The core of Civil Engineering knowledge –
- a prerequisite for the effective exchange of students between European Universities

by Stanis³aw Majewski
Silesian University of Technology, Gliwice, Poland,
Ryszard Kowalczyk
University of Beira Interior, Covilha, Portugal,

The international exchange of students between European Higher Education institutions becomes more and more an accepted practice. It seems that in forthcoming years it will become one of the important requirements for effective education in engineering sciences. No doubt the student’s stay in a different university environment abroad is itself a very instructive and fruitful personal experience for him/her. Nevertheless as academic teachers and engineers we should also reflect on how this stay should be organised to assure the best academic and professional experience.

Already, for several years student exchanges within the Socrates scheme have been conducted between the Civil Engineering Faculties of the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, Poland and the University of Beira Interior in Covilha, Portugal. The experience gained during this co-operation has proved that some form of similarity of educational systems, study curricula and programs seems to be necessary, or at least beneficial for better results.

It should be strongly emphasised that we don’t think about any form of unification. The autonomy of the University is of great value and there is no doubt that every university should preserve the individual character of its teaching environment. Yet it is much easier to organise teaching for foreign students and to send our own students abroad, if we roughly know what they are going to learn and how it fits into to the programme carried out at the home university. Therefore we propose some steps, which should be undertaken to facilitate European exchanges. These steps refer to: -

Several years of participation in European educational projects such as Tempus and Socrates and particularly the results of the EUCEET project has provided the basis for these proposals.

Civil Engineering degrees and corresponding qualifications
Two professional degrees: the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Science are recognised all over the world. This is noted in the Bologna Declaration (Joint declaration of the European Ministers of Education convened in Bologna on the 19th of June 1999), which recommends ”Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degree schemes, also through the implementation of the Diploma Supplement, in order to promote European citizens’ employability and the international competitiveness of the European higher education system”

There is a discrepancy in the length of the teaching periods between universities, particularly for the first degree, which varies from 3,5 year to 5 years. (In Portugal it is just 5 years.) The period of teaching for the second degree is more or less equal, from 2 – 2,5 years. The organisation of studies is slightly different: in many countries for both degrees, diploma work or a diploma project is required; in other countries for the first degree there is a final project, which is not considered as diploma work, but as a subject. For the second, the MSc degree, usually a master’s thesis is prepared and defended.

Civil Engineering has a very wide range of applications therefore studies are usually divided into specialities in the last year of study. This specialisation may be either narrow or broad, depending on this, are the chances of employment. Anyway the graduate should be prepared to plan, design, execute and supervise the civil engineering works taught in the specialisation and have enough background to deepen his studies and preparation for other types of work.

In some countries the accreditation of civil engineering studies by a professional organisation of engineers is recommended. This means that the graduates can use the title of Engineer as well as their BSc and start their professional career without the need for any additional exams and certificates. This accreditation by an independent professional body seems to be a good verification of the teaching programmes of Civil Engineering Departments.

For student exchange lasting at least one semester, it is therefore necessary that the co-operating universities be very well acquainted with the programmes of the partner universities. They can advise the students to choose subjects, which are a real complementation to their studies at the Mother University. We usually cannot count on the subjects taught in other universities covering exactly the same area as in our own university. Our teaching staff should be flexible enough to accept the diversity in programme, without such an approach we cannot create a good basis for student’s exchange.

Study system
The general organisation of educational systems differs significantly, not only globally but also within European. Without going into details the following systems can be identified:

  1. One-stage system - fig. 1a and 1b
  2. Two-stage system (three-stage including PhD level) - fig. 1c
  3. Branched system - fig. 1d

Fig.1. Study systems

Each of these systems can be achieved in the form of pure university teaching as well as with ”sandwich courses”, which include 1 or two semester’s compulsory Industrial Practical Placement. The duration of studies varies from 3-5 years at BSc level and 4-7 years for master courses.

We don’t want to evaluate here particular systems, however it should be stated that the Bologna Declaration explicitly recommends the two-tier one (Adoption of a system essentially based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate. Access to the second cycle shall require successful completion of first cycle studies, lasting a minimum of three years. The degree awarded after the first cycle shall also be relevant to the European labour market as an appropriate level of qualification. The second cycle should lead to the master and/or doctorate degree as in many European countries;). This model is more effective, easily reveals better candidates for higher stages of education, thus enabling the raising of teaching levels and it leads to the logical partition of the teaching material between the basic course (BSc) and higher (MSc, PhD) stages. The branched system is very similar to the pure two stages one, however it’s shortcoming is the lack of a professionally directed diploma, which is essentially the difference between the MSc thesis.

