Contribution of the AECEF to the Development of Contacts and Improvements in the Education of Civil Engineers

by Professor Jiøí WITZANY
AECEF President

President J.Witzany
delivers his opening speech
The AECEF as a voluntary international organisation, which presently associates 48 Universities and Higher Educational Institutions providing instruction in civil engineering and surveying, was founded in 1992, shortly after the principal changes which took place in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The idea lying behind its creation was to set up a forum and promote organisation of meetings of teachers and academic members of technical universities and educational institutions through seminars, colloquiums and symposiums, thus contributing to the process of mutual understanding and merging of universities from various countries.

The First International AECEF Symposium “Education for Civil and Environmental Engineering and Surveying” took place in Prague in September 1995. The principal goal of the Symposium was to raise discussions on the following issues:

The Second International AECEF Symposium “Quality in Civil Engineering Education – Assessment of Civil Engineering Education and Impact of Trainee Service on the Qualifications of Civil Engineering Graduates” was held in Odense (Denmark) in May 1997. The principal goal of the Symposium was to discuss the questions related to the implementation of high-quality study. An efficient system of control and implementation of study quality must become an integral part of liberal study systems at Universities to guarantee that the means invested into the studies will be efficiently used for the development and achievement of the presumed level of professional and intellectual potential of university graduates.

This week has been marked by the proceedings of the Third International AECEF Symposium taking place here at the University of Wales in Cardiff. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together all those who are interested in the development and implementation of Learning and Teaching Technology for civil engineering education and formation (professional development).

The Conference facilitated the sharing of experience, knowledge and expertise in technology-based teaching and learning and their application to civil engineering. The event provided a forum for the presentation, demonstration and discussion of issues related to the application of computers, communication and information technology to professional engineering education.

In the nearest future the Executive Committee will engage in the preparation of the Fourth International AECEF Symposium, which, similarly to the previous Symposiums, will focus on the problems that are closely related to civil engineering education at Technical Universities and Schools. The presumed issues to be addressed during the Symposium’s proceedings are:

The principal goal of the AECEF Symposiums is to open up a continuous international discussion of university staff and engineers from industry on the following the issues:

Since the 1920s the study plans at universities and technical universities have stressed the need for professionalism to the detriment of universality. This tendency is increasingly supported by the industry, which asks for university graduates with specialised skills and professional efficiency, ready to engage in no time in the working process and the solution of practical problems. On the other hand, however, it is obvious that the graduates of universities have to be capable of solving not only standard engineering tasks, but, at the same time, they should be able of initiating and implementing scientific progress including a whole complex of problems. On the basis of their in-depth knowledge of theoretical and grounding disciplines, they have to be capable of upgrading their general engineering skills in keeping with the current development of science and technology. It is obvious that the ongoing development of science, but namely technology, will practically enforce continuous education of engineers, demanding the capability of retrieving and processing information and adapting to new technologies. Unlike the situation in the recent past, when technology in many ways fell behind the advancing theory, these days, on the contrary, we may state that in many respects it is the theory and engineering thinking that has been surpassed by the rapidly developing progress in technology. This particular aspect of the study concept problem greatly emphasises the need for universal character of study, stressing the theory and education towards creative, engineering thinking.

At the same time, however, the teaching necessarily has to include another distinct dimension related to the creation and protection of the environment.

In this respect it is necessary that these aspects of engineering activity are understood not only from the present point of view, but, in particular, from the point of view of future generations.

The development of international trade in building materials, products, equipment and highly qualified labour supports the transition to international standards. This will narrow the space for the application of “specifically home-made“ products and technologies. Lots of prominent European civil engineering firms focus on the international market, as their domestic civil engineering market is rather small. Prosperity can be expected only in the firms and companies that are opening up to new information and innovation in the field of technology, that will readily support and promote the research and development of new materials and technologies. This goal may only by achieved by engaging highly qualified university graduates. The presumed development of technology will need investment into both professional and intellectual potential.

The study at individual universities follows its long-term established structure, reflecting the economic and cultural development of each nation. The existing differences and local distinctions have to be respected, as, in their turn, they contribute to the elimination of uniformity and undesirable excessive uniformity of universities specialising in the teaching of civil engineering and surveying. Together, all this creates the necessary spectrum of education and a definite potential to guarantee further development in which the outdated fades away, giving way to the development of the new.

It would be highly beneficial if the Fourth International AECEF Symposium were preceded by a fruitful discussion on the above mentioned issues led by the AECEF members within the Newsletter pages.

(Address deliverd by AECEF President at the opening of the 3rd AECEF International Symposium CELTic, Cardiff, September 1999)

Return to the page "Newsletter 2/1999"