27.05.2020REFINE Project: Researching Futures in Engineering
What is the REFINE Project?
REFINE is a collaborative project partnered by AEON and the University of Manchester. The project seeks to change existing approaches to recruiting and retaining engineering students and practising engineers.
Why is this so important?
As a result of current policy and practice, only 9% of professional engineers currently practising in the UK are women (Women’s Engineering Society, 2016) compared with 21% across all STEM (Women in Science and Engineering, 2016).
This is the lowest percentage of women engineers of the 28 European countries, over half of which have at least 20% (Perkins, 2013).
Such female under-representation in engineering, in the UK specifically, is seen as having social justice implications (Rhys Jones, 2011) and has led the Institution of Engineering and Technology Women's Network to initiate a campaign to improve the situation “#9PercentIsNotEnough” (2017).
Further data shows that women employed as professional engineers from ethnic minorities represent an even smaller minority, as both men and women together only represent 6% of this workforce (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2015).
The research figures make it clear that a cultural change is needed to create more employment opportunities in engineering industries and STEM generally, not only for women but for members of ethnic minorities.
The hope is that this will be achieved by reflecting on evidence from our previous and ongoing studies with various groups including industry, academia, schools and interested networks and individuals.
What is REFINE doing to help?
The project proposes to engage with the engineering industry via a dedicated event with representatives from a number of engineering firms to enable the sharing of knowledge and re-examination of existing research findings largely drawing on our previous work:
- Decision-Making for Degree-Taking: Who or what influences students to study for a degree in engineering at a Russell Group university?
- Futures in Engineering: Engineering-Related Aspirations and Anxieties
- Teleprism: “Mathematics teaching and learning in secondary schools: the impact of pedagogical practices on important learning outcomes” (www.teleprism.com)
- TransMaths: “Mathematics learning, identity and educational practice: the transition into Higher Education” (www.transmaths.org).
- TLRP: ‘Keeping open the door to mathematically demanding programmes in Further and Higher Education’. (www.transmaths.org)
- Maths Anxiety Review: A systematic review and meta-analysis of existing research related to maths anxiety, including a case study of engineering. (www.mathsisok.com)
- Learning Gain: An ongoing project piloting alternative measures of students’ learning gain at university. It includes students’ attitudes, dispositions, their transitional experience from school to university, reasons of choosing particular subjects and their expectations of their university and studies. (www.hefce.ac.uk/lt/lg/projects/uni-manchester/)
The aim is to revisit ‘what works’ so that best practice can be identified, evidenced and embedded across the sector.
These research findings will also be shared with academics and practitioners at a separate engineering education forum. Both these events will provide input on the potential future direction of this research. Further dissemination opportunities will also be organized to engage with school pupils, women’s networks and the general public.