There is no doubt that student exchanges are much easier between universities, which have adopted similar educational systems, however it is also possible between those which have different ones. Yet in both cases exact knowledge about study curricula and the content of particular subjects is essential.

Characteristics of currently existing curricula
Working group “A” undertook the detailed analysis of study curricula at undergraduate level within the EUCEET project. A number of parameters were analysed and the results have been presented in the first EUCEET volume entitled ”Inquiries into European Higher Education in Civil Engineering”. In this paper we want to draw attention to the contents of study curricula, firstly the names of subjects taught.

The analysis of curricula sent by 24 universities, from 19 countries revealed the huge diversity of subject names. About 390 subject names can be found in these curricula. Currently used subject names are given in table 1.

Table 1. Subject names currently used in the curricula
Applied Mathematics
Algebra and Geometry
Applied Mathematics
Differential Equations (PDE’s)
Engineering mathematics
Linear Algebra
Mathematical analysis
Probability and Statistics
Applied Informatics & Computational Methods
Applied Informatics
Computational Methods in CE
Computer Assisted Drawing
Computer methods in structural analysis
Computer Programming
Computer Science
Data processing
Elements of Informatics
Fundamentals of computer science
Fundamentals of Informatics
Graphics and CAD
Introduction to Computers and Programming
Introduction to Programming
Data processing
Digital Image Processing
Strength of Materials
Introduction to Strength of Materials
Mechanics of materials and fracture mechanics
Strength of Materials
Structural Analysis
Finite Element Method
Structural Mechanics
Solids and structures
Analysis of Framed Structured
Computational Methods in Structural Analysis
Matrix Analysis of Framed Structured
Static of Construction
Structural Analysis
Structural analysis and design
Structural Engineering
Structural Mechanics
Structural stability
Theoretical Methods in Civil Engineering
Modelling and Structural Analysis
Numerical Methods
Numerical Analysis
Numerical methods
Numerical methods in engineering
Numerical Methods in Mathematics
Applied Physics
Thermodynamics and heat transfer
Building Physics
Physics of Construction
Physics of Structures
Applied Chemistry
General Chemistry
Building Chemistry
Chemistry of Materials
Technology of materials and applied chemistry
Water and Wastewater Chemistry
Engineering Graphics
Constructive geometry
Descriptive Geometry
Drawing and Composition
Engineering Geometry & Drawing
Engineering Graphics
Technical Drawing and Geometry
Technical Drawing
Applied Mechanics
Continuum Mechanics
Rational Mechanics
Solids Mechanics
Theoretical Mechanics
Mechanics of solids
Civil Engineering Mechanics
Theory of Elasticity
Structural Dynamics
Dynamic and Vibrations
Dynamics of Structures
Dynamic and Seismic Engineering
Littoral Dynamics
Structural Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering
Introduction to Engineering
Engineering design
Engineering science
Introduction to engineering
Building Studies
Engineering Projects
Complex Design
Building Materials & Concrete Technology
Building Materials
Building Materials & Concrete Technology
Construction Materials
Concrete Laboratory Course
Concrete Technology
Isolation & Concrete Technology
Building Construction
Building Construction
Building Construction & Building Physics
Building Construction Methods
Engineering Construction
Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Buildings
Pathology and Building Conservation
Restoration of Monuments and Sites
Construction Quality and Economics
Quality Control in Construction
Building Installations
Electrical Engineering
Building Services Systems
Sanitary Engineering
Water Supply and Sewer Systems
Water Treatment
Building installations
Design of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants
Environmental and sanitary engineering
Sanitary Systems
Computational Methods - GIS
Engineering surveying
Surveying Measurements
Geodesy of Structures
Geodetical Control of Constructions
Geographical Information Systems
Topographical Databases
Underground Surveying
Urban Geographical Systems
Applied Hydraulics & Hydrology
Applied Hydraulics & Hydrology
Fluid Mechanics
General Hydraulics
Hydraulic engineering
Hydraulics and Hydrology
Hydrology and Water Resources
Surface Hydrology
Wastewater Treatment
Water Engineering
Applied Hydraulics
Elements of Computational Hydraulics
Hydrodynamics of Bays and Reservoirs
Hydrologic Modelling
River Hydraulics
Water Resources Planning and Management
Hydrography and Hydroinformatics
Planing of Hydraulic Systems
Engineering Geology
Mineralogy and Geology
Engineering Geology
Geology for engineers
Geotechnics & Foundation Engineering
Soil Mechanics
Geotechnical engineering
Soil mechanics
Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering
Soil Mechanics and Foundations
Introduction to Rock Mechanics
Introduction to Soil Dynamics
Advanced Soil Mechanics
Case Studies in Geotechnics
Databases for Geoinformatics
Geotechnics & Foundations
Foundation Engineering
Topics of Soil Improvement - Reinforcement
Fundation of Large Structures
Structural design
Design of structures
