Continental "Global Engineering Excellence" Initiative: Engineering education not keeping pace with challenges of globalization
Top universities in favor of "open borders" and internationalized study programs Unprecedented study shows action required to internationalize engineering sciences - Continental AG expands international network of universities
Hanover/Frankfurt, November 10, 2006. Engineering education that instills global competence is not keeping pace with the complex and highly dynamic development process of globalization. Study programs are not sufficiently international and cross disciplinary, the mutual recognition of degrees or curriculum modules is still in its infancy, and a worldwide accreditation system is nowhere in sight. In addition, there are many government-imposed barriers that hinder an international and, at the same time, research-oriented study program. Furthermore there are still hardly any cooperative projects between companies and universities that go beyond a national framework. These are the key findings of the "Global Engineering Excellence" study, which was initiated by Continental AG.
Scientists from the renowned universities Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland; Georgia Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A.; Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Tsinghua University, China; Escola Politécnica Universidade da Sao Paulo, Brazil; and the University of Tokyo, Japan, conducted the study under the leadership of the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. They formulated four key statements and recommendations for the future education of engineers, based upon the findings of this unprecedented study, which was presented on Friday at the Eberbach Cloister near Frankfurt:
ˇ Global competence needs to become a key qualification of engineering graduates.
ˇ Transnational mobility for engineering students, researchers, and professionals needs to become a priority.
ˇ Global engineering excellence depends critically on a mutual commitment to partnerships, especially those that link engineering education to professional practice.
ˇ Research on engineering in a global context is urgently needed.
As one of the leading international automotive suppliers, Continental has for many years promoted excellence in the education of engineers: "Technology is our passion. That is why we called the "Global Engineering Excellence initiative to life last year to examine the prospects for engineers in the era of globalization, their social position and education, as well as their impact on the productivity of national economies, and to then draw conclusions from these findings," said Continental Executive Board Chairman Manfred Wennemer.
"We encourage our eight partner universities to develop and set up their own and joint study courses for the degree of "Master of Global Engineering" within the framework of this project. In the future, this could be an elite title for top engineers with an excellent and, above all, internationally-oriented education," explained Continental Human Resources Director Thomas Sattelberger. "For the practical part of the education, we are not only opening up Continental�'s worldwide network, we also want to win the collaboration of other partners from industry." He pointed out that Continental is currently expanding its existing network with universities.
For the "Global Engineering Excellence" universities, Prof. Dr. Ing. Reiner Anderl of the TU Darmstadt, which heads the study, called it "an outstanding milestone on the way to the further development of engineering education at university level in preparation for working successfully in international and intercultural teams." He pointed out that the universities drafted essential and forward-looking recommendations based upon the findings of the study: "Credits from suitable partner universities must be recognized, and the learning of foreign languages made obligatory. New technologies such as e-learning and video conference systems must also be used more extensively, and part-time study courses should be promoted for students from other countries. Cooperative ventures with industry could be expanded considerably, for instance through research collaboration, training projects and technical internships."
The universities are also in favor of governments promoting global engineering education and research, with funding for university programs and scholarships for international studies or internships. "Transnational mobility should be improved by, for instance, removing barriers, such as restrictive visa policies and work permits for foreign students while they are studying and after they receive their degree," said Prof. Anderl. One possibility, for instance, would be to introduce a special category of student visa for technical internships and part-time jobs. "We feel it is essential that triads develop consisting of universities and industry together with politics or government, to make active headway in this topic."
As European Commissioner responsible for Education, and himself a trained engineer, Ján Figel, who was guest of honor at the "Global Engineering Excellence" event, said on Thursday night that the study was "an analysis of the highest quality." He added: "In my view, it should be required reading for deans of engineering faculties everywhere," and that "engineers are the key to Europe's future in a globalized world. But, as the study shows, in a globalized world engineers need skills that go far beyond what is traditionally considered necessary."
"Most engineers in this century will work in integrated global enterprises," explained the long-serving MIT President Emeritus Prof. Charles Vest, who recently was nominated as new President of the National Academy of Engineering in the U.S.A. "The "Global Engineering Excellence" study provides an ambitious but practical roadmap for educating 21st century engineers to work effectively in this context."
Continental Executive Board Chairman Wennemer pointed out that within the framework of the "Global Engineering Excellence" initiative, students at the eight participating universities would be asked their opinions regarding the findings and recommendations of the first study as well as the view they take of their own education, career opportunities and future prospects on job markets and social environment. This representative study will be linked with the Continental Student Survey, which has already been conducted for some years, and its findings will be presented in 2007.
The Continental Corporation is a leading automotive supplier of brake systems, chassis components, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers. In 2005 the corporation realized sales of EUR13.8 billion. At present it has a worldwide workforce of approximately 85,000.
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