BME hosted CESAER conference focused on challenges of 21st cent. engineering training

Nearly 200 attended CESAER’s general assembly in Budapest.

‘This year’s general assembly and the related conference of CESAER (Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research), the international higher education organisation, held in Budapest, attracted unprecedented attention. The venue and the technical infrastructure was provided by BME while the varied programme of the conference was compiled by the association based on topics suggested by BME,’ BME’s vice-rector for international affairs said of the event held on October 17–20 2017. Krisztina László thought the event’s success was owed to BME’s prominence and Budapest’s popularity. BME joined CESAER nearly 10 years after its foundation in 1990 and remains the only Hungarian member of the association.

The Leuven-based CESAER is the international organization of leading European universities of science and technology and an acknowledged main research stakeholder organisation for the European Research Area (ERA). The acronym, CESAER (Conference of European Schools of Advanced Engineering Education and Research) precisely reflects the association’s objectives. CESAER currently unites 54 institutions from 26 countries. Its fields of interest include higher education, training, research and innovation.

Although the structure of Europe’s tertiary engineering education and teaching methods vary across the countries, the number of students interested in science has decreased everywhere except in Germany. As a result, this year’s general assembly focused on the teaching of the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

The causes of this decline in popularity are complex as the CESAER conference also revealed. Participants also discussed potential ways to make these subjects more appealing to students in secondary schools and for younger age-groups.

Speakers at the conference, János Józsa, BME’s rector, László Palkovics, minister of state for education and Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport at the European Commission highlighted BME’s, the national and the European perspectives respectively, on the paramount importance of solid science education in the provision of engineering training capable of proactively responding to the challenges of the 21st century while Françoise Chombar, the chief executive officer of MELEXIS shared his views on social expectations towards engineers and the associated increase in duties and responsibilities based on the example of the micro-electronics company he personally ‘brought up’.

Other participants representing BME at the event included Károly Veszprémi, vice-rector for education and one representative from every faculty.

In response to’s question, the vice-rector explained that the activities of CESAER take place on various levels. Between two annual general assemblies such as the one held in Budapest, conferences in line with the association’s profile are organised, however the real interim work is carried out by working groups including representatives of member universities. These voluntary groups called task forces usually implement two-year programmes focusing on a topic of common interest among CESAER’s member universities. They report on the progress made at the general assembly held every autumn.

CESAER elected a new president at its general assembly in Budapest. From 1 January 2018, Sir Jim McDonald, the principal of the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow will assume the presidency replacing Karel Luyben, Rector Magnificus of the Delft University.

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‘If the Budapest University of Technology and Economics wishes to remain a key player in high quality international higher education, it has to keep an eye on new trends and should be actively involved in these task forces’, stressed the vice-rector for international affairs. ‘At present, we are active in two task forces. One of them addresses the issues of benchmarking while the other focuses on scientific engineering education. Our delegate to the former is from the faculty of mechanical engineering and to the latter from the faculty of civil engineering. One reason why our involvement is important is that our delegates can share their experiences from our university, represent BME’s position and in the meantime they can bring home the practices of other institutions and the opinions and approaches expressed during their meetings. Taking advantage of BME being the host, we sent observers to a number of task forces in order to be able to join other task forces in the future. We would like to share and widely promote our experiences from the CESAER task forces within BME’s teaching and research community relying partly on the university’s website.’

Krisztina László said that CESAER is looking for ways to reach out to the engineers of the future and is therefore trying to communicate with students aged 14–18 in their ‘own’ language. Last year’s main attraction was the production of a series of video clips called steAAAm it! aimed at introducing the attractions, diversity and the social responsibility aspect of a career in engineering. Each of the member universities, totalling 51 at the time, made a 1–1.5 minute-long clip which were presented one-by-one on a weekly basis. BME’s clip was produced at the Department of Mechatronics, Optics and Mechanical Engineering Informatics under the direction of professor Rita Kiss.

The jury comprised of CESAER’s presidency and including a student member from CESAER BEST international student organisation awarded the prize of EUR 5000 to the video clip made by the Aalto University in Finland.

As regards BME’s future plans, Krisztina László said: ‘We would like to see the University of Technology represented again in the association’s governing body, the Board. Being part of the ‘inner circle’ would offer significant leverage not only for BME but also for the whole region.’

The task force summaries and the professional materials of the CESAER general assembly are available here.
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Photo: János Philip