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Integrating Academic and Professional Qualification Pathways to Fister Industry-Savvy Students

Dr Bryan Magee | Queen's University Belfast

Integrating Academic and Professional Qualification Pathways to Fister Industry-Savvy Students

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Concrete, a material too frequently misinterpreted by construction professionals as a simplistic commodity and by many students as a subject as dull as its colour, is in reality a unique, complex and intriguing construction material. Utilised by arguably every construction project worldwide, it is unrivalled it terms of its range of engineering solutions and the depth of material science knowledge required to optimise its application. Despite its complexity and fundamental role in delivering a sustainable built environment, university students receive very limited practically-orientated teaching in concrete technology and construction-related topics. It is widely acknowledged that this knowledge-gap is detrimental to both the short- and long-term performance of engineering structures and the reputation of the construction industry, which for too long has been tolerant of underperformance, unprofessionalism and a lack of education/training in relation to this essential material. Against this background, Queen's University Belfast (QUB) has embarked on an innovative approach to teaching by integrating into its under- and post-graduate pathways an industry-focussed, four-stage professional qualification framework administered by the Institute of Concrete Technology (ICT). Phased in over a three-year period will be a suite of new modules and courses designed to deliver essential, industry-focussed fundamental and practical knowledge at a range of competency levels. All courses will meet learning objectives written by ICT to define desired levels of professional competency and link directly to attainment of its professionally qualified membership grades. With relevance of content ensured via continual input from industry experts and delivery via flexible distance and e-learning methods, the aim of this unique materials-focussed academically/professionally accredited education pathway is to encourage widespread involvement by both students and industrial participants. Provided in this paper will be a comprehensive overview of the education strategy developed, the academic-industry partnerships involved, the modules currently being offered and the development stages undertaken. Positive feedback will be provided from a student perspective, in terms of the enhanced employability opportunities offered, and from an industry perspective, in terms of the development of key skills sets. Ongoing successes regarding an internationalisation strategy for this materials teaching approach will also be discussed.