An engineer by any other name…

By Wendy Maloff

How important is a course title? The answer is ‘very’ if it may be a matter of public safety.

The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers recently expressed concerns about the possible misuse of the term ‘engineering’ in titles for computer science programs that do not teach the technical knowledge required to be classified as a genuine engineering course.

"An engineering program is designed to give the graduates the core engineering knowledge to become
licensed as professional engineers in Canada," explained Terence Davis, Communications Manager of the CCPE. He added that there is an important difference between software engineering and computer science.

"A software engineering program provides the core engineering knowledge that all engineers have, as well as technical knowledge required for software engineering," he explained. "Computer science programs don’t impart that core engineering knowledge or the specific technical engineering skills."

Last June, the CEAB accredited the first Canadian Software Engineering programs.

"The CEAB accredits programs in the year the first class is due to graduate and there’s only been three software engineering programs [in Canada] that have reached that stage," explained Davis.

Graduates can be tested to find whether the program has provided the necessary technical skills to merit the offical designation of
software "engineering." The
institutions currently accredited are the University of Ottawa, the University of Western Ontario and McMaster University. Davis predicted that at least 10 other institutions will be added to that list in coming years as their programs produce their first graduates.

According to Dr. Armin Eberlein, Director of Software Engineering at the University of Calgary, the U of C can be included in this figure.

The U of C offers a Bachelor of Science degree in software engineering through the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Eberlein expects the program to be accredited in November 2001.

The accreditation status of a university with a software or computer engineering program can be viewed at the CCPE Web site,

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