Strategic Review of Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics

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Strategic Review of Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics

Strategic Review of Education

Final Report

Prof. James Trevelyan

Prof. Gordon Royle

Revision 1.2, July 24th 2009

This report is closely based on the options paper issued at the end of May. The changes are marked with additional notes summarising the relevant submissions in response to earlier documents.


This paper represents the work of a team of volunteers from all schools in the faculty. The full list of volunteers appears in Appendix 4. The authors would also like to acknowledge special assistance received from Stuart Broadfoot, Angus Tavner, Lisa Beckley, Tyrone Fernando, Diane Hesterman, Jasmine Henry, Matt Hardin, David Smith, Caroline Baillie and the authors of written submissions received to date.

Table of Contents

1. The Vision

Faculty Image

Implementation Phase

2. The Way Ahead

3.1 Clear Understanding of Graduate Attributes

Recommendation:- Support research on education, professional practice and learning.

3.2 Curriculum Design for Student Experience

What our students are telling us

Recommendation:- We adopt a student-centred approach to curriculum design.

3.3 The 3+2 Course Structure

Alternate Entry Pathways

Research Pathways

Professional and Executive Master’s Degrees

Recommendation:- We adopt 3+2 Programme Design Principles

Design principles still to be resolved

3+1 Option for International Students

Recommendation:- We retain an option to provide a four year degree for a limited time

Recommendation:- Faculty UTLC continue 3+2 to coordinate degree programme development

Low demand courses

Threshold Concepts: A Tool for Curriculum Design

Recommendation:- Develop expertise in threshold concepts

Research Student Training

Recommendation:- Travel exchange fellowships

Recommendation:- Link coursework to research through appropriate research design

3.4 Resource allocation that promotes efficiency, quality and learning effectiveness

Resource Utilization and Control

Staff Workload Allocation

3.5 Recruiting the Best Students

Recommended Strategic Objectives

Recommendation:- Diversity and equity must be actively pursued at a policy level and working level in the faculty, and a programme equivalent to the Women in Science and Engineering initiative be resumed.

Recommendation:- Establish special entry programs for high achieving students.

Recommendation:- Track performance of all students to identify differential entry criteria

Recommendation:- Review English proficiency

3.6 Recruit and Retain the Best Staff

Recommendation:- Incorporate formal assessment of teaching capacity in recruitment of new staff

Recommendation: Strengthen Teaching Promotion Criteria

3.7 Education Methods – Focus on Rigorous Treatment of Fundamentals

Recommendation:- Develop scholarly approaches for studying student learning

Recommendation:- Review costs and benefits of computer supported learning

Recommendation:- Search widely for educational materials, texts, collaboration opportunities

3.8 Develop an Effective Social Culture and Learning Environment

Recommendation: Create a stronger team culture across the faculty

Recommendation: Promote team teaching, especially for large units

Recommendation:- Develop reliable and persistent feedback and continuous improvement processes within the faculty

Recommendation:- Integrate the Clough Student Centre with social networking programmes for undergraduate students

3.9 Project Based Learning and Workplace Internships

Mechatronics Project-Centred Learning

Monadelphous Integrated Learning Centre

Recommendation:- Support development of effective project-based learning programmes within the faculty, including those based in the Monadelphous Integrated Learning Centre.

Recommendation:- Adopt Results of Professional Practicum Review

Internship Learning, Part-Time Work, and CEED Programme

Recommendation:- Provide learning support to integrate part-time work with formal coursework studies.

Appendix 1: Terms of Reference

Appendix 2: Survey of Teaching Methods

Appendix 3: Review Volunteers

Appendix 4: Some Contemporary Approaches to Student Learning

Student Centred Learning (McKenna et al., 2009)

Cooperative Learning (Felder & Brent, 2007; Smith, Sheppard, Johnson, & Johnson, 2005)

Peer Tutoring

Team Based Learning (Michaelson, Knight, & Fink, 2002)

Problem-Based Learning (Savin-Baden, 2007)

Project-Based Learning (Savin-Baden, 2007)

Model Eliciting Activities (Shuman et al., 2008)

Appendix 5: Reasons for Change

Lessons from Research on Engineering Practice

Engineering Practice – A Definition

2.1 Further Reasons for Change

Improving our Rankings

Research Performance Improvement

Recommendation:- Include staff and personal development in workload model

Inefficient Education Programmes

Improving Teaching Effectiveness

Improving Feedback

Special Opportunity Factors: Timing, Research and Location

Benefits of Change

Appendix 6: Further Detailed Recommendations

Clear Understanding of Graduate Attributes

Recommendation:- Support on-going research on engineering practice and learning.

Recommendation:- Disseminate information on graduate attributes and work practices

Recommendation:- Promote independent peer-learning skills.

