Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Engineering Numbers Aren’t Adding Up

By Ian Lowe

Our universities aren’t producing enough engineers to meet demand, and gender balance remains an issue.

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I began studying engineering part-time in 1959. The head of my university, subsequently rebadged as the University of NSW, was arguing then that Australia needed to educate more professional engineers if we were to become an advanced industrial nation. His stated ambition was for UNSW to produce more engineering graduates than any other Australian university.

The latest figures from the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) show he was right on both counts. UNSW has the largest engineering faculty in the country and produces almost 20% of the graduate engineers each year. But there is a huge gap between supply and demand. ATSE says that about 18,000 engineering jobs are available each year in Australia. The universities only produce about 6000 graduates. So about two-thirds of the positions are filled by engineers coming from overseas. About one-quarter of these arrive on temporary work visas.

This is yet another consequence of the Commonwealth abdicating its responsibility for planning. With universities relatively free to set their recruitment targets for the various areas of study, there has been a shift away from courses that are expensive towards those that are relatively cheap to provide. So engineering, science and applied science are all areas of study that university managers are reluctant to encourage. Courses in law, economics, commerce and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.