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Ulster Research Can Help Tackle Problems in the Developing World.

29 July 2011

The University of Ulster is hosting a prestigious international conference in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall next month which the organisers say will attract some of the world’s best engineering brains.

Hundreds of academics and practitioners from around the globe have already signed up for the International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE), which runs from August 21 – 26. The event - hosted jointly by Ulster and the International Network on Engineering Education and Research - aims to update the engineering community on the latest developments in engineering education taking place around the world.

Jordanstown engineering lecturer and Conference Chair, Dr James Uhomoibhi, says it will be an excellent opportunity not only to showcase best practice from around the world but to highlight how cutting edge research at Ulster can help tackle problems in the developing world.

The conference theme, ‘Engineering Sustainability for a Global Economy’, will be considered under three key strands: Sustainability, Globalisation and Education.  Dr Uhomoibhi is confident that the emphasis on the development of international partnerships in education and research will provide many opportunities for cross fertilisation of ideas and future collaborative research.

In November 2010 Dr Uhomoibhi, who is a laser physicist, was elected by SEFI (a French acronym for the European Society for Engineering Education) to lead its drive to share engineering ‘know how’ with African nations and universities. 

SEFI is a powerful Brussels-based academic consortium that advises the European Commission. One of its key goals is to nurture a new generation of African engineers whose professional training and education matches worldwide quality standards.

Dr Uhomoibhi, who is originally from Nigeria but gained his first degrees both from his home country and Italy, explains that African study programmes and accreditation procedures vary widely.

“South Africa has highly organised and long established systems that make it the continent’s leading engineering nation. Nigeria, although rich in natural resources, could use the presence and input of internationally accepted professional accreditation bodies.  What African countries really lack is a strong engineering education base. For any country to be developed, its engineering education base needs to be a sound one.”

Dr Uhomoibhi currently serving as a member of SEFI’s administrative council has been a member of this professional body for more than eight years before being elected to head up the task force on European Co-operation with Africa. He is also the European representative of the influential African Laser Centre (ALC).

“The ALC is unique in Africa in promoting laser technology to drive STEM education in the continent’s 55 countries. But they realise they can’t achieve STEM growth without input from the developed world.”

Dr Uhomoibhi says the ICEE conference will facilitate the sharing of expertise and knowledge between international partners.

“Delegates from the different countries around the world can take stock of their own strengths and weaknesses in engineering education and professional governance and learn from others how to revise teaching structures, international quality standards and professional qualification recognition.”

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