What is the issue?
Over the past several months, and more frequently in the past few days,
several members of APEGN have echoed Gerry Suek's call in his April 1999,
I encourage all members to stand firmly behind APEGN and their profession in
this fight, and to support your Association in the actions it may have to
take in the future to prevent this situation from eroding the value of an
engineering degree and the title engineer.
I think that in order for us to "stand firmly behind APEGN", we should all
understand which issue(s) we are standing behind. (I am personally
unwilling to give blanket and unquestioning support to any governing body,
as has also been suggested.) So here, as I see it, are a few of the issues
that we could be taking a stand on, and some of my own thoughts on them.
1) Do educational institutions have the right to use the term
"engineering" in programme or degree titles without the consent of
This is the question that CCPE and MUN are currently fighting in the courts.
From where I sit in my red-brick and mortar tower, I think I have some view
of both sides of it. It is pretty clear to me that it is not very
logical for a university to offer programmes
with very similar names that offer substantially different qualifications.
Also it doesn't make much sense to offer programmes called "engineering"
that don't qualify graduates to be engineers.
However, MUN is governed by an elected body of academics, who, like all elected
bodies, sometimes make seemingly illogical decisions. Arguments of the form
"you can't do that" don't hold much weight with such bodies, and tend only
to encourage them to try. Also, since similarly named programmes (at
U. of T.,
for example) have been offered for quite a while without causing much stir,
it was pretty clear that U. of T. could do that--just try and tell a Newfie
that he can't do what a Torontonian can.
CCPE has clearly been asleep at the switch on this issue for some time and I'm
glad that they've finally woken up.
Regardless of my opinion, however, I don't think that any amount (or lack)
from the membership is going to affect the court's decision, which will be
founded in law, not public opinion.
2) Do individuals have the right to promote themselves as "software engineers"
without being members of APEGN?
I don't think so, and I'm pretty sure that the courts will back APEGN on
this, although I'm not aware of any cases specifically about people
claiming to be software engineers.
In my opinion, if one claims to be a "blank engineer" they are
claiming to be an engineer who specializes in blank, thus, in
Canada, they are required to be a member of one of the provincial
engineering associations. If CCPE looses the court case on the first issue,
above, APEGN will need to be particularly vigilant in its efforts to
prosecute individuals on this issue.
3) Is "software engineering" Engineering?
As Dr. Parnas clearly pointed out in his presentation at the special
meeting of APEGN on May 6, this question is really several other
questions. I prefer to concentrate my efforts on the two questions to which
he and I both answer "yes" (we don't disagree on the others either):
Note that the word "professionals", above implies, in my opinion, someone
who takes responsibility for their products and actions. For more of my
opinions on who is a "software engineer", see this
- Is the use of engineering principles, sound science, and mathematics to
develop products that affect the safety and well being of the public,
- Is there a need for professionals who have been taught the appropriate
science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines for building software?
4) Does APEGN/CEAB have the right to refuse the request of an educational
institution to consider a programme for accreditation?
The Supreme court of Newfoundland, Trial Division,
ruled "no" to this,
at least if the institution is MUN.
I agree with that ruling, although my opinion doesn't count for much (once
again this is law, not public opinion). I think that if APEGN chooses to
accredit undergraduate programmes then the accreditation process should
be an unbiased
assessment of the quality of the programme concerned, not a stamp of
approval indicating that this institution toes the party line. If the
Save the Whales University of Newfoundland chose to offer engineering
programmes, can APEGN refuse to accredit them if Council doesn't like their
5) Should APEGN/CEAB refuse the request of an educational
institution to consider a programme for accreditation as a means of
applying pressure on that institution?
I think my opinion on this question is made pretty clear by the
motion that I moved
at the special meeting of APEGN called to discuss it. I don't think that we
should invest any more time arguing about it, but rather we should invest
our efforts on the more relevant issues above, in particular the third one.
Back to Dennis Peters' homepage
Wed 1999.06.09 at 08:54 NDT
by Dennis Peters