The College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) has announced the discontinuation of four engineering majors and augmentations across undergraduate and postgraduate engineering degrees. From 2021, subject to formal approval, the undergraduate Mechanical and Material Systems and Biomedical Systems majors, and the postgraduate MEng in Digital Systems and Telecommunications and the MEng in Renewable Energy will no longer be offered. Students currently enrolled in these majors will be able to complete their studies, however there will be requirement changes to some mandatory courses needed to complete these majors. 

In an email sent out to students of the Research School of Electrical, Energy, and Materials Engineering (RSEEME), Professor Christoper Kellet announced the introduction of the Environmental Systems major which will be offered from Semester 1 2021. Professor Kellet underscored that this “is not a decision that we make lightly. I can assure you, there are many considerations that have informed these decisions.”

The email outlined the Research School’s aim of leading the way in “reshaping the engineering discipline and educating the engineers of the future,” with a focus on delivering a unique systems engineering core that is unique to the ANU. RSEEME is “confident that this refocus will lead to a better educational experience for ANU engineering students,” and stronger workforce outcomes.

In a separate email sent to RSEEME staff, Professor Kellet cited falling completion of the Biomedical Systems major from 2016-2019 (2, 5, 15 and 10 students graduated with the major respectively), as well as in the Renewable Systems major (4, 5, 6, 14 students graduated respectively), as well as budget cuts as factors to the discontinuation of certain majors. Combined average enrolments with the 6000-level courses corresponding to those in the Renewable Energy major 2018-2020 have been 50, 64, and 45 respectively. Professor Kellet suggested that the MEng Electrical will likely “catch” the students who might have chosen the discontinued augmentations, as well as teach-out requirements of MEng in Renewable Energy and MEng in Digital Systems. 

No courses in the undergraduate Biomedical major are co-badged 6000-level courses, so there is no possible “top-up” to enrolment numbers with Masters level students. Where there are some courses within the Mechanical & Materials major that are co-taught with 6000-level cohorts, enrolments are very small and none of the affected courses are included as compulsory in postgraduate offerings. Professor Kellet has conducted preliminary discussions with the College of Science to construct teach-out programs out of Science courses.

Professor Kellet warned staff that “While our budgets are not precisely known, it would seem our current challenges will continue next year.” There will be webinar sessions held with College representatives on Friday 4th September (2-3pm), and Wednesday 9th September (2-3pm). RSEEME has also set up a submission form for students with questions about the changes to their majors or their programs, which can be accessed here.

ANUSA CECS Representative Sophie Burgess commented that “this is hugely disappointing news for so many members of our student community. As a Mechanical & Material Systems Major student myself, I’m really not happy that the way that the burden of the budget cuts has fallen so much on students. Making sure that student voices are heard on this matter will be my top priority for the rest of my term as CECS Rep – no student should be left behind.”

She noted that it will impact students, as they “face the uncertainty of how course changes will completely throw off our degree plans. The biggest group that I see being impacted are our 1st and 2nd year students who haven’t started a major yet. As someone who is halfway through my major, I feel bound to finishing even with this change – but I can imagine many earlier year students will now have to make really big decisions as to if they should change their planned major, degree or even university in light of this announcement.”
For undergraduate students concerned about these changes, you can email Sophie at sa.cecs@anu.edu.au

Woroni has reached out to the ANU  for comment