One common course for all first-year engineering students

By Naledi Mashishi

First-year engineering students will now complete the Common First Year course which will teach core subjects equally across the board.

STARTING in 2019, all first-year engineering students, regardless of branch of engineering, will begin their studies with the new Common First Year (CFY) course which will teach core subjects such as science and maths equally across all branches.

Although students are still expected to register for a specific branch from first year, the new CFY course means that students who choose to change branches in second year, will now be able to do so without taking an additional year.

The different engineering branches at Wits include: architecture and planning; civil and environmental engineering; chemical and metallurgical engineering; construction economics and management; electrical and information engineering; mechanical, industrial and aeronautical engineering; and mining.

Executive dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Prof Ian Jandrell, told Wits Vuvuzela that in addition to maths and science, the new course will include communications, problem solving, understanding the engineering profession, and design.

First-years will also be expected to complete a Humanities course. “[This is] speaking to the growing need for engineers to be cognisant of their role in society right from the very start of their university career,” Jandrell said.

The CFY course will be assessed by a team of academics across all the faculty’s schools, under the oversight of the Academic Development Unit. According to Jandrell, there will be continuous assessments, dedicated test weeks after the Autumn and Spring breaks, and the final assessment at the end of the year, will be done through the submission of portfolios.

“Students whose overall result is between 45 and 49% will be invited to an oral exam, but this is the only exam for the course,” he said.

Third-year BSc metallurgic engineering student, Asakundwi Ramurafhi, said that the introduction of the CFY was an improvement on the previous years.

“The differing first year [courses] put people at a disadvantage in second year because of the differing intensities of the courses. I wish we had had a joint first year for the more difficult courses like maths to make second and third year easier,” she said.

Jandrell said that the CFY course aimed to produce a “21st century engineer” who can work across boundaries, is confident in their own abilities, and is willing to learn and serve in society.

FEATURED PHOTO: The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment is introducing a Common First Year course for all first-year engineering student.

Photo: File

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Total ‘energises’ some Witsies and Africa

Total South Africa and Wits University renewed the metaphoric vows of their partnership earlier this week.

In 2010 Total SA signed their first memorandum of understanding with Wits, which saw  Total funding students’ studies and research at the university in an effort to remedy the skills shortage present in South Africa.

DOTTED LINE: Total’s CEO, Christian  des Closiéres and Wits VC Prof Adam Habib renew a memorandum of agreement, in which Total pledge financial support for the university. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

DOTTED LINE: Total’s CEO, Christian des Closiéres and Wits VC Prof Adam Habib renew a memorandum of agreement, in which Total pledge financial support for the university.                   Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Total SA’s managing director and CEO, Christian des Closiéres, said Total had over 90 scholarships on the continent to make sure the youth are equipped with the “powerful weapon” of education.  Des Closiéres said the partnership with Wits went beyond financing students’ studies and included a multidimensional investment that saw Total funding research and training of academic staff at Wits.  In total 14 students had benefitted from the partnership over the past three years.

Highlighting why he saw the partnership as mutually beneficial, Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said Total would need the capacities of “a whole new generation of engineers” and the skills of many other professions.

While Wits may have a much smaller engineering programme than the University of Pretoria but  it is “perhaps the strongest engineering programme in the country and probably the continent,” said Habib. He said this strength lay in the vast amount of engineering research done at Wits, and being one of the only universities in the world with a mining engineering school, was another advantage.

Wits hopes to branch out into petroleum engineering and the partnership with Total could facilitate this move.  “Wits as an institution is beginning to ensure that the capacity for petroleum engineering, the skill sets required for it and the partnerships required for it, is developed in the country,” said Habib.

Along with this, Wits is trying to build partnerships with other universities across the continent to “begin to weave an intellectual capacity that can begin to support the developmental agenda of the African continent”.

Two ex-Witsies, whose studies were sponsored by Total, were present at the signing and said they were particularly grateful for the opportunity to go to Total’s summer school while they were studying at Wits.

The summer school runs for a week and consists of a series of seminars on various energy issues. Chemical engineering graduate Thulisile Cingo said the summer school was a way for Total to get insight and ideas from the various students they fund worldwide.