From aeronautical to structural, Letterkenny to Waterford, higher certificate to master’s, CAO route and apprenticeship route – there is a world of options for those looking to study engineering in Ireland, write Dr Richard Manton, registrar, and Dr Maria Kyne, Accreditation Board chairperson.
University of Galway: President of Engineers Ireland John Power, director general, Damien Owens, and West Region chairperson, Justin Martin, presented accreditation parchments to the president of the University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, head of school, Professor Edward Jones, and other staff at the School of Engineering.
To ensure that all of these programmes meet international standards, Engineers Ireland operates a robust accreditation system. This article introduces Engineers Ireland’s accreditation and provides some highlights of the past year.
Accreditation by Engineers Ireland is an objective evaluation of higher education engineering programmes against international standards and informed by the perspectives of students, graduates, employers and academic staff.
Accreditation assessors visit university campuses, review evidence and gather the perspectives of those involved in the programme. Once a programme is accredited by Engineers Ireland, it is recognised internationally through the Washington, Sydney and Dublin Accords and the EUR-ACE label.
University College Cork: President of Engineers Ireland John Power presented the accreditation parchments for the eight programmes at the School of Engineering. Seated are: head of School of Engineering Professor Jorge Oliveira, John Power, president of Engineers Ireland, deputy president and registrar of UCC Professor Stephen Byrne and Michal Dymet, chair of the Cork Region of Engineers Ireland. Standing: Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir, Dr Dominic O’Sullivan, Professor Peter Parbrook, Dr Richard Manton, registrar of Engineers Ireland, Dr Kevin McCarthy, Dr Fatemeh Kavousi, Professor Jerry Murphy, Dr Denis Kelliher and Professor Edmond Byrne. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.
Engineers Ireland’s Accreditation Board is responsible for decisions on the accreditation of programmes as well as the development of accreditation criteria to represent education standards for the Engineers Ireland’s membership grades and professional titles (Chartered Engineer, associate engineer and engineering technician).
The board’s membership encompasses various sectors of industry and the majority of HEIs, who meet approximately four times each year to review and approve reports from accreditation panels and consider other accreditation matters such as international agreements.
National Ploughing Championships 2023: Dr Ann Rogers, RMR Consulting, Professor Anil Kokaram and Professor Alejandra Kaszubowska from Trinity College were on hand to support and inspire our future engineering talent in our ‘Pathways to a Career in Engineering’ area. This exhibit highlighted apprenticeship pathways and CAO pathways to engineering.
Last year, as Ireland exited the Covid-19 pandemic, it was possible to return to in-person visits to campuses around Ireland. A hybrid procedure was developed combining the best of physical and remote working while fully maintaining the robustness of processes.
New Accreditation Criteria were introduced in 2021 and the first accreditation visits under the new criteria were conducted in 2022. In all, 74 engineering programmes were accredited in 2022, including 29 extensions.
Higher education minister Science Simon Harris is pictured at the Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering exhibit with Dr Phillip Grifffin, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Limerick and Niall O’Neill, mechanical engineering master’s student. Our marquee at the National Ploughing Championships featured similar exhibits for chemical and biomedical engineering; civil & building engineering; electrical & electronic engineering; and energy engineering. Each one listed the disciplines offered, the number of accredited programmes and depicted the locations of the universities delivering these programmes.
Accreditation activity in 2023
Engineers Ireland’s accreditation process has been in full swing in 2023 with visits to: Munster Technological University Cork, Technological University Dublin City Campus, University of Galway Computer Science, Technological University of the Shannon Limerick and Maynooth University. A total of 84 volunteer assessors from academia and industry took part in accreditation panels.
Separately, the Accreditation Board met on five occasions in 2023 to review panel reports and make recommendations on the accreditation of programmes. Our accreditation function would not be possible without the dedication, expertise and commitment given by our volunteer assessors and members of our board.
Education minister Norma Foley pictured with director general Damien Owens and president Professor Edmond Harty, sampled the ice cream delivered by ENG-E the Robot. ENG-E was one of the main attractions at our stand and attracted considerable engagement from Ploughing attendees. We would like to thank the REEdI at MTU team who sponsored the commissioning of ENG-E and the IMaR research centre at MTU who developed this robot.