Building structures
Building structures
Fundamentals of structural design
Structural design
Structural engineering
Theory of building structures
Design of building construction
Design of buildings
Design of structures
Theory of bridges and other structures
RC bridges and other structures
Project design
Residential building design
Analysis and design of special structures
Building in seismic zone
Computer earthquake resistant design
Experimental methods and models for structural engineering
Industrial building construction
Protection against mining subsidence
Special structures
Special structures and foundations
Advanced design in building construction
Construction of large structures
Design of municipal buildings
Design of residential buildings
Hydrotechnic Structures
Water Structures
Harbour Works
Hydraulic Structures
Hydraulics Constructions
Maritime Engineering
River catchments management
Hydropower Construction
River Control
Urban Planning
City Planning
Regional and Urban Planning
Urban Planning
City Planning
Computers in Urban and Regional Planning
Regional Planning
Urban and Regional Planning
Urban Planning and Design
Analysis of urban and environmental systems
Land use planning
Urban and environmental engineering
Urban management
Introduction to Architecture
Architecture technique
Architecture and Urban Planning
Development of Architecture
History of Architecture
Concrete Structures
Concrete Structures
Design of Reinforced Concrete Linear Elements
Design of Reinforced Concrete Structures
Prestressed and Reinforced Concrete Structures
RC and Timber Structures
Reinforced Concrete
Reinforced Concrete Structures.
Precast concrete structures
Prestressed Concrete
Reinforced and prestressed concrete structure
Concrete Building Structures
Steel Structures
Design of Steel Structural Components
Steel Structures
Theory and design of steel structures
Steel Laboratory Course
Steel Building Structures
Steel Technology
Timber Structures
Timber Structures
Masonry Structures
Masonry Structures
Structural Masonry
Composite Structures
Composite Steel and Concrete Structures
Metallic and composite Structures
Underground Structures
Underground Structures
Theory of Underground Structures
Underground Concrete Structures
Bridge Construction
Bridge Structures
Advanced Steel Bridges
Environmental Engineering
Civil Engineering and Environment
Environmental Protection
Environmental engineering
Air Pollution
Environmental Hydraulics
Environmental Impacts
Water Quality and Pollution Control
Applied ecology for engineers
Environmental impact assessment
Environment and Remote Sensing
Environmental Geology
Environmental Impacts
Environmental Protection of Urban Area
Pollution Control of Urban Areas
Soil- and Groundwater Protection
Waist Disposals
Construction Technology & Organisation
Building Technology
Construction Site
Construction technology
Methods of Construction
Technology of Construction
Construction and Planning Methods
Technology of Construction
Building Technology & Cost Calculation
Building Technology & Organisation
Organisation of Assembly of Structures
Economics and Management
Management and Decision Analysis
Construction Management
Construction Organisation and Management
Principles of Construction Management
Business Administration
Construction Economics and Management
Economics and Management
Management for engineers
Management in Civil Engineering
Advanced management in CE
Methods for Decision Making
Urban Management
Water Quality Management
Water resources Management
Engineering Economics
Non-Technical Science
Building History
Engineering Law
European Economy
Planning and Building Law
Public and Private Law for Civil Engineering
Economics in CE
European Studies
Foreign Language
Foreign Language and Technical Terminology
Humanity courses
Introduction of Social Sciences
Law for Engineers
Social Sciences
Public Administration
Transportation Engineering
Construction of roads, railways and airports
Traffic Design of Public Roads
Traffic Engineering
Transport Engineering
Transport Infrastructures
Transportation ways
Transportation and highways engineering
Airports and Air Transport Systems
Transportation Engineering
Transportation Planning
Transports and Urban
Highway facilities management and maintenance
Transport infrastructures modelling and design
Earth Works of Traffic Constructions
Intelligent Traffic Systems
Urban Traffic
Road Engineering
Highway Engineering
Road Communications
Road Traffic Management
Roads & Motorways
Advanced Design of Road Constructions
Design of Roads
Pavement Design
Railway Construction
Design of Railways
High Speed Railway Constructions
Final Project
Diploma Thesis
Diploma Work
Final Project
Final Project Seminar

Proposed subject names
Huge number of subject names handicaps the students’ exchange. We hardly know what is the difference between Rational Mechanics (does the irrational mechanics exist?), Continuum Mechanics, Solid Mechanics, or simply Mechanics. We are not sure what comprises the subject called ”Structures” (we know it is Structural Analysis). It’ll be much more intelligible if the number of subjects is reduced. In table, subjects are grouped and each group has its general name. These can be used as the recommended set of subjects in study curricula. The proposed set of general subject names is presented in table 2.

