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Engineering Gateways Practice Transfer Partnership

Adopter Case Study


University name: University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE)
Title(s) of programme(s) (with in brackets, the engineering discipline areas)
MSc Professional Engineering (Aerospace, Mechanical, Management, etc, as required)
Date when marketing began or is planned: March 2012
Date of first enrolment/planned enrolment: September 2012
Name of the lead faculty and/or department: Faculty of Environment and Technology, Department of
Engineering Design and Mathematics
Other faculties/departments involved: Faculty of Business and Law (Bristol Business School)
1. Reasons for becoming an adopter
Please provide: (up to 500 words)
What attracted your university to the programme?
Summary of the perceived key benefits
What attracted your university to the programme?
UWE has been expanding its work-based learning portfolio over the last few years, predominantly in the Health
Care sector. The concept is gaining ground in other sectors, and this faculty wants to utilise the concept for the
Engineering sector.
The Continuing Professional Development, Aerospace (CPDA) programme has been a successful activity - targeted
specifically at students working full time in industry - for over twenty years. As part of its development, work-based
learning was already under consideration when this Engineering Gateways programme opportunity became
available. The project funding has allowed further development beyond the Aerospace sector into other Advanced
Engineering activities.
Summary of the perceived key benefits
This Engineering Council-supported project provided the following opportunities:
i.
Targeting a greater breadth of employers across the Advanced Engineering sector (including SMEs),
providing a flexible award structure to meet their needs.
ii. Combining the development of the work-based learning (WBL) MSc activity with the CPDA awards has
expanded the concept into a MSc Engineering Capability Framework, under which a number of MSc,
PG Diploma and PG Certificate awards are placed.
The MSc Aerospace (CPDA) and MSc Professional Engineering (plus related PG Diplomas / Certificates) are two of
these awards. The Framework allows actually, encourages module sharing between awards. Whilst each
award requires completion of core modules, the remaining taught programme can be achieved from any other
module options within the Framework. Additionally, each module is offered as taught, distance learning or workbased learning. The MSc framework is targeted at employers rather than individual students. It allows employers to
find learning approaches which suit their organisations they are then best placed to identify suitable candidates.
Employers are offered:
i.
Flexibility of provision (hence suitability for SMEs).
ii. Opportunity to mix and match module delivery formats awards can be a combination of taught and workbased, as per customer requirements
iii. Wider cross-section of potential applicants using the staged approach of PG Certificate, to PG Diploma
to MSc, students with non-standard backgrounds will be find out whether they can cope with work at
PG Certificate level before being tied to an MSc. In some cases, an individual may not need a full
MSc, but could benefit from a shorter award: these are no longer exit awards, but staged. Entry
requirements are, therefore, flexible.
iv. Students will be enrolled into the Framework, not onto a specific award. This allows module gathering,
with guidance to aim for specific named awards as careers develop.
v. The Professional Development Audit will be of use to both student and employer, acting as the students
study plan.
The University benefits by:
i.
Module sharing: where relevant, no longer providing several versions of generic modules in different
faculties - instead use generic modules across awards - this is both cost and time effective. The
assessments will be used to direct the learning to the students specific sector.
ii. Work-based learning allowing academics closer links to specific engineering projects in the business
environment.
iii. Being perceived as employer-focused and willing to be flexible to meet bespoke needs.

University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) Case Study July 2012

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Engineering Gateways Practice Transfer Partnership


