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RESTRUCTURING THE ENGINEERING EDUCATION IN SAUDI ARABIA Muhammad Taher Abuelma’atti King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dhahran-Saudi Arabia.

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Presentation on theme: "RESTRUCTURING THE ENGINEERING EDUCATION IN SAUDI ARABIA Muhammad Taher Abuelma’atti King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dhahran-Saudi Arabia."— Presentation transcript:

1 RESTRUCTURING THE ENGINEERING EDUCATION IN SAUDI ARABIA Muhammad Taher Abuelma’atti King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dhahran-Saudi Arabia

2 WHAT IS SAID? Industry complains that new engineering graduates fall short on the practical engineering skills. Major companies have to spend more than one year in retraining new engineering graduates at very high costs. A customer with a problem, does not really care if it is a physics, engineering, or software problem. He just wants it to be fixed. Engineering graduates must have at least a working knowledge of other technologies. They need to know when the solution to a problem can be found within a specific technology and when they must seek help from another area.

3 The task of the Saudi engineering educational system is, therefore, complicated: On the one hand, it must prepare graduates with sufficient knowledge in basic science and technology, as well as an adequate degree of specialization to handle current technological problems. On the other hand, it must produce open-minded graduates who can adapt easily to a wide spectrum of jobs available in a relatively small market, and who can respond and progress quickly to new issues faced by society.

4 IS IT POSSIBLE? It appears that the engineering education is faced with a near-impossible task. Consider the four-year baccalaureate program in engineering 1.It is full and overflowing. 2.It must lead to a multiplicity of career opportunities. 3.Including more topics in this program increases the stress on the search for excellence in education. What sort of a curriculum is required that will stand up to these diverse requests?

5 ENHANCEMENT OF ENGINEERING PROGRAMS 1.A wide range of enhancements for the basic four-year baccalaureate engineering program can be provided. 2.Each one requires a year or more beyond the basic engineering program. 3.It is not just a random collection of courses that total to a minimal number of credit hours or a minimum length of calendar time to be filled with an assortment of interesting but not necessarily related activities. 4.It is an educational experience which is designed to meet a particular educational goal. 5.Academic advisors would help the student select a particular enhancement that would be expected to match best with his educational goals and objectives.

6 Enhancement programs could be designed to provide one or more of the following: 1.Additional background in the discipline 2.A broader education in the social sciences. 3.A background in technical marketing. 4.A background in the business and management area. 5.A broader development of the ability to communicate. 6.A background in another technical area. 7.An introduction to both technical and non-technical aspects of a given industry such as the telecommunication industry.

7 BACHELOR OF SCIENCE AND MASTER OF ENGINEERING At present, students who wanted further education after bachelor’s degree would enter the master’s program, which is geared toward those heading for a Ph.D. The Master of Engineering program is different: 1.It is a five-year program that leads to a combined bachelor of science and master of engineering degree. 2.It is designed for students who plan on practicing engineering. 3.The fifth year is similar to the fourth year, sharing a structured classroom approach. 4.It has no/reduced thesis requirement.

8 FLEXIBLE AND SPECIALIZED CURRICULA 1.Many development problems are rooted in complex, multi-faceted issues, related to both scientific and non-scientific factors. 2.Traditional engineering curricula, designed to produce graduates who knew everything about their own fields and nothing else, cannot work well in today’s environment. 3.Engineering needs to be more fully integrated across academic disciplines and oriented more towards problem-solving than traditional single discipline orientation.

9 WHAT IS NEEDED? A flexible curriculum is needed to produce engineers who are: doers, extremely fast learners and have the can-do spirit rather than the theoreticians who are currently graduated from our engineering programs. Engineering schools around the world are changing, upgrading or adapting their curricula to make them more practical and responsive to industry.

10 ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS 1.When a foreign expert is sent from a developed country to Saudi Arabia to investigate a technical problem, he is invariably either a technologist or a skilled technician. 2.There is a lack of appreciation that technologists are the backbone of any industrialized state. 3.It is their skill and competence that determine the standard of engineering practice attainable and set the level of technological and economic advancement that can be achieved.

11 Statistics show that: 1.The majority of Saudi engineers are employed by the public and private sectors as employees or as consultants, or even running their own small, private consulting and/or manufacturing and construction firms. 2.Very few enter applied research, and even fewer end up in fundamental research. 3.Saudi industry is not research driven. It is essentially an applied one in which little basic research takes place. In Saudi Arabia more than 80% of engineering graduates are employed as technologists. Therefore, demand for highly specialized engineers and researchers is very limited.

