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The right move for engineers - Ian Borg

Years of anomaly in the Maltese engineering profession have finally come to an end, after I recently announced – together with my colleague the Minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo – that Mcast engineering degrees will now be recognised by the Engineering Profession Board.

This move makes these future graduates eligible to apply for an Engineering Warrant, while presenting the opportunity for previous graduates to follow a programme in order to become eligible.

The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology started offering engineering degrees way back in 2009. Controversy erupted within the profession as soon as these vocational degrees were announced. Mcast held that the courses it offered were at par with those delivered by other institutions. 

The engineering board demanded that only suitably academically qualified persons should be entitled to the legal privileges pertaining to the engineering warrant, thereby safeguarding the high standards of the Maltese engineering profession. Unfortunately, the issue turned into one of comparison between graduates of Mcast and the University of Malta. The board had on several occasions actually refused to acknowledge engineering courses delivered by foreign institutions that failed to meet the eligibility criteria.

Years of heated discussion led to no conclusion. 

The impasse started being resolved when a professional agency authorised by the European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE) was engaged to advise the engineering profession board with regard to level, quality and content of courses meeting the academic requirement for the award of an engineering warrant. The agency authorised to carry the EUR-ACE® label, specifically ASIIN based in Germany, has reviewed engineering courses offered by both the University and Mcast.

The indispensable role of engineers is mandatory to maintain this rate of growth

In its first delivery, ASIIN identified room for improvement in courses offered by both institutions and made recommendations to the engineering profession board to reform the procedures and regulations currently in place for the award of the engineering warrant. It recommended that the academic level which qualified for the warrant should be refined and clarified. ASIIN were then engaged to produce a second report with an action plan to enhance future Mcast engineering courses in such a way that they would meet the criteria for warrant eligibility.

Additionally, ASIIN were tasked with preparing a scheme by which past Mcast graduates could augment their academic preparation to meet the required standard. This follow-up report was delivered in October last year.

After that, several discussions were held between the engineering profession board and Mcast until the latter came up with detailed, four-year, MQF Level 6 course proposals that were acceptable to the board. Following thorough scrutiny, the board assured itself that the new courses contained the relevant content material, not least in mathematics, which had been identified as being left wanting in previous courses. These courses shall also be subject to external independent review.

In this way, Mcast courses shall now meet the required level and future graduates should be eligible for a warrant.

We could not overlook the sentiment of injustice that was felt by Mcast engineering graduates. And we were insistent upon taking action to resolve this situation. 

This recent development must be seen in the context of a developing economy which needs more professional engineers. Private and public capital projects are in constant demand. The indispensable role of engineers is mandatory to maintain this rate of growth. The challenges ahead require engineers’ input to find and develop tangible solutions and to turn them into opportunities.

This is the way forward for every sector of our country; the recognition and enabling of our professionals in order to formulate and build a future for the benefit of all.

Ian Borg is the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects.

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