STAREDUCATION on July 20 reported comments made by the president of the Institution of Engineers, Malaysia (IEM) about the UK Chartered Engineer system. I would be grateful if you would allow a UK Chartered Engineer (CEng) of many years standing to clarify the situation a little.
In the UK, two types of professional engineering degrees are offered: the three-year Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) and the four-year Master of Engineering (MEng). Both are accredited by the UK Engineering Council.
The MEng degree gives the full educational requirement for CEng status; the BEng gives 75% of the educational requirement and must be “topped up” before an engineer can apply to become a Chartered Engineer.
The usual way of achieving this topping up is to complete a suitable one-year Master of Science (MSc) degree. It is thus misleading to imply that the BEng degree is only suitable for engineers wishing to become Incorporated Engineers.
The statement that the MEng is “not a Masters degree” is clearly incorrect. If it were not a Masters degree, it would not be given the title “Master”. The Engineering Council makes no distinction between holders of MSc and MEng in awarding CEng status; both represent the same academic level.
Much of the confusion about the MEng is caused by the phrase “enhanced Bachelor degree” which was used when the degree was first created and has somehow stuck. This phrase merely indicates that, unlike most Masters degrees, the MEng is a first degree, i.e. the student reaches Master level in one step instead of two. There is no more to it than that.
In many countries, including Malaysia, a suitable Bachelor degree is sufficient academic qualification to become accepted as a professional engineer, and for many years this was also the case in the UK.
When the UK joined the European Community, however, it was necessary to upgrade the academic requirement for CEng because other countries in Europe have for generations required a qualification equivalent to our Masters.
Thus obtaining professional engineer status requires a higher academic level in Europe than elsewhere, but it does mean that CEng is one of the most respected professional engineering qualifications in the world.
I hope this helps to make the UK Chartered Engineer system clearer. The real problem is that the UK and Malaysian systems are almost the same, but not quite. This is always likely to lead to confusion.
PROF BRIAN TUCK
Director, Division of Engineering
University of Nottingham in Malaysia
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