The two cultures of engineering education

Activity: Talk or presentation typesContributed talkScientific


The characteristics of the scientific culture were cast by C.P. Snow in opposition to those representative of the humanities. This distinction overlaps with a 200 year old hierarchisation of sciences, according to which natural sciences are at the top of the hierarchy, and social sciences are found at the bottom (Cole, 1983; Budd 1988). Despite the diffusion of different hierarchies of sciences, they all shared a similar intuition according to which some fields of research, indicated as “harder”, are more rigorous than other fields, described as “softer” (Fanelli 2010). The valorisation of the “hard” over the “soft” found its way in engineering education, which is built on technical prioritization and disengagement from ethical and societal concerns. In this presentation, I explore how the dichotomy between “hard” and “soft” subjects is perpetuated in engineering education, focusing on the Irish context. For this, I draw on a study that includes 23 Engineering programmes in Ireland, which reveals how the status of ethics as a “soft” and “non-essential” subject is made manifest at individual and programme level.
Period28 Jun 202130 Jun 2021
Event titleSPT 2021 - Technological Imaginaries
Event typeConference
LocationLille, FranceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • sociology of engineering
  • engineering education
  • Ethics