Interview with the Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Transportation and Architecture, Prof. Dr. Miroslav Premrov
“The greatest potential for the industry of civil engineering lies in the energy reform.”
The University of Maribor is the only higher education institution in Slovenia that features the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Transportation and Architecture, which has developed academic programs for such tracks as civil engineering, architecture and transportation engineering within the framework of one educational institution. Since the Faculty educates both civil engineers and architects, its representatives had many comments on the drafts of all three laws regulating the industry of civil engineering. The Dean Prof. Dr. Miroslav Premrov repeatedly stressed that the Government should have involved the Faculty into the process of the Law development. However, the Faculty did not take part in that activity.
Therefore, both Faculties of Civil Engineering from the Universities of Ljubljana and Maribor submitted their vision of the matter, and the relevant Ministry, according to Premrov, put a certain degree of value to their recommendations.
Doesn’t it sound natural that the specialized faculties must take part in the implementation of legislative reforms? First and foremost, it is about the specialists and higher education institutions that provide a comprehensive training of the personnel presented in these laws. Isn’t is so?
– It is common knowledge. However the legislature did not consider it necessary to ask us about anything. I firmly believe that our Faculty has a sufficiently qualified personnel and the necessary knowledge to provide reasoned recommendations with regard to the draft laws in the field of civil engineering and geodesy.
We are that target, which generates data for combining knowledge of the civil engineers and architects obtained during studies with the necessary respective proposals from the legislation authority.
Our Faculty, inter alia, is the only structural department of the higher education system in Slovenia, which implements academic programs on civil engineering, transportation engineering and architecture at one place.
What is your opinion — do the drafts of all three laws correspond to the content of education and that knowledge, which graduates receive under existing programs? Where do you see the biggest discrepancies, and which of your recommendations were taken into account by the legislator?
– One of the most controversial proposed solutions in the draft of a new Law on civil engineering, of course, is a function of the construction manager. We managed to convince the Ministry that the proposed solution is incorrect because in this case, one person would be obliged to perform functions of both designer and manager. This means that we remain in a situation where there is a separate designer, construction supervisor, and project manager. The law in its original form radically changed the system of the process participants, licensing procedures and, in particular, the mechanism for preparing project documentation, which were quite vague.
Some of the innovations proposed by the law are positive. Especially, with regard to the individual housing construction. The introduced innovations can greatly simplify the procedures for obtaining the necessary documentation. In this respect, Slovenia still lags far behind some neighbouring states.
One of the drawbacks of the proposed laws, in my opinion, is the completely ignored role of traffic engineers. Meanwhile, the Slovenian experience shows that one of the most vulnerable points is just the design and placement of objects related to the transportation infrastructure and implementation of transportation policy within the municipalities.
The lion’s share of work in the infrastructure projects falls on civil engineers. However we do not expect any big construction projects so far. What can provide possibilities for the reanimation of the Slovenian industry of civil engineering, which, according to experts, is entering a period of difficult challenges?
In my opinion, the greatest potential for civil engineering is the energy sector reform, which is now more or less focused on the private housing stock, while non-residential buildings, which are both in private and in public ownership, remain beyond the focus. This sector provides many opportunities for Slovenian civil engineers. My opinion is that this is the sector, which should be strictly controlled by the Government and supported with a number of relevant investments.
The main task of the Slovenian education and practice of the construction sector is to develop sustainable buildings with the minimal greenhouse gas emissions and achieve a low level of heat consumption by means of applying new sustainable materials.
If reanimating the construction sector, ZORG is of paramount importance. This organization combines expert and educational institutions. The Faculty of Civil Engineering in Maribor is one of its members. Are you trying to additionally reform the sphere of civil engineering education and in what way?
– We strive to make education in the sphere of civil engineering more sustainable. For this purpose, we have already accredited a one-year academic program for sustainable construction at our Faculty. As part of the ZORG organization, above all, we are committed to a five-year academic program on civil engineering according to the Bologna system. Of course, the current educational model 3+2 has certain advantages, as many students complete the Bachelor’s degree at our University, and the Master’s degree — abroad (and vice versa). Within the framework of the European Council of Engineering Chambers (Evropskega sveta inženirskih zbornic), it becomes clear that in order to train a qualified engineer, a five- or at least four-year course of study is required. After all, the market requires professionals with a wide range of knowledge in various sectors, such as construction, engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, spatial planning, etc. At the same time, it is necessary that faculties would join their forces and adopt common principles for the construction industry. An important role, in my opinion, also belongs to the integration of experts into various industries, such as construction, architecture, transportation, and other engineering disciplines, which can in any way contribute to a sustainable policy.
Each year, the number of young people, who decide to study engineering, is gradually decreasing. How successful are different advertising approaches of faculties?
– Regardless of how efficiently we work, these approaches are not very successful. Those who were enrolled and completed the study, taking into account a broad range of knowledge gained at the university, often find work outside of the construction industry or go abroad. The only solution to increase the interest of applicants and the demand for construction programs is the heyday of this industry, which, unfortunately, is a matter of the future.