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Exclusive Interview: Dr. Wardle, Staffordshire Univ’s School of Engg

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The School of Engineering at Staffordshire University is a leading centre for innovation offering modern programmes for full and part-time study. With its industrial partnerships with organizations such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, the RAF, Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley Motors and Eurocopter, the School provides a valuable learning and employment opportunity to its students.

Staffordshire University is a global university which has a proud heritage of delivering quality skills-based vocational education for more than 100 years through its specifically designed coursework and world renowned faculty. The University boasts of one of the highest levels of employability, with over 71% of its graduates finding graduate level jobs within 6 months of graduation.

Dr. Peter Wardle, is a Senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering and the Award Scheme Leader (Part-Time Engineering and Top-up Awards) at the School of Engineering within the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences of Staffordshire University (UK)

As a senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Peter Wardle is responsible for delivering modules in Solid Mechanics, Mechanical Systems and Stress Analysis at both Undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Recently, Dr Wardle has led on the planning stages of a new partnership with a college of Engineering in India (All India Shri Shivaji Memorial Society, Pune) to deliver Staffordshire University short courses in Mechanical/ Automotive Engineering.

Exclusive Interview of Dr. Peter Wardle

1. How do the vocational courses (offered in the Staffordshire University) prepare students to acquire jobs in the market?

Our wide range of Vocational courses at Staffordshire University has been carefully designed to provide students with world-class job-focused training. The courses focus on helping students learn in a practical way, acquire the skills to start a job and progress in a career or go on to higher levels of education. Staffordshire vocational courses and study programmes teach important and valuable skills to a very high standard. Our vocational courses are respected, valued and make up an important and significant part of our education provision. Our wide range of long-standing industrial and educational partners help us to connect learning to the workplace and provide a range of opportunities to help students engage with the world of work.

For example, Staffordshire University offers a number of high quality vocational courses, including a wide range of employer-backed foundation degrees, through our long-established network of further education colleges. Recognising that geographical and time barriers can sometimes be a constraint to learning, we also continue to develop online courses for access at home and/or in the workplace. Before, during and after their studies, the excellent Careers Centre at Staffordshire University is there to support our students and graduates in the development of their employability. We have a dedicated team of careers professionals who can offer help and advice on all career-related questions.

2. Now a days, Universities are not only seen as teaching institutions but looked at how do they empower students to acquire skills? What is your opinion on this?

To work in any occupation you need what are referred to as soft skills. Soft skills are much less tangible than hard or technical skills but in my view are a crucial part of fostering a dynamic workforce and are always in high demand. They make up who we are, generally encompassing our attitudes, habits and how we interact with other people. The importance of these soft skills is often undervalued, and generally there is far less training provided for them than hard skills. A degree isn't just about securing that all-important academic qualification. It's about gaining the life and work skills employers respect and help you stand out in the job market.

At Staffordshire University we call these skills 'attributes' and we've gone to great lengths to embed them into all our courses.Our students are encouraged to be professional in everything they do. We help them to become a good time manager and encourage them to meet deadlines. Most important of all, our students learn how to develop that can-do approach that employers look for. Our graduates know what it means to be enterprising and entrepreneurial in order to make the most of life's opportunities and how to deal with its challenges in a calm and considered manner.We do everything we can to ensure our graduates are work-ready and employable.

With today's global economy, it's not surprising that many university graduates forge successful careers overseas. Our aim at Staffordshire University is to equip our students not only with the skills to succeed in the UK, but also in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. Regardless of the degree course, we ensure our students are ready to embrace the opportunities that the world has to offer. We teach our students respect diversity, different cultures and different ways of working and ensure they have an understanding of the global issues that affect us all. Our graduates understand the significance of being a great team player, learn to respect other people's views and, when the time comes, know how to get the best out of colleagues.Technologically, digitally and information literate, our graduates know exactly how to access the learning opportunities that are necessary for life-long success.

3.  What are the challenges faced by the Mechanical engineering students today and how can they overcome them?

Mechanical Engineers solve problems and create new ideas to find realistic solutions that affect all of our lives. Mechanical engineering students learn and apply a systems approach to engineering problem solving such that when they become practicing engineers they will develop more sustainable engineering solutions. Mechanical engineers, now more than ever must take a holistic view to problem solving, considering the broader impacts of both the problem and possible solutions on the environment, society, and the economy in both the short and long term. Moreover, designing sustainability into practical solutions is now a pillar of modern Mechanical Engineering education as these topics are increasingly important in today's world. The idea is to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. The school of Engineering at Staffordshire University has these concepts embedded into its broad undergraduate and postgraduate engineering curriculum offering modules in Environmental Impact, Sustainable design and Manufacture and Clean Technology to name only a few.

The use of high performance computers, advanced numerical strategies, computational methods and simulation in various engineering disciplines is now commonplace. Leading Mechanical engineers are now using cutting-edge computational design techniques and the latest simulation software can give accurate insights into how innovative design ideas will work in practice. Computational modelling is crucial for many industries, but in particular modern Mechanical Engineering. It is therefore essential that students are exposed to these techniques and have access to various software tools to assess the feasibility and performance of designs. At Staffordshire University we ensure our students are able to use and understand fundamental and advanced numerical methods and apply design criteria and optimisation principles to solve design problems. In this way, our students are equipped with the specialist knowledge and practical skills for a professional career or further research in computational engineering design.

