The engineering colleges had much trouble meeting the ABET design
requirements. In increasing the science content of engineering
programs, the engineering art practices had been reduced and design
faculty were in short supply. Also the rush to assure that all faculty
had PhD degrees reduced the supply of design faculty. Many of the
normally fine schools received less than full ABET accreditation as
ABET requirements were strengthened and rigidly enforced.
Thus the University of Illinois Champaign Chemical Engineering program,
one of the first ChE Programs which has long been very highly regarded,
received a Show Cause threat of removal of accreditation followed by
their Dean of Engineering accusing ABET of all the sins of mankind.
Even MlT received a Show Cause for their Nuclear Engineering program.
Both of these programs failed to fulfill the design requirement.
In the late 1980s, a few of the Engineering College Deans loudly and
bitterly protested the ABET increase in enforcement accusing ABET of
too much bean counting with too specific requirements, I attended ASEE
meetings where we ABET types hudled together suffering abusive lectures
by engineering deans some who had never spent a day practicing real
This was serious business for ABET was recognized by the U.S Education
Department as the group for engineering and technology accreditation.
Too much complaining of the Deans and Presidents could have led to
removal of recognition for ABET and either assignment of that role to
some other group or most feared accreditation by the Education
Department, As I left accreditation activities on the early 1990s. that
unhappy situation existed. Soon thereafter the very well known and
strong accreditation director David Reyes Guerra resigned and ABET was
managed by a new, perhaps smarter group.
In the late 1990s, ABET made an effort to better coordinate with the
engineering Deans and changed their philosophy of engineering
accreditation. During my ABET service we had both general and program
criteria the philosophy being that if a program demonstrated that it
was following these criteria developed by the engineering profession,
then their graduates were prepared to be successful engineers. The new
ABET criteria are less specific than the old and have few numerical
requirements. Under ABET guidelines, the engineering college develops
statements consistent with their goals and mission which then are
submitted to ABET for approval. The EAC visit then focuses upon whether
or not the program is making progress in fulfilling their goals and
Included is the requirement to survey and report on the performance of
their graduates which is a good feature of the procedure. During my
visits I was frequently amazed that the college knew so little about
their graduates. So the ABET philosophy now is one of featuring
outcomes rather than concentrating on the study environment as during
At the Aerospace Engineering Department of a midwestern State
University, the EAC evaluator found about 80 Junior level students in a
Stability and Control lecture class and subsequently the prgram
received full accreditaion.. When a University official was
questioned by a long retired EAC type as to whether this was really the
way to teach Junior level students in such a course, it was stated it
was only necessary to state your goal for the course, do it any
way you thought would achieve the goal and get EAC approval. That
seemed strange but we were told by a Dean that the new rules allowed
such an arrangement which appears to much lessen the needed class
interaction with the Professor.