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 will be the last report on the First AECEF International Symposium which was held in Prague in September, 1995. It is expected that the next Newsletter will contain a review of the papers and discussions of the Second International Symposium to be held in Odense in May 1997. Preliminary information on that Symposium is given elsewhere in this Newsletter.

Theme 4: This session focused on Civil and Environmental engineering programmes

Barbosa [4.1] in a keynote speech for Session 4, outlined the difficulties in introducing a large block of new material, in this case, an undergraduate programme in Environmental Engineering, into the existing civil engineering program. In addition to the problem of finding some space in a crowded five year civil engineering degree program, there were also problems with government and faculty approval.

The solution was then to establish an interdisciplinary M.Sc. graduate program with four modules in the areas of: Geoenvironment; Hydraulics and Water Resources; Coastal Environment; Water and Wastewater Treatment; and Industrial Waste Management and Treatment. This program will be administered through an Institute for Environmental Studies with interdisciplinary co-ordination by an Educational Division and Services Division. It is envisioned that the Institute will, ”train - mainly at the graduate level, but also at the undergraduate level if required by the faculties - students who wish to pursue a career in the environmental sciences and technologies, and, provide advice and services toward the solution of specific environment problems that may be of interest to both industry and government.”

For academic planners everywhere these problems are well known and it is of interest to see how the problem has been solved at the University of Porto.

Juhas and Senitkova [4.2] approach the education of civil engineering from a theoretical viewpoint considering the prerequisites for sustaining the Environmental Education role - ”democratic society, market economy and strong environmental consciousness of members of society.” It is suggested that the present malaise in the environmental field requires that the ..”environmentalist minority must try to convince society to pay much greater attention and support to the development of environmental consciousness, awareness and involvement. This, environmentally sound institutions, economic incentives, legislation cannot be expected without having environmentally conscious, aware, and active citizens.”

”The problem of environment is mostly the problem of interaction between engineering construction and surroundings or outdoor-indoor building construction interaction. Both of them have to be solved as technical problems with lots of engineering and environmental feelings.”

For the future, the field of environmental engineering provides a wide scope for employment. Graduates of these programs can work as designers, researchers, environmentalists in civil engineering industry, the civil service, especially in the field of environmental management. The knowledge of graduates, ...”should be and important contribution to solutions of environmental problems of civil engineering investments. In the field of pedagogical work the importance of education in environmental engineering is even more [important] because of the lack of teacher-specialists”

Vrana and Zeman [4.3] outline the background planning to the establishment of an Environmental Engineering program at the Czech Technical University in Prague. The study plan for students has been based on the needs of government and industry and utilised information from European universities with existing environmental programs, notably the IHE Delft, and TU Lyngby.

The Czech program comprises:

  1. two years of general background subjects required for civil and environmental engineering;
  2. concentration on subjects in the fields of construction and hydraulic engineering;
  3. subjects which combine civil engineering aspects with environmental protection;
  4. optional subjects which enable senior students to specialise in environmental problems of their choice with teachers from local Czech or foreign universities.

Sertler [4.5] outlined the background of the formation of the Jan Perner Faculty of Transport in Pardubice in 1993. The programs have been formulated according to the report of the OECD about diversification of higher learning establishments and lead to bachelor, engineer or magister, or doctors degrees. In the bachelor’s degree programme the number of teaching hours does not exceed twenty eight, and attention is given to the practical side of the lecture material. The number of calculation and laboratory exercises and seminars is approximately equal to the number of lectures. With a background in practical and theoretical knowledge in transportation, graduates should predominately work in the management of transport civil engineering, in central offices of railroads and in ground communications organizations, quality control systems, etc. Higher level degrees combine obligatory courses in sciences, and professional subjects and require significant research and a thesis.

Theme 5 : The papers of this session dealt with the interface between civil engineering and Industry.

Bencat [5.2] discussed the role the university can play in leading the engineer along the road to a professional view of his craft. He suggests that beyond technical competence the engineers’ view must include: ”Holism --- [which] is concerned with using any chosen model situation or system as a whole in itself rather than as an assemblage of individually described and analysed parts...; Realism ... which deals with what is, rather than what is assumed...; Flexibility ....[which is] a situation-oriented view of the world. The engineer will be involved in new and unfamiliar situation and must have the confidence and capability to deal with them appropriately. ”Since knowledge becomes outdated at a rapid rate, it is vital that engineers retain a flexible attitude, which is the heart of innovation and change. Flexibility is necessary for their professional survival. Responsibility ... is a question of doing something or stating an opinion, and then standing by it. It also is concerned with the attitude that a professional has towards his clients. Ethicalness ... The more flexible, adaptable and pragmatic a professional engineer becomes, the more necessary it is to find some means of ensuring that his action at least lie within some bounds. He cannot simply act without limit. It should be possible to teach a part of the professional attitude outlined above in the university. This would concern holism, realism, and flexibility. These attributes of the engineer can be taught and earned through a change in attitudes. [Professors are well aware how the attitudes of students change over the four or five years they are in the university - from the raw recruits of eighteen when they enter university, they become mature thinking individuals at graduation.] Responsibility and ethics have to be learned on the job in a practical situation largely by example set by senior engineers.

