Structure and Content of BEng Chemical Engineering Programmes in the UK, Relative to the Frontiers in Chemical Engineering Education Model

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The Frontiers in Chemical Engineering Education initiative in the USA in the early 2000s proposed a reformed chemical engineering curriculum organised around the three themes of Molecular transformations, Multiscale analysis and a Systems view. It was subsequently observed that few departments in the USA had adopted this structure for their programmes, although several UK programmes appeared already to feature this structure. Therefore, the objective of the current work was to analyse BEng chemical engineering programmes in the UK relative to this tripartite structure, in order to evaluate to what extent the Frontiers model was already represented within UK chemical engineering education. From the 28 UK universities offering IChemE-accredited programmes, the structure and content of 24 BEng programmes were analysed against the tripartite Frontiers structure. All 24 programmes broadly followed the Frontiers structure. The greatest variation between programmes was in the amount of content contributing to the Molecular transformations theme, which varied from 1.4 to 26%. This was also the smallest of the three themes, contributing on average around 10%, compared with 37% for Multiscale analysis and 38% for Systems, with 10% coming from Supporting Competences (such as laboratory and professional skills) and 5% from Other subjects (such as mechanical or electrical engineering or electives). Molecular transformations was generally most prominent in the first year, the second year tended to contribute the most Multiscale analysis content and the final year was dominated by Systems. The Institution of Chemical Engineers’ Accreditation guidance tends to encourage the high Systems emphasis and low Molecular transformations component, in contradiction to the recommendations of the Frontiers initiative. Optional electives and MEng specialisms feature Molecular transformations emphases, the latter less so than in the 2000s, since when the drivers for curriculum development have moved from biosciences and nanotechnology towards energy and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1030
Number of pages28
JournalProcess Integration and Optimization for Sustainability
Issue number5
Early online date9 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


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