Undergraduate project management and the role of industry
Kennedy, Robert T.
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University engineering education and industrial employer's expectations of new graduates are considerably apart if the adverse comments that appear in the press are to be accepted. Advancement in technology results in the need for a careful compromise between the course content that is essential and that which can be left for the future. Universities are severely restricted by the time available for undergraduate programmes and do not normally provide customized education for a particular company hence in an ever changing, expanding and diverse technological environment the adverse comments should not necessarily be a surprise. If a solution is to be found there is a need for a greater understanding by the University of Employer's needs and an equal understanding by Industry of what can be delivered. An innovative approach is required in which there is greater co-operation between the parties in both the development of programmes and courses and their implementation. Industry has traditionally been supportive but usually not at delivery phase. An Intergrated role for industry in the delivery is suggested such that programmes and courses will identify more with the engineering profession and increase student awareness of that real world values and skills required. The major activity area of final year undergraduate projects is where an intergrated and co-operative approach can be introduced. Planning, management and assessment will all need careful consideration, not only to meet the University objectives and academic requirements but also to satisfy in the case of acrreditated degrees the accreditation board's requirements. A roadmap for the development of a final year project programme that integrates and defines the role of industry in a structured manner is suggested. Some of the potential problems are outlined, and in particular assessment where the external partner involvement requires additional considerations to ensure Rigor, Robustness and Accountability. A planned programmed is suggested covering the pre project period, the role and intergration of industry and the final assessment. Management and documentation templates included for reference have the flexibility to be adapted or modified as required by differing courses and institutions.