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Language courses for engineers

The first intake of students for the newly structured four-year engineering Tripos arrived in October 1992 and so will shortly begin their second year. The restructuring of the course has recently been overseen by Dr Ann Dowling, Deputy Head of the Engineering Department and soon to become the first female Professor of Engineering in Cambridge. Dr Dowling explained that the new four-year course which is in keeping with the recommendations of the Engineering Council allows more time for project work and engineering applications. For instance, half of the final year is now taken up with a major project, often carried out in collaboration with industry.

With fewer timetabled sessions students are given greater flexibility for study, and with the elimination of Saturday lectures the weekends now give time for students to consolidate their work. The introduction of the four-year course has also been greeted by a 14% rise in applications, which is a mark of its success. This may be because the course now leads to a MEng as well as the BA previously awarded.

Language learning is now an integral part of the course. A new mezzaine floor is being installed to provide 70m2 of space to house The Engineering Department's own Language Unit. The French Embassy has allocated a full-time French language teacher and a German Lektor has been funded by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and the Isaac Newton Trust.

The capital cost of equipping the audio visual room with televisions and video players and establishing a library is being met by Mr J Thornton and Shell plc.

The Baring Foundation, the Newton Trust and Churchill College are also funding a senior language adviser in the University's language centre to be in charge of the project.

The first two years of the language study are based around a flexible modular scheme in which students can develop linguistic skills at their own pace. Those reaching the required standard will take an external examination and so receive a recoguised qualification. This will be built on in the third and fourth years when technical tasks typical of those faced by an engineer will be set in a foreign language.

Of the students admitted in 1992, two thirds elected to take the language training option.

number 1, summer '93 back | contents | previous | next