With formalised digital credentialing, UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Engineering (AGSE) offers a new way for engineers to accelerate or change their careers and secure a graduate education.
Two perennial complaints about university courses are that they aren’t as practical as modern careers demand, and that seeking further qualifications after an undergraduate degree can slow career progression. Addressing these two issues is what attracted Stuart Khan FIEAust to the Director role at the University of New South Wales’ AGSE.
A highly regarded civil and environmental engineer whose research has focused on water quality and treatment, Khan’s PhD came from UNSW. He has strong views on how tertiary institutions can best benefit the profession.
“Engineers continue to learn throughout their careers, but until recently there have been few opportunities to combine that learning with formal recognition of it,” he says.
“I’ve always been very interested in engaging in industry. All of my research has been industry focused, and I’ve been closely involved with developing industry guidelines and regulations. So another goal of the AGSE is to help bring industry and academia together. We want to be delivering the research and skills the engineering profession needs.”
To achieve this, the AGSE is offering an industry PhD program and a formalised system of digital credentials that is similar to how the UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) operates. The university’s engineering faculty already ranks first in Australia in the ARWU Shanghai Subject Rankings. The hope is that the new school will improve on this reputation.
Connected digital credentials
Like most universities, UNSW has long offered a variety of short courses in various engineering disciplines. Khan describes this situation as “fairly ad hoc”. The AGSE is designed to formalise these short courses into something more useful to students.
To accomplish this, short courses are being standardised to a high quality and sorted so that each one becomes a digital credential. Because they’re all under the AGSE roof, these digital credentials can then contribute to the achievement of a larger qualification.
When an engineer has achieved enough points across a range of topics, they can attain a graduate certificate. The graduate certificate can then be used as prior learning credits towards a masters.
While the AGSE will be announcing the first batch of digital credentials in late February, it already has a good sense of the kinds of subjects that will be offered.
“If you look at the AGSM, they’ve got various courses on leadership, management and people skills,” says Khan. “What we’re offering is more technical. Some of the courses that we’re looking at include artificial intelligence, machine learning and how to do sustainability analysis.”
Khan is also making connections to develop courses that are very finely tuned to industry requirements. The school already hosted a webinar with Engineers Australia that touched on this ‘Thought Leader Series: The Evolving Engineer’, but that was just the beginning.
“I am having discussions with local government organisations, engineering companies, and consulting firms about the possibility of developing courses that suit their specific needs. We’re identifying what their staff need training in, how they would like it taught, and what the learning outcomes of a course should be. We’re even discussing things like the duration and timing of the courses and which academics and external people should be involved in delivering them.”
The AGSE is keen to maximise their utility to industry and so are increasing their outreach and are talking to more organisations (if you’re interested, you can email [email protected]).
UNSW is first in Australia in the QS World University Rankings and in the top ten in the World Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Khan believes the AGSE will increase the university’s global standing.
“It’s the first of its kind in Australia,” says Khan. “There is no other university that is offering anything similar right across the engineering faculty.”
If you would like to discuss becoming an industry partner of the AGSE or the possibility of a bespoke course, contact the school at [email protected] If you’re an engineer who would like to know more about the AGSE and what it could do for your career, you can email the above address or visit the AGSE website.