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 3: Study Programmes and their Compatibility.

This session dealt with the criteria for assessment of civil engineering programs in the United State, changes in civil engineering programs at universities in former socialist states, and the results of an AECEF comparative survey of European and North American civil engineering programs.

Accreditation Practice in the United States
The criteria for accreditation established by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) used in the United States was described in paper [4]. "The purpose of accrediting is to identify those institutions which offer professional programs"... designed to prepare graduates for professional practice. "The accreditation process involves a review of the faculty, curricular objectives, curricular content (including non-engineering topics), student body, administration and institutional commitment". The emphasis is at the baccalaureate level, but higher degree programs can be accredited.

To provide students with a background that will enable them to identify and solve practical problems, the ABET requirements are broadly stated for a four year eight semester program, at least one year of an appropriate combination of mathematics and basic sciences, one half year of humanities and social sciences, and one and one half years of engineering topics. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) also stipulate that to give students a broad background in engineering at least one half-year of courses must be in four major disciplines of Civil Engineering, and one half-year of engineering design must be included, culminating in a major design project. The successful program is given a six year accreditation, or if deficiencies are found, some time limit is given for their correction.

Because the ABET and ASCE accreditation criteria are given in broad, general terms, each university engineering program can be tailored to suit the staff and conditions at the University. The details of the eight term civil engineering program at Iowa State University are given in the paper.

Revisions to Study Plans
Slovak Technical University
Reference [2] outlines changes in the academic programs at the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava where the Faculty of Civil Engineering has about 2400 students in eight program streams The university has been subject to the needs of retaining faculty members, obtaining new laboratory and computer equipment, and having some concern for the market for graduates considering the difficult economic situation in the building industry.

The academic program has been revised to have three years common to all program streams, followed by fourth and fifth years of specialisation. Students must undertake an individual project in the final year of the program. The program is expected to develop students through their education by:

The revised curriculum has been in place for four years and it is planned in the near future to make minor changes to develop courses that are fully compatible with similar courses at universities in the European Union. Links with various Slovak professional organisations will be strengthened through widened contacts of faculty on Standards Committees, participation in seminars and the invitation of external speakers to the University. Some restructuring is planned:

Republic of Belarus
In the change from a planned economy to a market economy, the Mechanical Institute of the Republic of Belarus has instituted major changes in its program for the training of civil engineers [4]. This is the consequence of "instability in constructional organisation and the upcoming competition in employment. That is because unemployment is increasing"...for outgoing students and former graduates. To upgrade qualifications "the Institute has made [it] possible to get [a] second higher education in marketing, management, and law". Graduates of these programs have better possibilities of employment.

The new academic programs have:

Site practicals (field work) forms a part of the academic program. After first year studies, students visit construction organisations and factories producing building materials, followed by a four week Survey school where the theoretical and practical aspects of surveying are learned. Following second year, students train as workers in the construction field, after the third year of studies, they can work as a trained worker, and after the fourth year of studies they work as engineers.

"Studies in the civil engineering program include: construction management, marketing and business management, law, computer science, requiring programming skills and use of the computer in projects, training in ecological orientation and the protection of the population against catastrophes, knowledge of psychology, management in quality control, history of architecture and mechanical drawing".

Vilnius Technical University
With the new independence of March 1990 from the Soviet system, the Vilnius Technical University embarked on a revised academic program [5]. The new system was three-tiered: scientific degrees of bachelor, master, and doctor (PhD). This model follows the ISCED educational system recommended by UNESCO. In detail, the program is as follows:

Students from nine different faculties, including civil engineering study two years of basic technical course. They can then go on to either of a Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Engineering in the following two years. Students may then leave the university, or proceed to ether a two year Master of Science degree with a thesis, or a Diploma Engineer degree with specialisation. Following either of these degrees the student may leave the university, or from the Master of Science degree proceed to the Doctor's degree which after three successful years of work, graduate with a PhD.

As with the problems of employment in the building industry in Belarus, Lithuania is also finding difficulties for the arrangement of students for practical study at building enterprises or sites. Co-operation with the Kaunas University of Technology allows graduate courses to be presented jointly. At the present, after the four year baccalaureate degree about 20 - 25 % of graduates select the Master of Science degree and about 30 - 35 % select the Diploma of Civil Engineer degree.

The authors conclude with the thought:

In our opinion for the further improvement of [the] qualification of civil engineers with the university level of education over the world it is necessary for the majority of the countries to accept the framework of study programmes included [in] the ISCED classification. Then such programs might be more objectified or divided into some more specialised study programmes for various large branches of civil engineering... In this case the student exchange possibilities and programme[s] between the civil engineering faculties [at] the corresponding education level of various countries would be more simple and efficient."

Analysis of civil engineering curricula
One of the major efforts of the AECEF has been the comparative study of curricula at some European and North American universities. The results of this study were presented in a Keynote speech by President Witzany [1] and are summarised below. The goal of the investigation...

"was to obtain a survey of the contemporary contents and objectives of teaching and to contribute towards the formulation of the requirements concerning the extent and depth of knowledge that graduates of European schools of university status must acquire which is recognised as entry level into a professional status in Europe. A further aim...was to determine if there is a correlation between the individual selected factors, such as the number of students, the number of teachers, the scope of teaching, etc. that could in the future contribute towards a rationalisation of the teaching process."

This study was partially funded by a TEMPUS (Trans-European Co-operation Scheme for Higher education between Central and Eastern Europe and the European Community) grant from the European Union and involved the responses to a questionnaire from thirty three universities: 40 % were European, 24 % from former socialist countries, 15 % from Canada, 15 % form the United States, and 6 % from universities in the United Kingdom. The data obtained was analysed statistically to identify a number of significant parameters. The results reported in [1] include:


  1. Witzany, J., and Vavra, I., "Curricula and study plan analysis".
  2. Fillo, L'. and Szolgay, J., "The new study plan at the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava".
  3. Sanders, W.W. and Greimann, L.F., "Civil Engineering education in the USA: Format and accreditation".
  4. Sazonov, I., and Konkov, V., "Training of civil engineers in the Republic of Belarus".
  5. Vainiunas, P., and Kvedaras, A.K., "Study model of civil engineering in Lithuania and ISCED Classification".

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