Investigation of the Causal Factors for Enrollment and Satisfaction in Engineering
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Undergraduate students at Queen’s University were surveyed and interviewed to examine the factors behind engineering program selection and academic transfer to engineering. The surveys were completed by 416 2nd-4th year undergraduate engineering students examining: reasons for entering engineering, demographics, personal knowledge of engineers, and their understanding of engineering programs and the engineering profession. The survey was also used to recruit students who had undergone an academic transfer for interview. Seven interviews were completed with these students, examining the reasons for their transfer, as well as the factors behind their initial program selection. Four primary factors were identified as important to the selection of engineering programs: interest in the subject matter, strength in prerequisites, knowing an engineer, and vocational factors. It was found that knowing an engineer correlated with greater reported knowledge of the engineering profession, but not with a greater knowledge of engineering programs. Small correlations were found between two survey variables and satisfaction: likelihood to continue on to an engineering profession and personal interest in subject matter. This presents ‘personal interest’ as a particularly valuable criterion for program selection. Reasons that students transferred into engineering were split between a similarity of values with the program and practical reasons. Social/cultural values were discussed, suggesting that students valued engineering traditions and that engineering students were more social than expected. Students further identified academic values that they shared with the engineering program: co-operation and group work, practicality and problem solving. Understandings of these values were generally gained after they had entered Queen’s, through peers already in the engineering program. Transfer students also addressed practical considerations: degree versatility, directness to workplace, personal change/growth, the engineering job market, and support from others.