12 HOW TO INTRODUCE ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY? 1.Less expansion of traditional universities and the establishment of technological universities or introducing technology programs to current universities. 2.The foundation of mathematics and sciences need to be highly emphasized. The main difference shall exist from the application aspects. 3.The status of technologists should be boosted by awarding them engineer status in the form of a B.Sc. degree. This is the case today in Britain and Germany.

13 4. Employers should hire ‘engineers’ or ‘technologists’ according to the skills required and there should be no discrimination between the two types in terms of salary. 5. This should reduce the pressure on universities, increase enrollment in technical universities and decrease structural unemployment. 6. New textbooks specially dedicated for technological education are strongly needed. Currently, most textbooks are written for use in research universities. 7. What is expected of the faculty in traditional university engineering degree programs differs from what is expected in a technological university.

14 UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY- GOVERNMENT COOPERATION 1.For the most part our faculty is superb “engineering scientists” but they are not necessarily aware of the practice of engineering. 2.Nevertheless, the current faculty has the largest say in engineering curricula. 3.Given this, it should not be a big surprise that industry leaders have been increasingly vocal about their discontent with engineering graduates.

15 4. Without forceful input from industry, academia will not be very motivated to institute changes in their engineering curricula. 5. Industry must establish the requirements for the quality and education of the engineers they hire. 6. Properly selected and well structured engineering school advisory boards can serve as voices of industry.

16 American Society for Engineering Education Report 1.Every engineering education program requires periodic internal and external reviews, with industrial participation. 2.Faculty should think more about redesigning the undergraduate education than focusing only on research projects. 3.Present engineering faculty tends to be very capable researchers, but too many are unfamiliar with the worldly issues of “design under constraint” simply because they have never actually practiced engineering.

17 4. Together with business schools and industry, engineering schools should develop innovative programs for advanced degrees, including practice-oriented degrees (for example Master of Engineering). 5. The government, in partnership with engineering colleges and industry, should develop a national program to foster industrial professorships. 6. Each engineering college, should develop reciprocal personnel-exchange programs with industry, including industrial professorships and university sabbaticals in industry.

18 THE CULTURAL EFFECT 1.The effect of the cultural background of engineering students also play a role in the non-technical skills they are required to master. 2.In a report to the IEEE Education Society, it is stated that it would be a mistake for the IEEE/USA members to transpose the educational and cultural programs and economic philosophy of the USA to an African country. The same statement could, and should, be made with regards to Saudi Arabia. 3.Nevertheless, goals and aspirations of engineers in Saudi Arabia have much in common with colleagues in the rest of the world and we have a great deal to learn from what these various regions can teach us with regard to engineering education.

19 ABET Unlike previous criteria, which were rigidly defined, ABET 2000 encourage each school to be outcome- oriented, to define its own niche and structure its curriculum accordingly. 2.This liberates faculty to propose virtually any modification they deem appropriate, which may then be evaluated by ABET against the school’s goals. Essentially, the new criteria say: You can do that; just do it well! The obvious question that one can ask here is whether ABET accreditation for engineering programs can be applied directly or should be tempered to reflect the different needs and perceptions of Saudi Arabia.

20 GRADUATE PROGRAMS 1.Narrow specialization may be necessary in large industrialized countries, but may well be an unnecessary luxury in Saudi Arabia. 2.To adopt effective advanced degree programs from good universities of large, highly industrialized countries, without modification and adaptation to Saudi conditions, may prove to be a great mistake. 3.Establishment of graduate studies in Saudi universities must be carefully considered. The direction, the depth and the number of graduate programs should reflect the capacity and trends of the domestic market. 4.Otherwise, it may lead to brain drain, unemployment and an unjustified waste of money.

21 Concluding Remarks To restructure engineering education in Saudi Arabia, consider one or more of the following: 1. Change educator’s attitudes. Only then can engineering schools produce the open-minded and versatile modern engineers. 2. Introduce the master of engineering program. 3. Redesign the curriculum to increase its flexibility. 4. Encourage engineering technology education. 5. Strengthen the relationship between university, industry and government. 6. Redesign graduate programs to address local needs.


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