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Structuring a Chemical Engineering Curriculum for the Globalized Era

K.C. Khilar1, P. Ray2, K.P. Madhavan3, and a. Kudchadkar1. (1) Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Raisan, Districk, Gandhinagar, India, (2) Department of Chemical Engineering, Calutta Unversity, 92 A.P.C. Road, Kolkata, India, (3) Chemical Engineering, IIT, Bombay, Powai, Mumbai, Mumbai, India

Chemical Engineering curriculum has remained surprisingly uniform over space and time during last 60 years as pointed out by Ruthven1 almost ten years ago. The structure of the course has not changed much- though the contents and emphasis have changed considerably. Boundaries of Chemical Engineering in the mean time have grown substantially through interactions with advances of basic sciences, computational methods and technology and also in response to new regulations and social demands.

Chemical Engineers as a group are quite aware of such changes and actively involved in modifying training programs and procedure as evidenced by various conferences, workshops conducted on this issue.

Globalization however adds a new dimension, which the chemical engineering curriculum has to adapt. Globalization implies a high degree of mobility of chemical engineers and hence they need to be conversant with international norms and laws and must also be able to adapt to local conditions, customs and practices. Apart from this they must also be familiar with large scale and global effects of chemicals and chemical plants. All these require certain changes – if not in gross content- but certainly in attitude and approach of the chemical engineer and should be duly reflected in training procedure- and hence curriculum.

Globalization also sharpens the question of diversity. For greater mobility of chemical engineers and higher degree of inter institute student exchange programs, a uniformity of curriculum is apparently desirable. At the same time diversification is necessary in order to accommodate emerging fields and also to utilise the diverse expertise that may be available at different institutes.

In addition to above, a chemical engineer today also has to respond to ethical issues, and are often subject to close scrutiny by the society at large. While this is not unique to the chemical engineer, the issues facing the chemical engineers are certainly complex. Prausnitz2 points out that such issues are becoming increasingly important, and the curriculum may need to respond to such issues as well.

Availability of teaching tools has also increased considerably. Many are more than just inert tools. Optimal use of such tools also requires changes in the structure and sometimes in the content of courses.

Current situation possibly calls for more stress on practices and familiarization with industries and environment as well as on application, innovation and enterpreneurship.

Certain amount of experimentation and diversification may also be worthwhile.

1.“Chemical Engineering Education- a personal view”, Chem Engg Sci 51, 18 iii-iv (1996)

2. “Athena, Hercules and Nausica: Three dimensions of chemical engineering in the twenty-first century”, Fluid Phase Equl 261,3-17 (2006)