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

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

This continues the review of papers of the First AECEF International Symposium.

Theme 2: Education and Research.

Curricula Philosophy in Civil Engineering Subjects:

In view of the great technological changes which have taken place in all aspects of civil engineering disciplines, universities are reviewing the content of their courses, and the methods of presentation.

The mathematics curriculum at the Czech Technical University was analyzed in [1] with regard to the recommendations of the SEFI (European Society for Engineering Education) Mathematics Working Group, " to define the relatively precise mathematical needs of European engineers." .."this document is solely advisory and .. institutions and governments educational representatives may interpret it as they choose." As a result of this report, the mathematics curriculum at the Czech Technical University was revised last year to reflect a wider view of the system of mathematical courses in the Faculty of Civil Engineering. Specific courses are arranged to be suitable for various civil engineering programs.

The importance of computers in the teaching of mathematics is a vexing problem in civil engineering. Some subjects like Statistics and Numerical Methods make the best use of computers, but more symbolic subjects require special mathematical computer software systems. The author expands in detail on the use of the package Mathematical for this aspect of teaching.

Trends in the teaching of Geotechnical subjects are outlined in [5] . While existing principles of the subject are adequate for standardized problems, the authors outline areas of applicationwhere the unequal geometric shapes of structures and the underlying complicated geological structure make different mathematical modeling and computer software necessary. The .."success of geotechnics depends on evaluation and prognosis of interaction between structure and geological environment."

Specific areas of study noted are: "Foundations on recent deposits" - related to the strip mining of coal in the Czech Republic. The future use of the mined area with its artificially placed earth requires definition. "Construction of earth structures from less appropriate materials" - related to the improvement of weak soils by reinforcement using geotextiles, or the use of special soils for sealing and drainage systems in landfills. "Underground engineering construction and advancement in underground town design." Old European cities require underground parking and transportation systems which make geotechnical analysis important in the design process. "Environmental Geotechnics" This is an important subject which is related to the present need for "environmental envelopes between waste and the biosphere." The required properties of rock and soil; e.g., permeability, coefficient of filtration, diffusion, dispersion, sorption capacity and activity and treatment during construction." have to be determined

The university program at the Czech Technical University has been expanded to include 42 hours per term of teaching and a wider selection of courses. Noted were, "Geology, Soil Mechanics and Rock Mechanics, Underground Structures, and Engineering Geology." For students who wish to specialize in upper years the courses available are: "Soil Mechanics Laboratory, Rock Mechanics Laboratory, Field Measurement in Geotechnics, Advanced Foundation Engineering, Advanced Underground Structures, Automatization of (the) Geotechnical Task, Quarrying, Geotechnics and Environment".

Revisions to Existing University Programs:

The presentation [2] outlined the development of Civil Engineering education in Romania and the changes which have been instituted since 1989. The program layout..." is organized in three steps: the first one consisting of two years is general for all specialities belonging to the same programme, while the second one, consisting of three years, is oriented on subjects related to the specific field. After five undergraduate years, the licence of Engineering can be obtained on the basis of the Diploma Examination. The Third stage, of one postgraduate year is devoted to Master's Degree studies."

In the evolution of the civil engineering program at Timosoara Technical University the quantity of Mathematics and Basic Science and courses in the Civil Engineering background have been reduced by about 4%, while the courses in Civil Engineering applications and Complementary Studies has been increased by almost 20%. Other courses in the program make up the difference in percentages. Students are now able to elect courses in subjects of their interest, but it has been noted that the Romanian Ministry of Education has imposed a minimum number of 20 persons for each elective course, which can mean that many elective courses can not be presented.

As a practical test of the effectiveness of the new academic program, the authors note, ..." the behavior of a large number of Romanian students, who have participated during last years in the TEMPUS grants all over Western Europe ... have shown a remarkable capacity for adapting to a foreign educational system, however, more flexibility in specialized training is absolutely necessary."

Student and Faculty Mobility within Europe:

Reference [3] outlines the author's experience on a Tempus Phare Grant which was designed "to encourage greater interaction with member states of the European Union by increasing skill related training, reforming higher education institutions, developing and reforming existing curricula, and improving links between higher education and industry.

Further Tempus grants linked the University of West England with the Technical Universities of Ostrava and Prague for the purpose of exchange of faculty members to: utilize library facilities in England with the view to: determine the applicability to the Czech Republic; study computer-assisted learning at the University of West England; improve English language skills; and to identify items of academic benefit to all the universities involved in the exchange.

A proposal is being constructed to focus on the creation of a multimedia/database tutoring system which will be of benefit in the future in engineering subjects, but with the capability to be applicable to all subjects.

Reference [4] outlines the benefits of study abroad for students, however, notes the difficulties of students from Eastern European countries to finance their study and living costs, in western countries. It was noted that such student exchanges require special agreements between universities, or support from external sources, e.g., Government projects, or sponsors. The experience of the Czech Technical University with student exchanges was noted. The experience to date appeared to be that more western-based students were studying in Prague than the reverse. This was the consequence of the difficulty of having western universities finance, in addition to academic fees, the basic living costs of exchange students.

International Research

The author [6] suggests that the AECEF consider, in addition to the matters dealing with teaching and curricula, the need to include research as a focus for the organization. His experiences with the COST program, which has participants from many countries of the European Union, as well as from Central and Eastern Europe are outlined. The organizational structure of COST, and the purpose of the program for the "support of fundamental research or activities of public interest." is related to his experience with "COST C1 Action on Civil Engineering Structural Connections". Funding of worthy projects is in place to support: meetings of articipants in research; publication of results; and the mobility of younger research workers for short periods of time. This paper should be of interest to civil engineers who are interested in obtaining funding for European co-operative research.


  1. Cerny, J., "The design of mathematics curricula for civil engineers"
  2. Gadenau, L., and Dubina, D., "Ratio evaluation between fundamental and specialty subjects in the Romanian civil engineering higher education curricula."
  3. Jones, S.R., "A core study illustrating how the theory underlying East-West study programs can be effectively translated into practice."
  4. Machacek, J., "Mobility of students among AECEF members."
  5. Vanicek, I., Bartak, J., Lamboj, L., and Schrofel, J., "Development trends in geotechnics and its teaching."
  6. Virdi, K.S., "Transnational co-operation in civil engineering research. The COST C1 Programme of research on semi-rigid connections."

Return to the page "Newsletter 2/1996"