Though the general framework of the current analysis is chemical engineering education in Colombia, this report is centered in the Universidad de los Andes experience. In Colombia there are 14 universities with chemical engineering programs, from which 12 programs have an educational cycle of 5 years proposed, 1 program has a 4.5 years educational cycle and 1 program has a 4 years educational cycle (Universidad de los Andes). The last one has a similar structure to American BSc engineering programs.
Chemical Engineering education at Universidad de los Andes in the nineties was based merely on the transfer of knowledge (with a proposed duration of 5 years). Since 2003 started a process of curricular reform, officially implemented on 2006, which pursued an education based on the development of abilities coupled to the knowledge and application of chemical engineering fundamentals.
As a result of this process, new learning spaces were created in which the student is allowed to acquire knowledge, to develop abilities and to use engineering tools in the design of products and processes, and also to take the first steps in research. These learning spaces are structured based on a series of courses in the following way:
This is the classic and fundamental part of chemical engineering; developed in the courses of mass balance, thermodynamics, transport phenomena, separation processes, unit operations, process simulation and process plant design. Also, searching for an integration course, in which modern engineering tools were used, a required undergraduate level course on optimization of chemical processes is offered.
Three spaces were created: the first at the beginning of the educational cycle (Introduction to Chemical Engineering), the second at the middle (Mid-career Project) and the third at the ending (Undergraduate Graduation Project). Each of these spaces faces the student with the challenge of a product design, using chemical engineering tools and within a social and/or economical and/or environmental context, to solve a specific problem or to generate new alternatives for the development of the country or the industry.
The first contact of the student with research, basic or applied in product and/or process design, is achieved in two learning spaces, one elective (Special Project) and the other required (Undergraduate Graduation Project).