Concerned chemical engineering students at University College Cork have been told every effort is being made to reverse the loss of accreditation for their degrees caused by a delay in replacing a professor.
Students in the fourth and final year of process and chemical engineering recently found out they will not be eligible to register as chartered engineers because the degree they get next year will be a bachelor of engineering (BEng) instead of the masters degree (MEng) previously awarded.
Up to now, UCC chemical engineering graduates were allowed an exemption from the requirement to have a five-year qualification to register with Engineers Ireland.
The degree’s loss of accreditation from international body IChemE means that those due to graduate in 2016 would need instead to complete a fifth-year masters, or build up enough industry experience.
Students were told the course meets the academic content requirements, but the fact that a professor or additional academic staff were not appointed was behind the lost accreditation. When accreditation was last granted in 2010, it was conditional on a professor being appointed by 2012.
In an online petition signed by 1,500 people this week, students demand an appointment be made. They say those graduating from UCC would now be at a disadvantage compared to graduates of Cork Institute of Technology and University College Dublin, which retained MEng accreditation.
“It is shameful that the graduates of 2016 will only achieve a degree accredited to BEng, while the graduates of 2015 and previous years achieved a degree accredited to MEng with IChemE,” said the petition.
“This is distressing when one takes into account that the 2015 and 2016 courses are identical.”
Paul Ross, head of UCC’s college of science, engineering, and food science, said approval is being sought from university management on Monday to replace a recently-approved plan to fill a lecture post with a chair or professor role.
He said staff and students have been made aware of developments.
“UCC has also been in communication with the accreditation board to assure them of the commitment of UCC senior management to chemical and process engineering, and will continue our discussions with them on the issue,” said Prof Ross.
UCC Students’ Union president Aidan Coffey said he supports the students’ efforts to get the situation resolved, and having conveyed their concerns, he is satisfied that appropriate action is being taken.
Prof Ross said UCC had been unable to fill the post due to consistent cuts in government funding, and headcount restrictions, which are part of the many challenges faced by universities.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved