January 2013 issue

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Engineers in demand

A dynamic field that gains new facets as technology develops, engineers are in global demand. Claire Twyman finds out more about programmes offered.

As Maria Scopelliti from the University of Ottawa in Canada affirms, engineering courses are in worldwide demand with overseas students. “One of the main reasons for this is due to the high demand for engineers in the global market,” she says, adding that the Faculty of Engineering’s international student body represents 15 per cent of undergraduates and 45 per cent of graduate students. Programmes, ranging from a BASc in Civil Engineering to a PhD in Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, “differ from those offered by other institutions as a result of the variety of options available per programme”, she enthuses.

Indeed, research conducted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada shows that engineering programmes are particularly popular with overseas students in the country. Julia Jones-Bourque from the University of Alberta relates, “The Faculty of Engineering [at the university] is great for internationals. The work experience programme provides excellent opportunities for paid work experience that counts towards [their] degree,” she notes, mentioning excellent job prospects for engineers in Alberta. “[Undergraduate] students follow a common first year, then choose a specialisation [later],” she says, adding that top student nationalities include China, Iran and the USA.

In the UK, Jacqueline McCary from Anglia Ruskin University reports that “more than half our engineering students are international students”, explaining that the BEng Mechanical Engineering attracts the largest number from overseas. Impressively, 89 per cent of engineering graduates find employment within six months, she attests, adding, “We continue to have very strong links with regional industries, [including] Ford Motor Company, the Chelmsford Engineering Society and Jaguar.”

Students at the university need an Ielts score of 6 at undergraduate level, and McCary relates that pre-sessional support that can continue after enrolment is provided. In Australia, meanwhile, the University of Tasmania (UTAS) also asks for a minimum Ielts score of 6, according to Rachel Perkin, who notes that the school offers award-winning ESL support too.

With programmes at UTAS including a BA (Hons) in Engineering, there are a number of specialisations available. “The traditional engineering specialisations of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering have been offered for many years, and newer specialisations such as biomedical and geotechnical engineering have been introduced in more recent times as a result of industry demand,” Perkin explains, noting, “Programmes take advantage of computer-aided engineering, allowing simulation, virtual testing and design optimisation.”

While more than 100 nationalities are represented in the UTAS student body, at the Australian Industrial Systems Institute, “Nationalities we have experienced growth in are coming from Europe and in particular the UK,” according to Roula Tsiolas. Offering diplomas and certificates in automotive technology, “Affordability of the courses is something that students note, especially as the courses offer long-term career pathways in both HE and employment spheres.” With strong industry links, the Certificate III in Automotive Electrical Technology offers training in applying safe working practices, repairing electronic systems and repairing hydraulic breaking systems, while the Certificate III in Automotive Mechanical Technology provides students with a strong grounding in both theoretical and practical knowledge required for repairing and servicing motor vehicles.

Many engineering programmes utilise agents for recruitment purposes. At JMC Academy in Australia, which runs a variety of audio engineering courses and boasts industry-connected lecturers, “Education agents are important to our recruitment strategy,” notes Leng Te. “We are looking to expand our agent network in China, Vietnam and Japan. While a lot of marketing has shifted online, we believe that establishing a brand in overseas markets still requires an ongoing physical presence.”

Additionally, City University London – ranked 10th for graduate employability in the UK by The Sunday Times University Guide 2012 and offering an MEng in Mechanical Engineering/Civil Engineering/Electrical Engineering – also relies on agents. Panicos Kyriacou at the university elaborates, “Over the last 15 years, we have had a fairly extensive network of consultants and advisors on most continents and regions, including Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.”

Financial aid

Potentially owing to the demand for qualified engineers worldwide, a number of institutions running engineering programmes offer international students generous financial aid packages. At the University of Ottawa in Canada for instance, Maria Scopelliti informs, “French-speaking nationals account for almost nine per cent of the international engineering student population… This is mainly because of international admissions scholarships and limited differential or complete fee waivers for a portion of students from Tunisia, Algeria and three universities in Lebanon.” Interestingly, Scopelliti adds, “The recruitment of Iranian and Saudi Arabian students may well be linked to active sponsorship by their respective countries to support studies abroad.”

At the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in Australia, meanwhile, “The affordability of UTAS programmes is enhanced by one of the most generous scholarship programmes in Australia for international students,” says Rachel Perkin. “Bachelor of Engineering [students] are included in the Tasmanian International Scholarship Scheme that provides commencing students with a 25 per cent reduction in registered tuition fees for the duration of their course. Scholarships are awarded based on prior achievement.”

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