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Press Release

Chriss Swaney,

For immediate release:
July 29, 2002

Carnegie Mellon and European Consortium Share Best Practices in Retaining Engineering Students

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University and nine other leading technical schools in Europe and the United States have released a survey that identifies key features of successful engineering education.

The survey, entitled "Successful Practice in International Engineering Education (SPINE)," included interviews with more than 1,000 professors, company managers and graduate engineers with five to 10 years of job experience.

At Carnegie Mellon, the survey revealed that both female enrollment and retention of engineering students, in general, increased because of a more flexible engineering curriculum. Women enrolled at Carnegie Mellon for engineering rose to 22 percent in 2002. And because of Carnegie Mellon's flexible engineering program, including a new introduction to engineering course, 90 percent of the students who entered engineering in 2001 remained in the program, compared with only 70 percent prior to 1990.

"The SPINE Project has been very helpful to me, and to Carnegie Mellon, not only because of the data and final report, but because of the international network of colleagues who share our interests," said John L. Anderson, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering. "The goal is not to make common our cultures, but rather it is to understand, respect and build upon their differences to improve the human state."

The 296-page, benchmarking study also evaluated the relevance of engineering education and offered recommendations for integrating the best elements of the study into existing academic programs.

Study findings showed that most European universities have stronger ties to industry sectors and promote a curriculum focused on an international educational experience. By contrast, the study found that U.S.-based universities place more emphasis on specialized courses, including cross-disciplinary and team-based projects. The U.S. schools also excelled in distance-learning courses, according to the survey.

However, all participants said that problem-solving skills, leadership and an ability to communicate effectively are key components to future success.

Other survey participants included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Imperial College of London, Ecole Centrale Paris, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule Zurich, Kungl Tekniska Hogskolan Stockholm, Rheinisch-Westfalische Technische Hochschule Aachen and the Technische Universiteit Delft.


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