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Petroleum Engineering Undergraduate Program Receives ABET Accreditation

By: 

Audrey Grayson

The University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering’s B.S. degree program in petroleum engineering has been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. All of the Cullen College’s undergraduate programs are ABET accredited.

ABET accreditation assures that programs meet standards to produce graduates ready to enter critical technical fields that are leading the way in innovation and emerging technologies, and anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.

The bachelor’s degree option in petroleum engineering was launched in the fall of 2009 to counteract the critical shortage of talent needed to replace the industry’s aging workforce. Since then, the undergraduate petroleum engineering program was highlighted as a model partnership between industry and academia by the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) in 2013.

“Accreditation of the bachelor’s petroleum engineering program is another critical milestone toward establishing University of Houston Petroleum Engineering as a premier program,” said petroleum engineering program director Tom Holley.

The Cullen College has long had a successful master’s program in petroleum engineering, but until a few years ago, it had no such offering for undergraduates. By the middle of the last decade, though, many businesses in the petroleum industry were experiencing difficulty finding new talent and saw “the great crew change” – the coming wave of retirements among key engineering and technical personnel – as a major looming challenge. College and program leadership, seeing a need they could help meet, took the first steps toward establishing an undergraduate degree in field.

With significant support from the petroleum sector, the B.S. program in petroleum engineering was established at the University’s Energy Research Park (ERP).  The program is administered by the Cullen College’s chemical and biomolecular engineering department and has received support from ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Marathon Oil, Southwest Energy, El Paso Corporation, the Society of Petroleum Engineers Gulf Coast Section and major private donors.

Companies and individuals in the field provided the program with funding that has allowed it to build essential facilities such as labs and classrooms and provide students with scholarship funding.

Industry members also serve on the petroleum engineering advisory board, where they help design a curriculum that addresses the realities of the modern petroleum sector. According to the BHEF report, the curriculum addresses the “evolution in the industry toward new technologies that allow engineers to access previously unreachable energy sources.” Students gain a solid grounding in the full span of upstream petroleum engineering, including drilling, formation evaluation, production and reservoir engineering.

What’s more, the program’s classes and labs are focused not just on memorizing facts and formulas, but on developing skills vital to success in the 21st century, such as problem-solving, teamwork, effective communication with colleagues from diverse backgrounds, and safety in the actual practice of engineering.
Since its re-launch, the program has experienced tremendous growth. In 2009, the undergraduate petroleum engineering program had just 20 students. Today, it has over 900 students.

Sought worldwide, ABET’s voluntary peer-review process is highly respected because it adds critical value to academic programs in the technical disciplines, where quality, precision, and safety are of the utmost importance.

Developed by technical professionals from ABET’s member societies, ABET criteria focus on what students experience and learn. ABET accreditation reviews look at program curricula, faculty, facilities, and institutional support and are conducted by teams of highly skilled professionals from industry, academia, and government, with expertise in the ABET disciplines.

ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). It currently accredits almost 3,500 programs at nearly 700 colleges and universities in 28 countries.

More information about ABET, its member societies, and the accreditation criteria used to evaluate programs can be found at www.abet.org

To learn more about the B.S. program in petroleum engineering at University of Houston, please visit: http://www.petro.uh.edu.

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