Student Experience

Recommendation:- Student Friendly Timetable

Recommendation:- Student Support Networks

Recommendation:- Ensure that sufficient space is available

Recommendation:- Programmed Adoption of Lecture Recording and Class Scheduling

Resource allocation that promotes efficiency, quality and learning effectiveness

Recommendation:- Systematic reporting of resource utilization

Recommendation:- Establish funding rules for education programmes

Recommendation:- Negotiate special funding for transition to 3+2 course structure

Developing an effective social culture and learning environment

Recommendation: Encourage all staff to use electronic diaries

Recommendation: Provide e-mail access for mobile phone text messaging

Shaping Perceptions of our Graduates

Recommendation:- Measure Graduate Attributes and Abilities

Recommendation:- Adopt Graduates as Our Best Ambassadors

Recommendation:- Adopt Measures for Shaping Community Perceptions

Appendix 7 – Draft Guidelines for Engineering Majors in Bachelor Degrees


  1. The Vision

Graduates from the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics are currently highly respected by their employers, but now it is time to decide how the graduates who will emerge in the two decades will be educated. Eleven years on from the last major revision of engineering courses at UWA, we are once again confronting the need for change.

The University is aiming to become one of the top 50 universities in the world by 2050.

As Western Australia’s premier educational institution, we receive the very best students in the state and many excellent students from our local region. We accept the responsibility for educating these students to take up their future roles as the engineering and technology professionals, educators and leaders that play such a uniquely important role in our society. We must develop the research leaders of tomorrow with the ability and vision to address the world’s pressing problems of sustainability and climate change, and we must simultaneously nurture the next generation of university educators.

How can the Faculty respond to this challenge? What is our educational vision?

This faculty will be one that attracts the best students, and provides them with an innovative and distinctive education of the highest quality in engineering, mathematics and computing, based on sound modern pedagogical principles and delivered by world-class educators within a simple, flexible and responsive course structure.

Many of the leading engineering faculties in Australia, and across the world, are adopting a similar vision for education. What is it that will distinguish our faculty from others?

We have some unique strategic advantages.

  • We attract the majority of the best students in WA.

  • Large international engineering industries are based in Perth with huge expansions underway, particularly in hydrocarbon and renewable energy, mining, and mineral processing.

  • WA lifestyle is attractive to students, parents and expats.

  • WA is close to the world’s main population centres in South Asia and South East Asia, and is in the same time zone as China.

  • UWA has special expertise and interest in engineering practice and education.

Therefore, we have the potential to provide the best education in Australia and our region in engineering, computing and mathematics. The distinguishing features that our graduates will have include:

  • Ability to apply their rigorous understanding of technical fundamentals in unfamiliar situations.

  • Professional and social skills developed from a deep understanding of professional practice.

  • Knowledge and personal contacts to transfer the latest research and technology into practical applications.

  • A broad education that has prepared them to be good listeners and articulate communicators with both creative and critical thinking skills.

Our graduates will be sought after by companies, ahead of graduates from other universities with equivalent relative academic performance. Our graduates will provide more value for their employers sooner than others.

The best students will compete to enter our faculty because they know they will receive an education that is second to none and opportunities as graduates that are second to none. Their educational experience will be adapted for their lifestyle, building on part-time work and extra-curricular life as an intrinsic part of their education.

Our students will learn with the help of educators and researchers equal to the world’s best who have been attracted to UWA by the quality of our students, research and education programmes. They will prefer to stay and work in a research environment that provides time for creative thinking and reflection, and teach students with the desire to learn and excel, and who stimulate new ideas through their questions.

The majority of our students will complete masters-level studies in their chosen discipline, a significant advance on the current practice for undergraduate degrees in which the highest level of coursework is currently at fourth year level. Students pursuing a technical focus for their studies will have a deeper understanding of science and mathematics than today’s students. Others will have a stronger business background and there will be greatly improved opportunities for developing the creative talents of our students. All students will have studied outside their discipline to develop a broader understanding of societies and the world around us.

We will adopt the best education methods and will lead with research and development of new educational techniques that extend learning seamlessly into the professional workplace. We will assess the effectiveness of our education from the attributes and capabilities of our students and graduates.

Our education values will be founded on a student-centred approach to learning in the context of a university where knowledge and understanding are being continually advanced by research. At the same time, the university is part of our community and students will be expected to learn from living and working in the community at the same time as their formal studies. We will build a culture of teamwork to help students learn that their ethos of their professional work is to engage the willing cooperation of others, and the essence of human development is based on cooperation and constructive competition. We will encourage students to learn as much from each other as they learn from the teachers and researchers nurturing them.

For this vision to become a reality we will need appropriate resources.

This paper demonstrates that we have the capacity to achieve this vision and make effective use of resources that are made available to us.

This paper also describes parts of the journey we must embark on to make this vision a reality.

After an extended consultation process, UWA has adopted a new framework for courses based on standardized three-year Bachelor's degrees followed by two-year professional Master's degrees, more commonly known as the 3+2 model (The University of Western Australia, 2008). The final decision to adopt this model was made by Academic Board in late 2008, with no significant dissent, and the University is currently moving carefully towards implementation in 2012. Because the 4-year Bachelor of Engineering degree will be discontinued, the consequential changes in engineering education in the University will be greater than in any other professional discipline.

The Faculty
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