There have been 72 programmes accredited in 2023, including 13 extensions, and involving the following HEIs: Atlantic Technological University, Dublin City University, Technological University of the Shannon, Munster Technological University, Technological University of Dublin, University College Cork, University of Galway and South East Technological University.
This included the accreditation of the manufacturing engineering apprenticeship which is delivered across four campuses and a very large number of employers around Ireland.
Maintaining international mobility
The past year has been an extremely busy year for international reviews (which were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic). These reviews are critical to maintain signatory status under the educational accords and therefore mobility for graduates of accredited programmes.
The Student Formula racing car was also a hit with visitors at the three-day National Ploughing Championships. Built by third level mechanical and manufacturing students, the car, which previously took to the track at Silverstone, is a representation of the innovation and creativity of engineers. Throughout the event, a number of TU Dublin representatives, including John Brennan (pictured) were on hand to discuss car and student competition and opportunities available with mechanical and manufacturing engineering.
For the Sydney Accord and Dublin Accord review, there were observers for visits (AC1) to MTU Cork and TU Dublin City. Engineers Ireland has also applied to become a signatory to the Seoul Accord (computing programmes) and observers joined the visits to University of Galway and Maynooth University. A review under the Washington Accord will take place next year.
The International Engineering Alliance and Seoul Accord meetings took place in Taichung, Taiwan’s second largest city, in June, attended by Damien Owens, Richard Manton and Shirley McDonald. Indonesia and Mexico became full signatories to the Washington Accord and Nigeria became a provisional signatory. Kenya, Mauritius and Zambia have expressed an interest.
The meetings also discussed the implementation of the new Graduate Attributes and Professional Competences. Director general Damien Owens completed his term on the IEA Governing Group, while Shirley McDonald joined the governing group as deputy chair of the Agreement for International Engineering Technicians.
In November, registrar Dr Richard Manton and Accreditation Board member Professor Edward Jones attended the general assembly and committee meetings of the European Network for the Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE) in Paris. ENAEE oversees the EUR-ACE label which recognises engineering programmes and supports mobility across Europe. Prof. Jones represents Engineers Ireland on the EUR-ACE Label Committee.
We were also pleased to have the support of Dr Oliver Mulryan and Dr PJ McAllen from ATU who volunteered at this year’s event and helped to support student engagement. In addition to those mentioned above, we also received considerable support from academic representatives from TUS, TCD, UCC, UCD, the University of Galway and the University of Limerick and support from Solar Evolution and Gas Networks Ireland.
Promoting accredited programmes
Engineers Ireland participated in the National Ploughing Championships exhibition in September to promote accredited programmes, to showcase the latest in engineering technology and innovation and support our future engineering talent to explore the limitless opportunities that exist in the engineering sector. Our stand included exhibits on routes to engineering and the various disciplines on offer across all the universities in Ireland.
More than 6.5% of all attendees visited our stand, this included thousands of school students, parents, engineers and members of the public as well as a host of politicians and media.
Fantastic support was provided by almost 50 academic volunteers from the following universities: Atlantic Technological University, Munster Technological University, Technological University Dublin, Technological University of the Shannon, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Galway, University of Limerick. ENG-E the Robot (created by IMaR research centre at Munster Technological University), which served ice cream, and the formula student racing car (by Technological University Dublin) were star attractions.
Throughout 2023, we hosted accreditation parchment presentations at six universities: Dublin City University, Atlantic Technological University Sligo, Atlantic Technological University Galway, University College Cork, University of Galway and University College Dublin.
These events represent opportunities to showcase the achievement of the programme team, to thank volunteers and staff for their efforts, to connect universities and the Sectors of Engineers Ireland, and generally to promote the value of accreditation.
To find out more about Engineers Ireland’s accredited programmes, to volunteer as an accreditation assessor or to arrange a campus visit or parchment presentation, please visit the Engineers Ireland accreditation webpage or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors: Dr Richard Manton, registrar, and Dr Maria Kyne, Accreditation Board chairperson.