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Practice-focused ethics in Australian engineering education

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The paper focuses on educational changes we see as necessary for future graduates to take up the emerging social and ethical challenges of their profession. This paper summarizes some Australian initiatives, presents some of our approaches to teaching ethics and suggests some ways to encourage both the study of ethics and actual ethical practice. The practice of engineering in Australia is guided by a Code of Ethics developed by the Institution of Engineers, Australia (IEAust). There is an expectation that Australian educators will guide students to develop the abilities to make ethical decisions and an appreciation of ethical conduct. The authors endorse the view that ethics issues should be included as an intrinsic part of engineering curricula. Wego further, and suggest that the social impact and the international and global nature of engineering practice call for an extension of traditional ethical frameworks to incorporate treatment of questions of social responsibility, including the issue of sustainability. We outline changes in engineering education in Australia over the past two decades, indicating some of the effects of these changes on the culture of engineering and the ways in which ethics issues are being conceptualized and taught. Experience at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) is our main focus because UTS is widely recognized as a leader in engineering education in Australia. Wedescribe the restructuring of our undergraduate programme so as to focus on engineering practice issues and discuss its implications for practice-focused ethics in engineering education.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2000

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