The process of analyzing needs and opportunities and designing and developing systems that efficiently and effectively satisfy them throughout their operational life is what is referred to as systems engineering.
This is a discipline that arose at the end of the 1940s, as a result of the formidable challenges entailed by many of the programs of unprecedented complexity undertaken, e.g., the Apollo program.
In 2006, leading Norwegian companies, many of which include world leaders in their respective sectors, made a crucial decision for their future: to request the development of a Master’s degree in Systems Engineering at Høgskolen i Buskerud University (HiBU). The objective of the program was to cut by one-third the amount of time needed by a student with a degree in engineering to gain the technical and professional maturity required to hold positions with a great deal of responsibility in complex socio-technical programs. They understood that the only way to maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly complex and competitive global environment was through excellent training and development of professionals, and that systems engineering was a discipline that would allow them to fulfill that objective.
Faced with a lack of relevant experience in the discipline, several HiBU professors with industrial backgrounds made the decision to bring the best systems engineering program in the world to their university. After several meetings with the dean of School of Systems and Enterprises at the Stevens Institute of Technology, the Americans agreed to teach their program as HiBU. What’s more, the companies that stimulated the launch of the program agreed with HiBU that they would hire graduates from the bachelor’s degree program in engineering so that they could do the master’s while they worked. This combination of study and work should reinforce learning.
The master’s was a three year program, with between three and four subjects being given every year in a full week of classes. Initially all the professors came from the Stevens Institute of Technology, and they were gradually replaced by the professors hired by HiBU. In 2011, the program was accredited by the Norwegian agency NOKUT, and from that point on, graduates received a master’s degree in Systems Engineering from both universities.
The so-called Reference Group was constituted, comprised of the people responsible for the HiBU program and the technical directors of companies that hired the students who were completing the program while working. These students were called Industry Masters. The students who decided to complete the master’s in order to support their training while they were working full time were called Part Timers. The objective declared by the companies that launched the program was to reduce by one-third the amount of time required for a junior engineer, or an inexperienced senior engineer, to reach the level of competence and maturity required to manage complex projects, holding positions as technical director or similar.
In 2009 the first class of students graduated. By summer 2018, there were over 200 graduates of the program, many of whom had gained over five years of experience in the industry full time since their graduation. The feedback received from the companies could not have been better: the time developing skills and maturity had been reduced substantially, as a result of the combination of studying while working. The simultaneous nature of the program allowed the skills learned in the classroom to be applied instantly in the workplace, and it also allowed the needs and doubts of the workplace to be brought up in the academic realm. In terms of systems engineering, the solution adopted (studying while working) was fully validated by the results received since the graduation of the first class.
Systems engineering can be considered the catalyst of professional development. Formal education in this discipline will afford any professional with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering the resources and competencies necessary to be able to successfully lead multi-disciplinary teams working on complex socio-technical projects.