Orelma Ari

Insinöörikoulutus epävarmuuden yhteiskunnassa.

Engineer education in the risk society


English summary

The present study seeks to produce the development measures of the Finnish Engineer education in the context of the risk society. For that purpose the formation of the domestic engineering education was clarified and the comparison of the engineer education in eight foreign countries was made. They were the basis in reflecting the development measures.


The development of the engineer education in the risk future is built historically on the continuation of the engineering education, although the models will not be derived linearly from the past events. The central basis in modelling the future is built by the engineer educations in comparative countries. In that case the foreign analysis of the study is located in the area of the traditional comparative science of education whose objectives are most often the countries and the nations. The crossnational research criteria will be filled because the study is explicitly comparative and it will utilize the comparative information received from eight countries systematically.

By comparing it is often possible to create a framework to which the changing observations can be proportioned. The comparative units can be described effectively by the comparative factors, which constitute the equivalence criteria in order to form groups from the phenomena. The objective of the descriptive comparison is to build concepts by which phenomena can be classified and arranged. The comparison is needed in inductive reasoning. Analytical induction adapts the same methods as everyday life and the historical explanations. The methods are however more analytical.

The development strategy of the engineer education is based both on inductive reasoning of the experiences of the comparative countries and the reflections on the Finnish engineer education and the policy of education. The starting point is that the engineer education is non-linear because of the risk factors. In the study theoretical multiformity was consciously used, because the study object is diverse.

The education structures, syllabi, worklife connections and direction of the education in all eight countries are described qualitatively. Syllabi were analyzed by choosing one engineer institution from each country as a case. The quantitative data was used e.g. in examination of the student numbers.

The education system is always connected with the other institutions and the values in the society. Finding the valid indicators is nearly impossible, because the phenomena and their consequences vary still more. The factors studied (structure, syllabi, worklife, direction) are central, and they describe the national education systems validly.

Holland and Germany represent the dual model in which the scientific and vocational higher education form two separate systems. In England, Japan, Norway and the United States the higher education systems are in accordance with the binary model. In that model the universities can be different from each other, but the degrees are similar. Sweden was located to the same group with France, and they form the so called mixed model group in this study. The system in France is the most complex because of a variety of different kind of institutions.

In Holland and Germany connections between the different engineer degrees have not been created, although the Dutch student of the polytechnic (HBO -institution) has a right to pass on to the university after the first study year in the polytechnic. The Bachelor's degrees of engineer in both countries are highly respected and their position in worklife has become stable.

In England, Japan and the USA the Master's degree can be taken after the Bachelor's degree; the degrees are successive. In Norway the engineer degrees can be taken in some universities by continuing education two years. In Norway the higher engineer degree is not based on the lower, but the earlier studies will be accepted to form at least two thirds of the whole degree.

In Sweden the acceptance of the lower studies (ingenjör) when passing to the higher engineer degree (civilingenjör) equals one year's study. In the French model there are features from two different types: the education is divided mainly under the umbrella of the universities or into the separate Grandes Ecoles (institutions of higher education).

The numbers and the sizes of the foreign institutions vary a lot. The greatest numbers are in Japan, France and the USA. In Japan there are more than 500 universities of which a great majority administers engineer education. In France there are 1 877 institutions of higher education (Erasmus Bureau 1993, 191 -365) and 211 Grandes Ecoles. The numbers of students vary a lot; in the smallest institution there are only about ten and in the largest about 3 500 students. In the USA there are about 300 engineer institutions.

The Dutch 27 engineering institutions have merged with the polytechnics whose average size is about 1 700 students. Four polytechnics are independent institutions devoted entirely to engineering, and all others represent many fields of study. There are correspondingly 59 Fachhochschulen (polytechnics) administering engineer education in Germany. The student numbers of engineering faculties in Fachhochschulen are 2 000 on the average. The smallest number of the engineer institutions is in Norway; only 17 institutions. In Finland there are 32 engineering institutions (nearly every one in polytechnics nowadays), which is the greatest number among the comparative countries in proportion to the population. In other words, the average size of the Finnish institutions is the smallest.

The syllabi are very similar in Holland and Germany. The proportion of the mathematic-scientific subjects is about 15 % of the whole study. In Germany the proportion of the professional subjects is 83 % and in Holland 76 %.

