2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Redesigning Engineering Education in Chile: How Selective Institutions Respond to an Ambitious National Reform

Presented at Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division Technical Session 8

In 2012, the Chilean government launched the Nueva Ingeniería 2030 program, which aims to redesign engineering education, enhance applied research, and create entrepreneurial ecosystems around engineering campuses. The program allocates more than 60 million dollars into ten selected engineering schools, an impressive sum for the Chilean educational system. Nueva Ingeniería 2030 represents an ambitious curricular and organizational change that requires an intense commitment from administrators and faculty. At multiple levels, this program means a transition from a traditional curriculum, where disciplinary silos are highly dominants, to a more flexible and multidisciplinary one, where global requirements need to be met in order to increase the contribution of engineering graduates to the economy and society.
This research uses a multi case study to understand how the two Chilean most prestigious and oldest engineering schools respond to this program: Universidad de Chile (UCH) and Pontificia Universidad Católica (PUC). Although both institutions are comparable in terms of student admission criteria, research productivity, resources and prestige, both schools represent very different cultures. UCH is a public institution, and its engineering school, an isolated campus from the rest of the university, has highly specialized programs with a strong presence of physics science, mathematics, and engineering sciences. On the other hand, PUC is a private and confessional institution, and its engineering school, which is part of multi-school campus, has a traditionally close relationship with the private sector, and an early commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation. Along with the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation, UCH is focusing its grant on multidisciplinarity, internationalization, and harmonization of its system of professional and academic degrees. In PUC, the grant has allowed the school to deepen previous efforts for enhancing interdisciplinarity, applied research and technology transfer into the industry and the public sector, besides enabling the offer of technology-based entrepreneurship education for all students. Thus, the comparison of these two engineering schools will contribute to the understanding of curricular and organizational change in two selective institutions after the first year of the program implementation.
As a conceptual framework, we ground our work in the rich literature of change in engineering education, in particular the branch that studies national efforts and coalitions for change. Our data set consists of documents, secondary data, interviews to leading administrators and faculty, and the results from instruments that measure entrepreneurial intention in both schools. Since the Nueva Ingeniería 2030 is just at its early stage, this study represents a baseline of multiple studies to come that will examine the consequences and effect of an ambitious national reform of engineering education. What we, and the engineering education community at large, be able to learn from this initiative will be important to understand curricular and organizational change at the national system, institutional, and program level. Moreover, the case of the Nueva Ingeniería 2030 presents an opportunity to contribute to the understanding of engineering education from the Latin American region and the global south.

  1. Dr. Sergio Celis Universidad de Chile [biography]
  2. Ing. Isabel Hilliger Pontificia Universidad Catholica de Chile [biography]
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