Exciting times in engineering

Published on July 28, 2014

I am writing in response to P.C. Helwig’s letter published in the July 22 edition of The Telegram. In particular, I would like to correct a factual error and to address some of the author’s concerns.

There is a tuition differential for international students at Memorial University, as there is at most other Canadian universities. However other fees (including residence, student union and recreation) are charged to all students at the same rate. But, even with the differential, Memorial is one of the most affordable options in Canada for international students.

The issue of engineering expansion at Memorial was raised in Helwig’s letter. Our strategic plan, entitled Vision 2020 (developed in 2013), includes an increase of graduates of undergraduate programs from approximately 170 to 250 per year by 2020, or an increase of about 10 graduates per year. It was developed in extensive consultation with faculty, staff, students, co-op coordinators, industry and other stakeholders. It was fully supported and encouraged by industry, government, the university and a wide range of stakeholders to meet the province’s needs for more engineers and engineering capacity, in response to the thriving offshore oil, ocean technology and other sectors.

Given that our projected rate of increase does not even keep pace with the more rapid rise of registrations of engineers observed by the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador, our planned increase is sustainable and necessary, especially when considering the far more rapid growth of massive engineering activities and capacities in the province, now, and for the foreseeable future.

We plan to grow our wonderful co-operative education program in tandem with student enrolment to provide the resources necessary to develop and monitor co-op placements. We successfully placed our engineering co-op students on work terms throughout the “double cohort” which graduated in 2013. This double cohort was larger than the projected number of students to be placed in 2020. Although there certainly will be challenges along the way, the engineering opportunities in our province and beyond are far greater, and that the future economic growth of our province relies, to a significant extent, on the growth of engineering capacity. For example, offshore development and exploration in the North Atlantic are among the most challenging technically in the world — deep waters, icebergs, harsh environment, ocean waves exceeding 25 metres in height — but Memorial engineering is up to the challenge!

The faculty of engineering and applied science has developed strategies to ensure higher enrolment does not come at the expense of lower admission standards — new initiatives to increase student success and reduce attrition in the first year of the program; working with the Marine Institute and the College of the North Atlantic on a bridging program that would allow high-performing college graduates to complete an engineering degree following their technology diploma; developing new programs and streams, such as a planned new program in petroleum engineering; and engaging in a more proactive recruitment effort outside the province. Through these initiatives and others, the faculty will be able to expand its enrolments while maintaining among the highest admission standards of engineering schools in Canada.

Ensuring international students have access to the resources they need to integrate effectively into our community is a priority of Memorial University. The university is in the process of developing an internationalization plan that will guide the university’s planning in various aspects of international activity, including teaching and learning; research; and public engagement.

This is an exciting time for the faculty of engineering and applied science and Memorial University! The growth of engineering capacity will be a significant positive driver of innovation, diversification, entrepreneurship and continued rapid growth of our provincial economy. We are working towards our goal of becoming one of the most distinguished universities and engineering schools in Canada while responding to the unique challenges and opportunities facing our province.

 

Dr. Greg F. Naterer

MUN dean of engineering and applied science