An independent review of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees and the employability of STEM graduates finds that accreditation of degrees ‘is widely believed to be that which has the greatest positive influence upon employment outcomes’. The review, led by Professor Sir William Wakeham, states that this is because accreditation involves structured engagement between Higher Education (HE) providers and employers, which the report identifies as an important collaboration to align the supply and demand for STEM skills.
The Wakeham Review of STEM Degree Provision and Graduate Employability was published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on 16 May 2016. The report’s findings indicate that students who complete an accredited engineering degree will be in a strong position when looking for employment. This is because, according to the report, ‘the engineering disciplines are subject to well-established systems of degree course accreditation’ and because the principles of professional registration play an important role in ‘setting clear standards and behaviours for the engineering professions’.
Responding to the report, Engineering Council CEO Jon Prichard said: “We support the development of engineering degrees that will equip students with the skills they need to enter employment as an engineer or technician. Holding Engineering Council accredited status is the mark of assurance that a degree meets the high standards set by the engineering profession. It is gratifying to read that the Wakeham Review has found a positive link between accredited engineering courses and the ultimate employability of these graduates. Employers play a key part in the process, and these findings show what can be achieved when employers engage with higher education, resulting in a win-win for students, universities, employers and society.”
The report highlights the specific role that the Engineering Council plays in setting the overall requirements for accredited engineering degrees, which are published in a framework ‘the Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes‘ (AHEP). This standard was developed through consultation with the engineering profession, including employers and academics, and is reviewed periodically, most recently in 2014, to ensure its continued fitness for purpose.
Overall, the review observes that employers are looking for ‘work-ready’ graduates and explores several STEM disciplines that tend to lead to poor employment outcomes. From its findings, the Wakeham Review makes seven recommendations. Among these is the sharing of good practice about existing, well-established systems of degree course accreditation with those STEM disciplines that do not currently have an accreditation framework.
Jon Prichard added: “It is part of our public benefit remit that we share good practice, so the Engineering Council would be pleased to assist other bodies seeking to develop robust accreditation systems.”
A second independent review, led by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, was commissioned at the same time as the Wakeham Review to look specifically at computer sciences. Both reviews were commissioned following the Government’s 2014 Science and Innovation Strategy. The Strategy set out to ensure that science and engineering talent coming through the UK’s educational pipeline is appropriately developed and nurtured and that, ultimately, it provides the UK with access to the skills and knowledge that it needs to continue to drive economic growth and innovation.
The Wakeham Review and the Shadbolt Review on Computer Science Degree Accreditation and Graduate Employability can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/graduate-employment-and-accreditation-in-stem-independent-reviews. To search for accredited engineering degree courses visit www.engc.org.uk/acad