Table 2. General subject names.
Applied Mathematics
Numerical Methods
Applied Chemistry
Applied Physics
Applied Informatics & Computational Methods
Engineering Graphics
Strength of Materials
Structural Analysis
Structural Dynamics
Applied Hydraulics & Hydrology
Engineering Geology
Geotechnics & Foundation Engineering
Building Materials & Concrete Technology
Building Construction
Building installations
Non-technical Science
Introduction to Engineering
Structural design
Concrete Structures
Timber Structures
Steel Structures
Masonry Structures
Underground Structures
Hydrotechnic Structures
Composite Structures
Urban Planning
Introduction to Architecture
Environmental Engineering
Construction Technology & Organisation
Economics and Management
Road Engineering
Transportation Engineering
Supervised Industrial Placement
Final Project

The total number of subjects is reduced to 38. The general subject names should be used only for this part of knowledge, which every graduate of Civil Engineering at the BSc level must know. In some cases the partition of courses connoted by numbers 1,2 etc. can be introduced. This refers for example to such subjects as ”Concrete structures”, in which ”Concrete structures 1” determines the basic rules of dimensioning and ”Concrete structures 2” deals with designing of simple structural elements. If the material taught exceeds the basic part of knowledge, which should be familiar for each Civil Engineer the adjective ”advanced”, ”special” or ”supplementary” should be added. This also concerns MSc courses as well as optional and specialist courses (e.g. Advanced Concrete Structures only for students of a Structural Engineering speciality).

The proposed set of subject names supplemented by the above rules enables quite precise determination of the material scope. More detailed information about the subject contents should be given in the programme.

Proposal of a Core Curriculum for Civil Engineering
In table 3 a proposal of a core curriculum for Civil Engineering BSc course is suggested. This should be treated as a first draft of such curriculum and the basis for broad discussion.

Table 3.Draft of Core Curriculum for Civil Engineering
YearCore subjects
FirstApplied Mathematics
Applied Physics
Applied Chemistry
Applied Informatics & Computational Methods
Engineering Graphics
Strength of Materials
Building Materials & Concrete Technology
SecondApplied Hydraulics
Building Construction
Building Installations
Geotechnics and Foundation
Structural Analysis 1 & 2
Structural Design 1
Concrete Structures 1 & 2
Steel Structures 1 & 2
Construction Technology and Organisation 1
ThirdStructural Design 2
Concrete Structures 2 cnt’d
Steel Structures 2 cnt’d
Construction Technology and Organisation 2
Economy and Management
Transportation Engineering
Urban Planning
Introduction to Architecture
FourthIndustrial Placement
Non-technical Sciences
Final Project

As it is an initial proposal we don’t try to impute any numbers of teaching hours or credit points to the proposed subjects just claiming that these subjects should be present in the curriculum of each Civil Engineering course. According to the rules proposed above (section 5) all these subjects comprise just the basic part of knowledge, which is necessary for each Civil Engineer of whichever speciality. Obviously some extensions for each speciality as well as some individual features for particular university are not only admissible but in many cases also necessary. In the 4th year of studies we have introduced a Supervised Industrial Placement. In our opinion it should last full semester. The experience gained at some courses at the Civil Engineering Faculty of the Silesian University of Technology as well as the experience of many countries proved that it is extremely beneficial for students’ education. Sometimes it is not easy to organise such practical placement, as it requires the co-operation of the construction industry.

To summarise the paper, let us claim that we are sure that something what can be called ”Core of Civil Engineering curricula and programmes” is an essential prerequisite for effective student exchanges between European universities. Based on this conviction a proposal of the unified subject names as well as a draft of a core curriculum for a Civil Engineering BSc course has been presented, just to initiate the broad discussion on this problem. We invite everybody to contribute to such a discussion. Please send opinions and proposals to our e-mail addresses. We believe that the EUCEET network can be a suitable forum to discuss and solve the problem.

Manoliu I., Bugnariu T. (editors): Inquiries into European Higher Education in Civil Engineering. First EUCEET Volume. Bucurest, Romania 2001.

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