Students flock to engineering programs, but how are they doing during the pandemic? There are fears that dropouts will increase, according to a survey conducted by Ny Teknik at five technical universities.
Mälardalen University, Luleå University of Technology, KTH and Linköping University have received more students during the pandemic compared with previous years. It also has Chalmers, which has expanded its basic programs by 277 places. In addition, a technical base year at a distance has started for 300 students. Places have also been added to master’s programs and more independent courses.
– A large part of this increase was to meet the increased demand for education in connection with the corona pandemic, says Anna Karlsson-Bengtsson, Chalmers’ vice-rector for education and lifelong learning.
All higher education institutions have adapted the teaching to keep the spread of infection down. For example, lectures, seminars and supervision now take place mainly at a distance, while laboratory work and other elements that are central to the educations can be carried out in common rooms. Examination also takes place to a greater extent in digital form.
The majority of the higher education institutions have decided that distance learning will continue during the spring semester, but Chalmers is now preparing for more teaching on campus.
– We have the ambition to move more parts to campus during the spring term because it is important to meet physically not only for learning but also for social well-being. However, it depends on how the infection situation develops, says Anna Karlsson-Bengtsson.
Study results unaffected
In general, the pandemic does not appear to have significantly affected study results or resulted in more dropouts than in previous years. Mälardalen University notes a slight decline in the results of some programs in the field of mathematics and technology, something that can possibly be linked to difficulties with distance studies. At KTH, on the other hand, no major differences are seen compared with previous years.
– The degree of achievement is even marginally slightly higher on average in the master’s and university engineering programs, says Leif Kari, vice rector for education at KTH.
At Linköping University, where mainly the master’s engineering program Design and Product Development has been expanded with an extra class and another 100 students have been admitted to the technical base year, course evaluations show that the distance lectures have generally worked well.
But a survey that Linköping students themselves have conducted at the Mechanical Engineering section, which brings together three major master’s degree programs, shows that several students are now considering leaving their educations.
– The section has a large base with many students, and we fear that there may also be more dropouts in general, says Helena Herbertsson, vice dean for undergraduate education at the technical faculty in Linköping.
“Not the same education as before”
One explanation may be that the corona-adapted education does not live up to students’ expectations.
– We do the best we can, but of course it is not the same education as before. Our engineering educations contain very practical applications and this has been the most difficult to achieve.
In the wake of the virus, many have also missed out on social community that can affect motivation, especially among first-year students.
– This with student life and all the social activities that older students have for the younger ones usually help them find their place, make new friends and feel a sense of belonging. But all that is missing now, says Helena Herbertsson.