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2. Securing university commitment
Please provide: (500 - 1000 words)
The steps taken to secure this, including validation
Overview of how any issues/challenges were addressed
An indication of any agreed indicators of success
The steps taken to secure this, including validation
UWE was already committed to grow its work-based learning provision. This meant that this project could be put
into both an employer-focus context and an internal development context.
Employer-focused:
Department is already very employer-facing, and new concepts could easily be explained at the
Engineering Industrial Advisory Board.
Faculty is aware that Undergraduate intake is likely to change with the new fee structure and is very keen
to support alternative income streams, such as more employer relationships.
Internal processes:
Recent changes to UWEs administrative structure have meant some revision of processes, which has
provided some flexibility in preparing for the Framework and related MSc approval. It has, however,
also made the process more drawn out, and approval has not yet been given for the Framework.
However, it is expected that this will be achieved before September 2012, for the first intake.
Overview of how any issues/challenges were addressed
As part of UWEs overall improvement activity, several existing awards (including CPDA) need to be refreshed by
September 2012. The Framework concept enabled this to happen at the same time as providing the opportunity to
include the new MSc Professional Engineering award. Creating the Framework meant including concepts such as
module sharing, flexible delivery format, learning facilitation, etc.
Key issues have been:
i.
Marketing
a. Marketing and Communication has been centralised this year, meaning local support is nil and there is
a slow reaction time from the Centre. This has meant marketing has been carried out by the
Framework team. It is hoped this situation will be rectified for the future, but, due to the short
timescales, this process has been very challenging. The Faculty Executive has supported this local
approach, as it is recognised how important this Framework is to the Department.
b. Marketing has been targeted at developing relationships with existing and new employers, rather than
trying to sell a product. This approach means initial intake is likely to be low, but should increase well
over time, as the market intelligence aspect begins to work in our favour.
ii.
Validation - Approval
a. The revised processes are better than those used before, but still do not quite meet the needs of a
programme such as this MSc Framework. The toolkit developed by the Engineering Council will be
directed to the Central services to enable process improvements.
iii.
Financial
a. Module-sharing across departments and faculties is a sound principle, but the financial structure does
not support it. This is an on-going issue, being discussed by the Faculty Executives. Income and
costs are normally against a specific award, but this will not be practical with the Framework. This
issue has already been recognised in the Health activities, but is still to be resolved.
b. Setting award fees has also been difficult, even though it is the first question employers ask. This, too,
is under discussion at senior levels in the Faculty.
iv.
Resources
a. Workload modelling is difficult. Partly this is due to the fact that the existing model does not easily
accept flexible delivery methods and also, it is difficult still to identify exactly what resource will be
needed to support work-based learning.
b. Explaining the concept to academic staff is deliberately piecemeal, as some are more inclined to this
approach than others. It has been decided to build up the concept before trying to get everyone
involved, so to allow those concerned about the approach to see it in action before committing
themselves.
An indication of any agreed indicators of success
Very simply how many students we get in 2012/2013. Although the Framework will be available from September
2012, we are planning a rolling intake:
Cohorts are only needed for taught modules. Each PDA and WBL Learning Contract will be developed
with the individual student and employer.
As the year progresses, market intelligence has to be intensified to ensure numbers increase the following
year.

University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) Case Study July 2012

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Engineering Gateways Practice Transfer Partnership


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3. External engagement
Please provide: (up to 500 words)
Brief overview of employer engagement activity
Details of the level of engagement with appropriate Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs)
Brief overview of employer engagement activity
Employer Understanding
It is very difficult to explain to an employer why he should opt for work-based learning modules instead of taught
provision. Measures of success have traditionally been sending someone on a taught course and then using the
learning obtained to tackle a given task successfully the CPDA model. It can easily be seen how an individual
gets benefit for work-based learning, but not so clear how the organisation benefits. This needs to be worked out
early on, during a potential application process, to ensure the employer can see how the organisation benefits by
letting someone be assessed on their day job. The Professional Development Audit and WBL learning contracts
are key to this, but can take some explaining.
Engagement
The UWE Engineering Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) has been used, in workshop form, to identify for
existing customers how the Postgraduate provision is being expanded.
SEMTA gave us the opportunity to speak to some of its members, who were very intrigued by the range of
opportunities being offered. Follow-up on issues raised is underway.
Individual organisations are being informed about the Framework, on company visits
Workshops and HE-STEM dissemination events are being used and arranged to further the engagement
process.
The key to the Frameworks success is to get employers involved. The MSc Professional Engineering is good for
individuals, but can only really be of long term benefit if employers can see its usefulness. However, universities
traditionally target students with awards whilst we are aiming to target employers with opportunities. It is a
different mindset and how it can be fully achieved is still under consideration.
Engagement with appropriate Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs)
The PEIs are invited to the Engineering IAB, and are aware of the Framework and why it has been developed. It is
the flexibility it offers which holds most interest. However, it is fully recognised that most awards within the
Framework will not be directly accredited rather relying on evidence at the end of the study programme to
determine whether an individual can be registered as Chartered.
We are being careful not to affect the MSc Aerospace too much, by ensuring a number of core modules have to be
taken to meet the PEIs requirements, to ensure its accreditation will be allowed to stand. This is an on-going
process.
4. Key Milestones towards successful implementation
List in chronological order of achievement:
1.
2.

