Program Advisory Boards in Engineering Education – Industry Representatives and Their Contributions to Program Development
Paper in proceedings, 2019
Study programs in higher education institutions (HEI) should be developed in line with society, which is challenging with the increased speed of technical development. To ensure alignment many academic institutions use advisory boards on college, school, or department levels. Some HEI have advisory boards on program level, containing of stakeholders that represent a variety of interests; practitioners from industry, teachers from academia, students and program management. There are studies that indicate that advisory boards have a certain influence on program development. However, there are other studies that show that advisory boards are not as effective as desired and expected. Although this field has been studied several times, mainly through questionnaires, research has not given answers to the question on how industry representatives contributes to program development. In this study, we explore the field of program advisory boards (PAB) for individual engineering study programs (BEng and MEng) through interviews with heads of program at one technical university in Sweden. The purpose is to better understand how these boards operate and how industry representatives contribute to development of study programs.The PABs’ main purpose is to advise heads of program on strategic level program development. Results of this study show that board members’ possibilities to contribute to program development varies due to imprecise formulations in steering documents on how PAB’s should be put together and how they should operate.Their possibilities to contribute also depend on the current development speed of the program (steady-state or more radical development), and to what extend the head of program perceive a need for advice on program development issues. Further results show that PAB meetings include informative topics, which generally occupies a large part of each meeting. This leads to a limitation of more strategic discussions where industry representatives can contribute, and thus influence program development. Heads of program still claim that advisory board meetings create a desired legitimacy for program development activities. However, they also express that the possibilities to execute any changes based on the industry representatives’ contributions are limited due to the HEI’s governance structure.