Jutila [5.3] presents a view of the interface between the university and the students, as well as the interface between the students and industry. The role of the university in this triad is examined with interesting conclusions relative to civil engineering education in Finland. ”87% of young engineers found their education corresponded well with the demands of their work... Wide ranging education was more favoured by unemployed engineers.. [but for employed engineers this seemed] to be related to the field of activity... in management and construction . the need for technical expertise is not found to be of importance, but in the design field the situation is just the opposite.” ”.[Young engineers judged the quality and extensiveness of their civil engineering education as:] theoretical studies are extensive and the quality is good, practical knowledge and communications skills are of great importance but their teaching is of average or even poor quality and not extensive enough, education in computer science is of average quality and extensiveness or even poor, education for developing creative problem solving ability is inextensive and it is of average or poor quality, knowledge of languages is of average or high importance but the extensiveness of its teaching is on medium or poor level, extensiveness of management education is on [a] medium or poor level. ”Comments by [employers] were: more movement of engineers between the groups design, construction, teaching and research is needed; civil engineering education should give general preparedness in a wide field- for specialising, further studies are suitable; mastery of the entirety, understanding of connections, co-operation ability and enterprising spirit are important; [and] manufacturing technology should be part of the civil engineering education. [Teaching received its share of comment]: traditional teaching through lectures is passivizing; more case and project studies as well as seminars which improve communication ability are wanted; less general studies and more subject studies; some courses are too wide (structural mechanics) emphasising detail information and neglecting the entirety; more mathematics and less mathematics but definitely more languages; more skills in good manners, management, communication, general economics and contract making techniques; more practical training; diploma work ...[is] too much research oriented. ”Professors were found to possess poor pedagogical skills. Should come down from their ivory tower and approach the students. The opinion that ‘the student is a burden’ should be changed to ‘the student is a customer’

NB: The problems of quality in civil engineering education is the theme of the Second Symposium of the AECEF which will be held from May 5 - 7, 1997 in Odense, Denmark. Information on the Symposium is given elsewhere in this newsletter, or on the AECEF Home page.

Mayo [5.4] outlines the programs operating in the construction area at Loughborough University of Technology. With over 9000 undergraduate students in four schools ..”Engineering, Pure and Applied Science, Human and Environmental Studies, and Education , or and Humanities.” The programs in civil engineering are offered as a three or four year straight through program, or a one year extra sandwich program. The focus of civil engineering program is to produce graduates who will work in the construction industry. The department retains close links with industry through am Industrial Advisory Board comprised of seven members drawn from engineers in surrounding districts. Tutors in the person of departmental professors and local engineers from the surrounding regions act as mentors to each undergraduate. In addition to contact with real civil engineering, many students are able at graduation to find employment with companies with whom they have already worked. With this background rooted jointly in the university and the real world, students are able to produce meaningful reports and enjoy site visits which enlarge their knowledge of civil engineering construction. In anticipation of a united Europe, Loughborough initiated a course in ”Civil Engineering and German” to improve student mobility on the Continent. British industrial sponsors have also been mobilised to provide financial support for students through their sandwich year. This can lead to future employment. To provide information which is lacking in the established program, the industrial sponsors provide courses in ”Construction Engineering Management” and ”Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying”. Thus, Loughborough University of Technology is able to provide a good fit between the needs of industry and students.

Drew [5.5] provided a look into the future where computers will become a part of the educational process. The need for emphasis on competency rather than on qualifications was a large part of his presentation. Competencies were defined as: ”Communicating ideas and information; expressing ideas; planning and organising activities; working with others and in teams; using mathematical ideas and techniques; solving problems; using technology. ”For the future, the ability to cope with changing technologies and more complex processes, means that students will have to be more broadly educated to be flexible in their abilities. Drew suggests that this means a revision of school curriculum and university programs. As outlined in the keynote speech by Wilson [5.5], Drew notes that it will be distance education through the use of computers, and videotape which will allow students to study away from the university. This is a point which should not be lost on University educators. Drew makes the point that in the future there will be a shift from ”less teaching and more learning” together with competency based assessment. His final point is that educational establishments have an opportunity to provide a new market based product known as EDUTAINMENT.


[4.1] Barbosa, N., The civil and environmental engineering programme at the University of Porto.” Keynote speaker in Session 4.
[4.2] Juhas, P., and Senitkova, I., ”Some new approaches in civil engineering environmental education.”
[4.3] Krejci, V., and Konicek, Z., ”Urban water resources management and the education of engineers.”
[4.4] Sertler, H., ”Requirements for the education of engineers specialized for transport infrastructure.”
[4.5] Vrana, K., and Zeman, E., ”New trends in education of environmental engineers”.

Keynote speaker in Session 5.
[5.1] Drew, B., ”Return on Qualifications - NO! Return on competencies.”
[5.2] Bencat, J., ‘Industry - civil engineering interaction.”
[5.3] Jutila, A., ‘The quality of civil engineering education.”
[5.4] Mayo, R.H., ”The influence of industry on the undergraduate degree courses of the Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University of Technology.”
[5.5] Wilson, F.R., ”Civil Engineering in the twenty first century - the classroom without walls.” Keynote speaker in Session 1.

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