Department approval of the project, November 2011


Department and Faculty approval of Framework concept, including the MSc Professional Engineering,
March 2012
3. Revision of Approval and Marketing processes to support Framework, March 2011
4. IAB approval March 2012
5. SEMTA interest, April 2012
6. 1st stage of Approval process completed, May 2012
7. Completion of Approval process, June / July 2012
5. Advice and support during your journey to adopting the Engineering Gateways framework
Please list the key sources that you found most useful:
Engineering Gateways background material
UWE WBL processes, around its Shell Award Framework, which allows awards to be achieved via
module gathering.
Advice and support from our Practice Transfer Partner University of Hertfordshire
Engineering Council Workshop, March 2012
It was pleasing to note that the toolkit was very close to the process we had already been following. So, although it
was not useful directly to us, it did help us confirm our approach was correct, and should be of use elsewhere at
UWE. It could be of use for the Engineering Council to visit UWE and discuss how the toolkit can be used within our
Central Academic Services for similar activities.

University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) Case Study July 2012

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Engineering Gateways Practice Transfer Partnership


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6. Key challenges to successful implementation and how these were overcome
Please describe up to five key challenges and their resolution, from most challenging to least challenging:
1.

Employer Engagement
An on-going process: a number of activities have been performed and are planned to help with this.

2.

A major UWE academic refreshing of programmes


This has been part of the reason for the slow approval process, as so many other awards are
going through at the same time. This is in-hand as a date for implementation has been set and
approval must be achieved by then.

3.

UWEs major restructuring of all Professional Services


Marketing has had to be done quickly, with no time for the revised processes to catch up. This
has been a cost the Department has had to bear. Talks are commencing with the University
Marketing service to rectify this situation for the future.

4.

Staff Engagement
To successfully implement learning facilitation in support of WBL, there has to be quite a change
in direction for some academics. Engineering staff, who regularly face industry, do not find this
too hard, but those who are more linked to undergraduate activities are not finding this so easy.
This will be overcome gradually, as the Framework develops.

5.

Resource Management
UWEs workload model does not easily allow for the flexible delivery approach. However,
consultation with Department and Faculty has helped to define a way ahead, to be implemented
from September 2012. Staff shortages do not help the situation, but this is being managed.
These are probably all equally challenging.
7. Issues or challenges yet to be resolved
See section 6. We have found workarounds for now, but there needs to be a much longer review process once
everything is up and running to ensure such an activity is easier to do next time around.
8. Advice to prospective adopters
Please provide up to three pieces of advice:
Take advice from a Practice Transfer Partner it helps to know whether the thinking underway at the start
of the process is sensible. Identify best practice this also helps to define a development plan.
2. Get department and faculty support as soon as possible. Hurdles and barriers can then dealt with by those
who job it is to clear them, rather than trying to do everything within the adoption team.
3. The first job is to identify your market and talk to them as soon as possible to develop the required
relationships.
9. Additional comments (optional)
This project started out to simply add in a new MSc to the Departments portfolio. Unexpectedly, it has offered the
opportunity to completely rethink our Postgraduate provision in Engineering. In addition, although we have not been
able to start all the paperwork yet, it has informed us on how to deal with potential WBL provision at the
Undergraduate level, which was definitely one of the key objectives of the project. We expect this to develop much
further over the next academic year.
1.

University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) Case Study July 2012

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