At present, professionals in fire engineering usually come from undergraduate degree backgrounds in Fire Engineering or Fire Safety.
Due to the complex and fast changing legislative framework and a move towards performance based standards, there is a necessity for a fundamentally based scientific / engineering approach to fire design. This is driven through the complexity of innovative modern building design and the cost savings provided by involvement in the project of a high quality fire engineer, through them optimising the design, by assessing the specific risks of the individual building. Therefore, there is a strong national and international need both for financial reasons and design flexibility, for suitably qualified fire engineers within the fire consultancy industry.
The University of Leeds was one of five Universities within the UK that offers an Undergraduate course in Fire Engineering or Fire Safety. The University of Leeds itself has an excellent reputation for consistently producing some of the best graduates that enter the fire consultancy industry.
However, due to insufficient students enrolling on the BEng Fire Engineering course, due to have commenced in 2009, the University of Leeds has had to cancel this undergraduate course. This means that no ‘degree qualified’ fire engineers will graduate from the University of Leeds in the summer 2012. An even worse possibility is that if there continues to be insufficient students applying for the BEng Fire Engineering course in 2010, the course could be discontinued.
With the University of Leeds being unable to offer the undergraduate course, due to not being able to attract enough students, only four Universities remain in the UK that have the potential to provide suitable fire engineers to the fire consultancy industry. This is a worrying development in the balance between the supply and demand of suitable fire engineers in the fire consultancy industry. The upshot of this could mean that in the medium term the demand for fire engineers may not be met by the limited suitable graduates qualifying with a degree in Fire Engineering or Fire Safety from the remaining four Universities.
I am hoping that the decision to cancel this year’s course at the University of Leeds is a ‘one off’ during the recession and that the 2010 undergraduate course will continue to run. However, an even more alarming possibility is that the University of Leeds is the first casualty of a more serious underlining problem; difficulties in attracting students into Engineering and even more so into a less well known discipline like Fire Engineering. At Innovation Fire Engineering Ltd, we are waiting to see what develops, but already this has affected the company’s recruitment strategy. At the moment it is unknown whether the recruitment strategy needs to be re-evaluated or completely rewritten to support the planned development of the company within the medium to long term. I am hoping that it is the more positive scenario and that the strategy only needs to be re-evaluated and the current financial climate improves, ensuring the course at the University of Leeds commences again in 2010.
Innovation Fire Engineering Ltd