Fisher (2002) have argued that engineering educational institutions are becoming increasingly out of touch with the practice of engineering:
Not only are they unattractive to many students in the first place, but even among those who do enroll there is considerable disenchantment and a high dropout rate (of over 40 percent). Moreover, many of the students who make it to graduation enter the workforce ill-equipped for the complex interactions, across many disciplines, of real-world engineered systems.
A number of researchers have focused on the need to include design and build projects in lower division courses and to encourage research in the undergraduate curriculum.(Beston, 2004; Grimson, 2002; Seymour and Hewitt, 1997). The recommendations for how engineering education needs to change contained in the NAE 2004 report, The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century, are wide-ranging:
Almost all discussion of educating the engineer of 2020 presumes additions to the curriculum—more on communications, more of the social sciences, more on business and economics, more cross-cultural studies, more on nano-, bio-, and information technologies, more on the fundamentals behind these increasingly central technologies, and so forth (NAE, 2004).
Changes have also been made in accreditation criteria, where the emphasis has shifted from student inputs to student learning outcomes. Criteria 3, Program Outcomes and Assessment, of ABET’s Engineering Criteria states (ABET, 2004):
Although institutions may use different terminology, for purposes of Criterion 3, program outcomes are intended to be statements that describe what students are expected to know or be able to do by the time of graduation from the program.
Engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have:
the ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
the ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data
the ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs
the ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams
the ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
the ability to communicate effectively
a broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context