The UCL MSc Engineering and Education: Advice for potential applicants

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The UCL MSc Engineering and Education is now three years old and going into its fourth year. Starting with only six students in September 2018, the MSc has seen applications rising at phenomenal pace, and entry into the programme is increasingly competitive. In this advisory note I give an overview of the MSc, and provide some hints on writing a competitive application for the MSc.

An overview of the MSc

The MSc Engineering and Education is an innovative and bespoke programme that is ideal for engineering lecturers in further and higher education, and engineers or consultants who work in the national and global economy supporting the development of engineers. It seeks to meet their current and future professional needs by:

  • Introducing current debates about the contribution of education and work in developing engineers’ expertise to assist them to design/redesign/contribute to engineering courses that develop 21st century skill needs;
  • stimulating and supporting research and innovative approaches in engineering education.

The programme is jointly delivered by academic staff from the UCL Institute of Education and the Faculty of Engineering Sciences.

An outline of the programme structure

The MSc programme consists of 180 credits and it is structured around two core modules worth 30 credits each:

  • Engineering and Education: Practice Innovation and Leadership
  • Engineering Learning and Teaching: Perspectives and Issues

Students can then choose to either take a further 30 credits from an identified list of UCL Institute of Education (IOE) modules and another 30 credits from Faculty of Engineering Sciences modules subject to meeting prerequisites and the approval of the module leader.  Alternatively, students can take 60 credits from the IOE list of modules. This flexibility in choice enables students who are professionally active in the field of engineering education, but who do not have an engineering degree to enrol on the MSc. This is followed by a dissertation, worth 60 credits, or alternatively, a report worth 30 credits together with an optional  module worth 30 credits.

The Engineering Learning and Teaching: Perspectives and Issues module is intended for both aspiring and practising engineering educators who wish to gain knowledge and expertise on the latest techniques for learning, teaching and assessment in engineering. Trainers in industry who wish to gain deeper insights into engineering education will also find the module relevant to their own practice. Individual module sessions are led by practising engineering educators and knowledge experts who have achieved recognition for championing and leading innovation in learning and teaching in engineering. Module participants explore key issues and debates in engineering learning and teaching and learn how to adapt current innovations in learning and teaching to their own educational practices.

The Engineering and Education: Practice Innovation and Leadership module aims to provide students with theoretical tools and practical perspectives to develop practical ideas on the interrelationship between the organisational environment, professional learning and expertise, and innovation in a range of engineering contexts. It explores the implications of understanding the engineering workplace as a key site for both learning and innovation, of collaborative practice across disciplinary and organisational boundaries as a key source of innovation, and of leadership in developing and maintaining the kinds of working practices and cultures that support learning and innovation. The module also looks at the role of policy in creating enabling frameworks within which engineers can work productively and innovatively.

Application Process

The MSc academic year runs from October to September of the following year. Applications for the following academic year start at the end of October in the current year, and run until the end of March, giving an application window of just five months duration. In addition to meeting the academic requirements, and securing professional and academic references, we also require you to submit a personal statement as part of the application. The personal statement helps us to evaluate your passion for engineering education as well as your aptitude and preparedness for the course. It is therefore important to spend some time thinking and writing the personal statement.

In developing your personal statement, you need to pay attention to the following:

  1. Explain why you want to do the MSc. Consider your educational and professional experiences, and explain how these have influenced you to consider going into engineering education. Also give us an indication of how the MSc is likely to contribute to your career goals. It’s not enough to say, for example, “I wish to become an engineering lecturer when I graduate.” Instead, tell us why you wish to become an engineering lecturer, and explain in detail, with reference to the learning outcomes of the MSc, how the MSc is going to help you in becoming an effective, high-impact engineering lecturer. This means that you must have indepth understanding of what it takes to become a successful engineering lecturer, and an understanding of how the MSc learning outcomes can contribute to this.
  2. Justify why we should offer you a position. Most people who are applying to enrol on the MSc meet the academic requirements, hence you should spend some thinking about your personal attributes and providing evidence why we should choose you ahead of other equally qualified applicants. Tell us about your current and previous engagement with engineering education related activities. Successful applicants are likely to demonstrate engagement with several aspects of engineering education and practice. This may include supporting the learning of other engineering students, promoting engineering to pre-university students, through, for example, engagement in STEM outreach programmes, or supporting schools to deliver engineering-focussed enrichment programmes for their students. Other initiatives that you might want to discuss may include supporting the professional development of practising engineers, through, for instance, delivering Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses and activities. For instance, active engagement with professional engineering institutions is something we look upon very favourably. Other activities that you may wish to discuss would be initiatives to improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within both the engineering profession and within engineering education.
  3. Show us that you are actively keeping pace with current debates and issues in engineering education and practice. Develop the habit of looking up and reading the literature on engineering education research. This can be through reading engineering education journal and conference articles. If you are a university student, make it a point to attend engineering learning and teaching seminars where your lecturers discuss the latest topics on engineering learning and teaching. Also look out for webinars presented by engineering institutions – these are typically free, and enable practitioners and educators to meet and discuss engineering education and training issues. If you have contributed to a conference, journal or webinar, let us know – give us a brief overview of your work, and how it has impacted the engineering education community.

Why not try the MSc?

There is no better time than now to get involved in engineering education research, policy and practice. Engineering is at the very centre of our ability to address global social, human welfare, environmental and economic challenges. However, our capacity to deliver solutions to these challenges is lacking. We desperately need to improve the supply of talent to engineering, to ensure diversity, inclusivity and openness, and to improve the quality and nature of engineering education and skills at all levels. Traditional methods and approaches have proved to be unequal to the task. We need new and fresh perspectives to the education and training of engineers at all levels, and you could be the one to lead us in achieving these goals. Have a look at what the UCL MSc Engineering and Education can offer you, and get in touch with us.

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