APPLIED ENGINEERING AND ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY
Cologne, April 1984
ENGINEERING DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT : BREAKING OUT OF THE STRAITJACKET OF SCIENCE
Centre for Management Studies, The Hatfield Polytechnic, U.K.
Science is of paramount importance to all branches of engineering. One consequence is that the ethos and methodology of science is imparted to engineers, leading to the development of such attributes as seeking certainty, skill at analysis and impersonal judgment.
Designers and managers need a number of attributes dissimilar or even contrary to those derived from science. These include an ability to cope with uncertainty, to synthesise solutions to problems and to relate to and communicate with people.
In general engineering students are taught, in a scientific milieu and on graduation the scientised engineer joins a company and is managed by scientised engineers a few years further on in their careers. There is thus a straitjacket of science constraining engineers which inhibits or destroys the additional attributes required.
In engineering education much more serious consideration than hitherto should be given to trade‑offs between the two sets of characteristics. The effectiveness of engineers in industry and the public services could be greatly increased by altering the balance in favour of the dissimilar attributes.
Curriculum elements designed to enhance the dissimilar attributes should not be tacked on after the >hard= engineering and supporting content has been imparted for by then the scientising process may have caused damage. Indeed, in the U.K., the Engineering Council's recommendation that selection of potential technological or managerial leaders for the extended degree (M. Eng.) course should take place in the second year, makes it essential that opportunity is given early on to display or develop a number of the additional attributes.
The Engineering Council has proposed that candidates for the M. Eng. course should be interviewed by a panel and that personal qualities should be considered. But will the composition of the panel and the particular qualities it seeks merely reinforce the scientific straitjacket - or will they be chosen to allow a sufficient escape from the constraining influence of science to give greater reliability in the identification of future leaders?