Synopsis of the Papers of the First AECEF International Symposium
Education for Civil and Environmental Engineering and Surveying

by Professor Ralph M.Francis,
University on New Brunswick,Canada
AECEF Board member

In the next four or five Newsletters a synopsis will be published of the papers contained in the Proceedings of the 1st AECEF International Symposium, "Education for Civil and Environmental Engineering and Surveying" which was held in Prague, September 25 - 27, 1995. At the Symposium there were many themes, ideas, proposals, and estimates about the future directions of Civil and Surveying Engineering education which are worthy of consideration. With the approach of the 21st. century it is appropriate to examine new directions in Civil Engineering education as reported from many European and North American viewpoints and reflected in the papers of the Symposium.

A limited number of copies of the Proceedings of the Symposium are available from the AECEF directorate for DM 50,-. Contact Mrs.Alena Naprstkova at AECEF, Czech Technical University in Prague, Thakurova 7, 166 29 Prague 6, Czech Republic, or e-mail to:

Theme 1: New trends in Civil Engineering and Surveying Education.

Computers in Civil Engineering Education:

The role of computers in the educational process was emphasised by several authors. The keynote speaker (8) noted that the current technology in assisted education has two objectives:

Herriot-Watt University (1) is grappling with changes in the traditional civil engineering program to address the problems of civil engineering work by graduates on a more global basis. This will include greater Industry/University interaction and a greater degree of professional development in students,

In discussing the role of GIS as a tool for planning in Civil and Environmental engineering (2) it was noted that the costs of implementation of GIS systems for: hardware:software:data to be 1:10:100, however, the applications applicable to Civil and Environmental Engineering are extensive:

In (4) it is recommended that computers, although valuable tools, must be used with caution:

The role of the computer in the educational process, as expressed by other authors in other themes of the Symposium, and will be outlined in later issues of the Newsletter.

Program Content for the Future:

In the keynote speech (8) it was suggested that technology-assisted education will include:

It was clear that many universities are in the midst of curriculum changes in order to try to anticipate the future needs of students.

The impact of the Market Economy in the United Kingdom (1) is expected to lead to .. " a position in which companies will operate with much reduced staffing levels..... with a relatively small number of Chartered Engineers within the company [and] with significant elements of their work sub-contracted to.. in house units ... or [to] small independent companies with specialist qualifications... ." This is the situation that has developed in North America and Australia. The program at Herrior-Watt University in Edinburgh has been modified to meet the needs of student mobility at home and in Europe. The present program is called the "Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering with European Studies." This program was developed with the principles of: nurturing "professional attitude and complementary professional qualities"; assuring that undergraduates "must understand the nature of business, with a focus on the civil engineering business; and "the need to provide a high level of technical knowledge at a European level..." To this end the program is highly co-ordinated with industry and requires its student to study for a term at an European university.

Nothing new was proposed in (4), but courses were outlined which would have a significant continuing need in the future in the areas of: communication - writing, oral, and visual; environmental concerns arising from civil engineering works; professional ethics; and the need for continual study by graduates.

Chalmers University (5) has embarked on a revision of its civil engineering program following a study of major European university systems. The authors comment on the variations in programs in Europe:

Many universities ... cover a wide field in their compulsory part while other are much more specialised, preferably towards structural mechanics. ... there is a wide variation in this respect between different universities. ... in what respect do these differences affect the ability to work in an organisation and to develop and assimilate new knowledge and skills. .. we think that the greatest challenges to civil engineers of tomorrow are to handle environmental problems and also that many will change working tasks. create a sustainable society must be an overall goal, but what does this mean to the civil engineers and their education? What new areas of knowledge have to be covered and what skills are needed to deal with these problems? ... Understanding the environmental problems must be seen as basic knowledge included in science and technology.

We also think that whatever knowledge the education gives the students, they are going to meet new, more or less, unknown areas in their professional careers either by new discoveries or changes of [their] working field. Thus it is of great importance that the engineers are well prepared and trained to seek and obtain knowledge on their own. Whatever they learn at the universities will be insufficient, they will have to develop themselves during their whole life as professionals.

It was stressed in (7) that in addition to ensuring,... "

that students are well grounded in fundamental principles and acquire the ability to apply these to real problem and achieve safe, economic, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sound solutions. ... a true education must go further than this and equip students with the skills which enable them to adapt to changes throughout their careers. ... the needs of engineers will evolve throughout their careers as they assume increasing responsibility for the management of people and resources. It is widely debated as to when the academic foundation for management training should be provided: during undergraduate education or as professional development later in their careers. ... Future graduates will need more than ever to be flexible, innovative and to be able to work across traditional discipline boundaries."

In a discussion of the role of civil engineering (6) it was noted that,

"Civil Engineering has had a special position in relation to infrastructure, the environment, engineering disciplines and other related disciplines. Engineering, and especially Civil Engineering, has a very important role in the rehabilitation and future development of the infrastructure. This role cannot be substituted by any other means.

Listing the needs of civil engineers as: knowledge, skills and Abilities, these were broken into classes as: Technical knowledge base; e.g., mathematics, computers, civil engineering disciplines and general engineering disciplines; the Management knowledge base as: Business, resource, time and cost management; and finally the Personal intellectual foundation as : ethics, personal skills, such as problem solving, decision making, analysis/synthesis, innovation, leadership and personal discipline; communication skills; and some knowledge of the Humanities and social sciences.

The authors make the trenchant comments about university/industry co-operation:

We can formulate special roles for Civil Engineering practitioners and special tasks for universities and other schools and educators, ... however ... practitioners should also be able to accept the role of educators. At the same time university and school education in Civil Engineering should produce students and teachers are good practitioners, or who are very responsive to the needs of practitioners construction work.The universities must not be ivory towers.

An unique idea is explored in (3) where it is proposed that to provide a proper education in the discipline of Construction Engineering, utilising both the practical background of practitioners and the theoretical background of academics, a dual career status should be established. This would allow persons who are active practitioners in construction engineering to work in a university setting and to achieve some measure of academic advancement, while academics with a theoretical background should be acceptable to the construction industry and there too achieve some business advancement. The authors propose that the criteria for advancement on in both arenas should be modified so that people pursing a dual career will not be penalised in either career. Examples of the dual career principle in the United States and England are presented.

Construction engineering and management, by its nature, is such a practical discipline that the obvious advantages of having a professor who is concurrently working in the industry are undeniable.

Ongoing faculty involvement within the construction industry is critical if universities hope to effectively prepare their students for what awaits him in today's construction marketplace. An equally important advantage to the construction industry, is the level of engineering innovation and sophistication that a university professor can bring back to an industry that notoriously lags behind the cutting edge of technology.


  1. Barr, A., and Fordyce, D., "Engineering Education into the 21st. century." [United Kingdom]
  2. Detrekoi, A., "The role of GIS in civil and environmental engineering." [Hungary]
  3. Epstein, W.C., and Herbsman, Z.J., "Dual careers in construction engineering: A solution for the educational crisis of the 21st century." [United States]
  4. Francis, R.M., "Educating civil engineering students for work in the 21st. century." [Canada]
  5. Haggstrom, S., and Eden, M., "Education for the future." [Sweden]
  6. Patera, A., and Vaska, J., "Initiatives in civil engineering education." [Czech Republic]
  7. Speare, P.R.S., "Transferable skills in civil engineering courses." [United Kingdom]
  8. Wilson, F.R., "Delivery of civil engineering programs in the 21st century, the electronic classroom without walls." [Canada]

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