The contents of the Japanese and French engineer studies are similar to each other. There are fewer mathematic-scientific subjects in both countries than in Holland or Germany. On the other hand the primary and secondary education in Japan and France are theoretically very demanding. The proportion of the general subjects is about one third of all subjects. The proportion of the professional subjects is in Japan 56 % and in France 62 %.

England and the USA have exactly identical subject proportions in the engineer syllabi. The duration of the English engineer education is, however, one year shorter than in the USA. The proportions of the subjects in Swedish and Finnish syllabi are almost similar to each other. The Swedish engineer education lasts three years and Finnish four years. In the Finnish syllabus there is a work placement semester, which means that the real amounts of study subjects are very near in Sweden and Finland. The Norwegian profile of the syllabus differs from all other countries, because the proportion of the mathematic-scientific (28 %) subjects is clearly the biggest of all comparative countries.

The final year project is not included in the English, French or American engineer syllabi. In other countries the final work is a part of the studies, but its standards vary in different countries.

The countries of the successive degrees are very similar for the part of the few connections to the worklife. There is the syllabus in which one year work placement is included only in England. In other countries' (Japan, Norway, USA) syllabi there is no work placement. During the last ten years many activities simulating entrepreneurship, such as the enterprises founded by the institutions, have become common.

In the countries of the parallel degrees, Holland and Germany, the connection of the studies with worklife is an essential feature in the engineer education. In the engineer syllabi of both countries one year work placement is included. The polytechnics in both countries are considered to be as the centers of the technology transfer.

In French Ingénieur Maître degree a compulsory work placement is included. In addition, a lot of co-operation between industry and engineer education has developed. It has helped to bring engineering institutions closer to worklife. In Sweden the relations with worklife have increased strongly. In the syllabi no compulsory work placement is included.

One essential result from the comparison was that there is not among the eight countries the engineer education model which could be said to be the best or which the others should necessarily copy. The reason is in the dissimilar societies. One model can work very well in one country, but perhaps not in the other. That is why the Finnish model must be developed in its own way, though all the good experiences from other countries are worth taking into account. The development model of the engineer education was thus reflected from the historical experiences in Finland and also from the experiences in eight foreign countries. The consciousness that the risk grows is the starting point in creating the model.

The content of the development model follows the structure of the analysis of the comparative countries so that every comparative factor equals a factor in the development model. In addition, in the model there is the fifth factor: so called sum factor. Next the factors are listed and shortly described.

  1. The connections with the engineer education should be noticed in technician education solutions. The technician education has been traditionally linked closely to the engineer education, because the facilities, buildings and often also the teachers have been shared. The removal of the technician education to other types of institutions would change the content and the status of the technician education radically. If the model is taken from Holland or Germany, the technician education will be removed to the polytechnics and it will in a way be merged with the engineer education.
  2. The course programmes should be developed more flexible. The programmes have traditionally been strictly regulated by the national curricula. In future the competences of work life will change to the direction, in which both the experts of narrow areas and the masters of wide entities are needed. The student should have options enough during the studies. In the countries that do not have national curricula (England and the USA) it is easier to develop the programmes matching the needs of work life. The Finnish polytechnics have all possibilities in development work because of the lack of the national curricula.
  3. The student should be conceived of as a common customer of the enterprises and the institutions. The students have been conceived of traditionally only as customers of the institutions. The student receives from the institution the education and the diploma. From the view point of the enterprise the student is potential workforce in the future. The institution and the enterprises should form a partnership with each other so that the student would be the common customer for both.
  4. Research and planning institute for the engineer education. Finnish engineer education needs research and planning on future in order to produce current information of the changes in work life and society. A research and planning institute should be founded. Its tasks could be divided into three main groups: development and competence needs in work life, international affairs and the research of the future. The Finnish engineer education has been directed and regulated very strongly by the government. Along with the polytechnics the authority has been transferred to the local level. The new institute could be administered e.g. by the Ministry of Education or National Board of Education.
  5. Institutions to local, national and international competence networks. It is necessary for the engineering institutions to find their ways to the networks. The networks should contain institutions of different sectors, research centers, universities and enterprises. In the future the borders between the vocational institutions and educational sectors will be blurred. The engineering institutions and polytechnics have begun to form networks at the same time as they have participated in the EU educational programmes.