Many public and private universities in Bangladesh offer science, technology, and engineering degrees at the undergraduate level. Buet, Cuet, Kuet, and Ruet are among the public universities that are solely dedicated to engineering degrees, which means no bachelor's degrees in economics, Social Science, or business education are offered at these institutions.
However, introducing a few degrees other than engineering at these universities can be very timely. At its very least, programmes like economics can add a lot of value to Buet and other engineering and technical universities.
In the subcontinent, modern engineering education started in the 1950s through establishing the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)s. Subsequently, Epuet and later Buet were established in Bangladesh in that continuity, and the other three BITs were set up. These BITs have now been upgraded to Cuet, Kuet, or Ruet.
Undergraduate-level economics programmes have been introduced in some of the IITs of India. For example, IIT Kanpur introduced a bachelor's degree in economics in 2005, and some IITs are currently offering PhD degrees in economics as well.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States is one of the most well-renowned educational institutions in the world. Although the name of this institution is associated with technology, it started its economics department just after ten years of establishment in 1860.
Many world-famous educational institutions have names associated with technology, including GeorgiaTech, CalTech, where economics and other such subjects are also taught, besides engineering and technological subjects.
From our country's perspective, it may seem that only engineering, science, and mathematics should be taught at those mentioned universities of engineering and technologies, as their names suggest. And, teaching social science, economics, or business studies is not compatible with their name. But, what usually happens in the technical universities of developed countries is that many courses on science, mathematics, and statistics are found in the course curricula of social sciences. The opposite is also true for the course curricula of engineering degrees.
Many branches of the social sciences can be discussed, but especially the economics programme can be discussed in this discourse. The undergraduate programme in economics at good universities is usually designed in a way that those are equivalent to or not less than the equivalent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programmes. Many US universities now consider economics programmes as STEM.
Because of teaching engineering and other social science subjects at the same time in these institutions, the uniqueness of tutoring science and technology are not lost and no research suggests otherwise either. Instead, diversity is prioritised in education. For example, artificial intelligence (AI), which is a new invention in the current age of technology, engineers, scientists, economists, and psychologists are currently working together to find ways of associating AI. In addition, the kind of data or programming used in engineering can be applied to economics programmes as well.
Say engineering universities decide to introduce programmes like economics. In that case, questions may arise about how the admission process can be conducted. One such question is if a separate admission exam needs to be arranged in that case.
In developed countries, at the secondary/higher secondary levels, there are usually no significant distinction between science, arts or business education at those levels of education. So, no such problem shows in their case. However, the admission process of IITs in India may work in our case.
At present, IITs in India usually admit students at the undergraduate level through the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE). In all the IITs, where economics is currently being taught, the same test is taken for admission in both engineering and economics departments. It means that students are admitted only by taking exams in maths, statistics or science subjects for studying economics as aspiring students for engineering do.
These admitted students of IITs study physics, chemistry, mathematics, and some other basic engineering courses in their first year and in parts of the second. After successful completion of these courses, the students switch to real economics courses, such as microeconomics, macroeconomics, and its other branches, including econometrics.
Introducing a department like economics will naturally lead to a greater number of courses in economics, business, or social sciences - which can benefit engineering students alongside too. Students in the engineering department will be able to study more economics courses as elective subjects, making them more qualified in the job market.
On the other hand, the students from the economics programme can take some engineering courses as electives. The orientation of these courses can help the students do better in the future job market.
In the context of our country, after getting an engineering degree at the undergraduate level, many job seekers are getting employed in banking, insurance, business and corporate, or other public sector jobs. Moreover, many jobs are partly engineering and partly managerial or analytical in nature.
Furthermore, one has to get involved in managerial responsibilities at a certain stage of the engineering job. So, an extensive orientation of these subjects can make both groups of students good performers in their respective fields.
Lastly, some may raise the issue that many other universities in Bangladesh are teaching economics so that aspiring students can study in those universities. economics has become much more analytical and mathematical.
Now, it is even more challenging with the quick advancing nature of innovations these days. So, aspiring students of the country who are good at mathematics and science but may not have much interest in engineering itself can choose to study economics in engineering universities and that can bring good to the country.
Md Rashedur Rahman Sardar is a member of the Bangladesh Civil Service and is currently pursuing a PhD in economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the United States.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.