The innovative Master of Engineering Practice (MEP) program allows experienced Engineering Technologists from diverse cultural, educational and employment backgrounds to re-engage in higher education and undertake learning experiences that are tailored to their individual needs and facilitate their progression to Professional Engineer. The MEP program enables students, who generally work full-time and study part-time, to use their workplace learning to complete at least half of the courses in the program. This distance education program, which is the only engineering program of its type in the world, results from a mutually beneficial collaboration between the University of Southern Queensland and Engineers Australia, who had identified the need for an accessible, efficient and relevant articulation pathway for experienced Engineering Technologists to progress their careers. The program is accredited by Engineers Australia and is enabling students and graduates to advance their careers.
It is now ten years since the program was introduced in Semester 2, 2004. During this period there has been a sustained growth in student numbers since the first offer: Three hundred and fifty one students have been admitted to the program and 80 have graduated. The median age of the students is 39 years (average 39.7 years), and nearly 16% of them are migrants, most of whom were recruited by Australian companies during the decade of skills shortages in the engineering industry.
The aim of this study was to answer the following research questions:
The academic records of the students who enrolled in the program have been reviewed and the data analysed to profile the students and to assess overall attrition and completion rates. These were then compared to cohort analysis data published by the federal Department of Education in 2014.
Testimonials from graduates and Engineers Australia were also used to evaluate the success of the MEP program.
The outcomes of the study were:
The introduction of the MEP program has met the expectations of Engineers Australia as it is a flexible, work-based, distance education pathway that enables experienced Engineering Technologists to achieve Professional Engineer status, regardless of where they live or work in Australia. Secondly, there is strong evidence to show that, when age, location, study mode and type of attendance are considered, the completion rates of MEP students compare more than favourably with those of engineering degree programs. Finally, the program is enabling the students to achieve their career goal which, for many, is to become a Chartered Professional Engineer.
KEYWORDS: Engineering education; Recognition of workplace learning; Graduate outcomes