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Pass students awarded honours under proposed changes to engineering degrees

Siobhan Ryan and Subeta Vimalarajah report

Siobhan Ryan and Subeta Vimalarajah report

Proposed changes to engineering degrees at Sydney University would see students able to graduate from a four year Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) with pass marks, with the four year Bachelor of Engineering axed altogether.

Associate Professor Tim Wilkinson from the Faculty of Engineering proposed these changes at a meeting of the Academic Standards and Policy Committee (ASPC) on July 20. The proposal seeks to bring USyd’s engineering degrees in line with Engineers Australia’s new accreditation standards.

Engineers Australia (EA) wrote to all Australian deans of engineering in late 2015 indicating that only students with four-year Honours degrees would be eligible for accreditation. USyd lobbied Engineers Australia “strenuously” in opposition to these changes, a University spokesperson confirmed.  

Under the current system, all USyd engineering students are admitted into a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) program, but graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering if they do not meet the required mark of 65 to graduate with Honours.

Under the proposed changes, students would require marks 50-65 per cent for Third Class Honours, 65-75 per cent for Second Class Honours (separated into two divisions) and 75-100 per cent for First Class.

“The University’s priority in this matter is to ensure that all students who pass all their exams and units of study, and demonstrate the required competencies demanded by the profession, will go into the workforce with the skills required for a successful career in engineering,” a University spokesperson said.

2012 data indicated 37 per cent of students who completed a Bachelor of Engineering graduated with a pass degree. These students would not be considered for accreditation under EA’s new standards unless the proposed change is passed.

Concerns were raised in the July 20 ASPC meeting over the changes undermining the value of Honours more broadly.

Second year Bachelor of Software Engineering/Bachelor of Arts Edwin Ho echoed these concerns. “Not to discredit the merit in completing an engineering degree, [but] it surely detracts from the esteem of honours,” he said.

The University has confirmed the proposal will only impact students entering programs from 2017. Students currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) will not be affected.