Also read: Career Prospects For Mechanical Engineers

4.  Is Mechanical/Automotive engineering taken a back seat with the advent of other technical engineering courses?

Mechanical engineers' discoveries, creations and developments of technology laid the foundations for modern life as we know it. The number of students studying Mechanical Engineering is on the rise, not just in the UK but globally too! Mechanical and Automotive engineering principles are at the heart of many modern cutting-edge technologies and the breadth of education in Mechanical engineering is unique, which makes it still the most popular choice for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Mechanical and Automotive engineering graduates enjoy excellent employment prospects in a wide variety of roles, great graduate starting salaries and a huge range of exciting global opportunities. Mechanical engineering is at the forefront of developing new technologies for a number of industries including energy, defence, transport, health-care, construction, and robotics. It's an exciting time to be a mechanical engineer.

5. Staffordshire University is looking forward to promote research in Engineering courses in association with Indian Institutions? Have you taken any measures in this regard if yes, what are they?

Following the recent successful British Council Engineering mission to India in September 2015, a number of exciting collaborative initiatives have been discussed and are now well into the planning stage. The mission was aimed at enabling Higher Education institutions in India to develop partnershipsbuilt upon common structures and shared goals with their UK counterparts in the field of engineering.

The mission was a five day programme with academic staff from six UK Universities visiting some of India's foremost Higher Education institutions for engineering education including PES University, Alliance University, Christ University, MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology and Reva University located in Bangalore and then on to Mumbai visiting D J Sanghvi College of Engineering, Sardar Patel Institute of Technology, K J Somaiya College of Engineering and Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Engineering.

The school of Engineering at Staffordshire University is committed to working with International partners to foster and enhance knowledge transfer in common areas of research and teaching. The British Council mission has been the platform to support new relationships and has inspired open dialogue between Staffordshire and a number of prestigious Engineering Institutions in India. Discussions are now taking place between academics and researchers from the UK and India regarding new collaborative research projects, joint research funding initiatives, student/staff mobility schemes and to explore joint access to University research capabilities in Technology and Engineering.

6. Could you please share the details of the courses offered in extended MSc programmes which also ensures industrial placements?

The engineering master's courses at Staffordshire University can be taken with an extra term of pre-masters study to provide internationals students with an introduction to master's level study in the UK. These are called our 2 year Extended International Masters Programmes MSc.

On the engineering Extended MSc, students will initially study modules that have been carefully designed to provide them with the academic, professional and technical skills that are crucial to success in their chosen course. The first semester of the extended programme is common to all engineering disciplines and will provide the grounding for future study of specialist modules in each engineering discipline.

All students will study Academic English, to help students develop their English language speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. Study skills and Employability are major themes during the first semester. Staffordshire University offers Extended MSc courses in Mechanical, Automotive, Aeronautical, Electrical, Electronic Mechatronics and Telecommunications Engineering. All engineering Extended MSc course have two intakes each academic year, one in September and one in January and the total length of study is 2 years. All students have the option to take an extra 12 months placement and for those students who undertake an industrial placement, the total study period is 36 months.

All Staffordshire Engineering courses are designed to ensure our students graduate with considerable knowledge and skills in their chosen discipline.

Depending on the course, the student expertise is developed through lectures, seminars and tutorials; by conducting independent research, meeting industry experts and honing skills using our cutting-edge facilities.

We encourage International students, once enrolled, to apply for a placement and we have a dedicated team of experts who will lead each student through the process. Students who are successful with finding a placement will be provided with help and advice with their visa extension application (subject to the University deadlines and Immigration requirements).

The excellent Careers Centre at Staffordshire University is there to support our students and graduates in the development of their employability. We have a dedicated team of careers professionals who can offer help and advice on all career-related questions.

7. What are the scholarships available at Staffordshire University for international students?

In March 2015, Staffordshire University introduced an extensive scholarship package of which Indian students can avail. Staffordshire's scholarships are merit scholarships and are available for both undergraduate and postgraduate taught study. As Staffordshire's scholarships are merit based there is no separate application; students are automatically considered for a scholarship once they apply to Staffordshire. The available scholarships are as follows:

Undergraduate: As long as students meet the published entry criteria they will receive a £1,000 scholarship for the first year of study. For each subsequent year a student studies at Staffordshire they will receive a scholarshipbased on their end-of-year grades:

  • First Class: £2,000
  • Upper Second: £1,500
  • Lower Second: £1,000

Postgraduate taught: Merit based scholarships are awarded based on final Indian degree classification:

  • First Class with Distinction: £2,000
  • First Class: £1,500
  • Upper Second: £1,000 (55.5% for Engineering and 58% for MBA)

There is no limit on the number of scholarships we can offer - scholarships will be awarded to students who meet the criteria. Awarded scholarships will automatically be deducted from the tuition fee.

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