While continuing to draw increasing student numbers, the School of Mining Engineering at the University of the
Witwatersrand (‘Wits’) is maintaining standards high as it retains its accreditation from the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).
Associate Professor at the Wits School of Mining Engineering, Professor Cuthbert Musingwini, said the accreditation is a formal recognition awarded to each engineering programme, so that the profession can be assured of the quality being offered.
‘Renewal of ECSA accreditation is an important goal of the School’s strategic plan’ says Professor Fred Cawood, Head of the School of Mining Engineering at Wits. ‘Wits Mining is a student-centered school and programme relevance is important to ensure that our graduates qualify for good employment. Accreditation encourages regular programme review and curricula development in a complex, exciting and challenging economic sector’, he says.
Importantly, it allows the graduates of the school to register directly as candidate engineers and begin working towards becoming recognized as professional engineers (and boast the letters Pr Eng after their names).
‘All programmes must be regularly examined to ensure that they provide graduates with a range of attributes,’ said Professor Musingwini. ‘These include the ability to recognize and solve engineering problems, to apply the engineering sciences they’ve learnt to design solutions, and to assess the impact of engineering on the environment.’
As the field incorporates many disciplines, candidate mining engineers also need to show that they can interact professionally within an interdisciplinary environment.
Professor Musingwini stressed that, to be accredited by ECSA, the school also needed to have demonstrated the ability of its staff to deliver this high quality of teaching, and its capacity to sustain this delivery into the
‘We are proud of the growth we’ve seen in the school over the past five years, where we’ve expanded from 16 to 22 academics and reduced the staff-to-student ratio from 1:50 down to 1:35’, he said.
A mine design laboratory has been developed with sponsorship from Anglo American and Gold Fields, further building the school’s capacity to graduate more mining engineers. While about 30 used to complete the programme each year, the number set to graduate in 2014 is likely to reach 100.
Professor Musingwini also highlighted the importance of the Washington Accord, which makes it possible for the qualifications of Wits engineering graduates to have their academic qualifications recognized in other parts of the world – including major mining countries like Australia and the United States.
The Washington Accord was signed in 1989 as an international agreement among bodies responsible for accrediting engineering degree programmes. Through its ECSA accreditation, Wits graduates can now be accredited by any of the other signatory bodies as having met the academic requirements for entry to the practice
‘This allows our graduates to be more geographically mobile, and makes it easier for them to share their skills in a number of countries world-wide,’ he said.
Cuthbert Musingwini, Associate Professor at the
Wits School of Mining Engineering, Professor