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Case Study 14: Master of Science programmes in Engineering and Management, University of Glasgow

Overview

It was decided to develop and offer a suite of PGT programmes in Engineering & Management after recognising that emerging global challenges required companies and organisations to increasingly integrate their engineering and business capabilities. This in turn demanded the provision of a stream of professional engineers, from various engineering disciplines, who also understood the essential principles of business and management. The structure and curriculum of the programmes was informed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education views of Master’s degree characteristics [1] and more generally by the ideas of critical evaluation and reflection in professional practice advocated by Schon and others [2].

Keywords

MSc programmes, Engineering, Business and Management, Interdisciplinarity

Describe briefly the activity/initiative/practice

The suite of PGT programmes in Engineering & Management currently consists of the following individual programmes:

  • Aerospace Engineering and Management
  • Civil Engineering and Management
  • Electronics and Electrical Engineering and Management
  • Mechanical Engineering and Management

Each programme was therefore designed primarily for students with an undergraduate engineering background, but little business and management experience. The students develop knowledge and skills of business management principles and techniques in the first semester and then advance their technical expertise in the second, through a choice of discipline specific engineering modules. In the second semester students also get first-hand experience of managing an engineering project through a multidisciplinary integrated system design module, allowing development of project management, quality management and finance skills.

What makes it master’s level?

Our suite of Engineering and management programmes are judged to be at Master’s level because they provide students with a critical insight into the state of the art of their engineering discipline and of the current state of professional practice. Students are required not only to understand advanced techniques related to their area of study and professional practice but also to demonstrate a capacity for critical evaluation of the techniques and methodologies and to apply them to open-ended problems. Students are also required to demonstrate a capacity to deal with complex issues in a systematic and creative manner and to be able to communicate the results of their work to a professional level. These characteristics are exercised via a major individual project and via an interdisciplinary group project. By successfully completing one of these degree programmes students will have:

  • improved their abilities to work productively in a team undertaking an interdisciplinary engineering project
  • strengthened their communication and presentation skills
  • improved their business and management skills - with regard to both people and projects
  • advanced and strengthened their understanding of  discipline specific engineering principles.
  • Developed their capacity for critical evaluation of their professional practice

What challenges were encountered/overcome - in terms of "Mastersness" - and what lessons were learned that would be helpful to others?

The main challenge to be overcome was to develop a subject course that could provide an interdisciplinary activity that would successfully integrate engineers from a range of disciplines: Mechanical, Aerospace, Civil and Electrical and Electronic. This was developed by a Visiting professor in Engineering Design, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, who was able to develop a clear link between business management at high level and knowledge of advanced engineering. The result was a course called ‘Integrated System Design’. This course requires students from different engineering disciplines but with a common understanding of business and management issues (they study the latter this in semester 1) to form small groups to tackle an open-ended project. An early example of a project was to determine if a wind turbine could meet the energy needs of a small community on a Scottish island and then to plan a project for implementation. It requires the groups to consider the business dimension of the problems, the design of the wind turbine, the logistics of transporting the wind turbine to site, survey and the preparation of the site (access roads etc). 

Where to next in terms of "Mastersness" and what lessons were learned that would be helpful to others?

The guidance that we receive from our Industrial liaison committee suggests that industry, around the globe, requires a steady supply of professional engineers who are able to make an immediate and effective contribution to the profitability of their business. From an engineering and business perspective this is clearly a Master’s characteristics and although we would argue that the graduates from our engineering and management programmes are currently well prepared to meet this challenge there is still a need to strengthen this aspect of all our PGT programmes..

References

  1. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2010), Master’s degree characteristics, ISBN 9781849790949
  2. Schon, D., (1990), Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, ISBN 9781555422202

Contact

Dr Graham Green, Convener of Postgraduate Taught (PGT) Programmes, School of Engineering, University of Glasgow