Remarks on 40+ Years of Mechanical Engineering Teaching


Paulo M. S. Tavares de Castro


Having obtained my licenciatura in Mechanical Engineering in 1973, I started an MSc in Applied Mechanics at Imperial College London the year after the carnation revolution in Portugal. Later, I prepared my PhD at Cranfield Institute of Technology (now Cranfield University). After 5 years in the UK, I returned to Porto with my MSc and PhD degrees to start an appointment as assistant professor at FEUP in 1980.

Portugal was then struggling with a radical change of circumstances: from a country with overseas colonies, impoverished by a dictatorship and wars against liberation movements in Africa, to a European country and democracy with a dramatic lack of infrastructure. Research was certainly not a priority!

In 1986 Portugal joined the European Communities, and in 1999 was one of the initial member countries adopting the Euro. Among other setbacks, bad choices of priorities (an excessive emphasis on services with neglect of manufacturing, or heavy investment in motorways with complete neglect of railways) marked the path until todays’ situation. Nevertheless, attention dedicated to scientific and technical research grew steadily in the past decades; and 2020 started with the country displaying good prospects as regards financial stability and renewed interest for manufacturing and exports.

Having moved from assistant professor to full professor, with sabbaticals and visiting professorships in several countries, and participation in juries for selection of academic staff in many institutions, I had the possibility of witnessing the transformations in the engineering education scene in Portugal and elsewhere.

The communication will discuss lessons learned throughout my 40+ years academic career, put in the context of a highly diversified set of external circumstances.


Download data is not yet available.


Author Biography

Paulo M. S. Tavares de Castro, University of Porto

Emeritus Professor

Faculty of Engineering

University of Porto

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias

4200-465 PORTO



ABET. 2019. "Criteria for accrediting Engineering Programs, 2020 – 2021".

Anderson, L. W., D. R. Krathwohl, P. W. Airasian, K. A. Cruikshank, R. E. Mayer, P. R. Pintrich, J. Raths, and M. C. Wittrock, eds. 2001. A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing. A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Abridged edition. Addison Wesley Longman.

Archibald, R. B., and D. H. Feldman. 2010. Why does college cost so much?. Oxford University Press.

ASME. n.d. "Ethics in Engineering".

BBC. 2019. "Climate change: Should you fly, drive or take the train?".

Birnbaum, R. 2000. Management fads in Higher Education: Where they came from, what they are, why they fail. Jossey-Bass.

Bloom, B. S., M. D. Englehatt, E. J. Furst, W. H. Hill, and D. R. Krathwohl. 1956. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook I - Cognitive Domain. David McKay Company, Inc.

Borrego, M., and J. Bernhard. 2011. "The emergence of engineering education research as an internationally connected field of inquiry". Journal of Engineering Education 100, no. 1: 14-47.

Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University. 1998. Reinventing undergraduate education: A blueprint for America's research universities. U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC).

Boyer, E. L. 1990. Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Brainard, J. 2020. "Dozens of scientific journals have vanished from the internet, and no one preserved them". Science, September 8, 2020.

Browne, G. 2020. "Researcher leads drive for peer reviewing to be paid assignment". Times Higher Education, October 3, 2020.

Butler, G. M. 1963. "Scientists in industry: Conflict and accommodation, William Kornhauser". Research Management 6, no. 1: 96-98.

Carvalho, A. S., J. P. Pêgo, J. F. Oliveira, L. A. Ferreira, P. Garcia, and P. T. de Castro. 2015. Contribuição para a elaboração de um plano estratégico para a FEUP, com o horizonte temporal de 2035. Ensino e aprendizagem - Análise SWOT, October 29, 2015.

Chan, C. K. Y. 2015. How to Publish in Engineering Education. Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).

Committee on Higher Education. 1963. Higher Education - Report of the Committee appointed by the Prime Minister under the Chairmanship of Lord Robbins presented to parliament by the Prime Minister by Command of Her Majesty. TD/TNC 115.570. Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Congresso do Ensino de Engenharia. 1968. "O ensino de Engenharia: Contribuição para a sua reforma". Análise Social 6, no. 22/24: 763-84.

Crawley, E. F. 2001. The CDIO Syllabus: A statement of goals for undergraduate engineering education. Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

de Brito, J. M. B., M. Heitor, and M. F. Rollo, eds. 2002. Engenho e Obra: Uma abordagem à história da Engenharia em Portugal do século XX. Dom Quixote.

de Castro, P. M. S. T. 1996. "Ensinar Engenharia: Profissão e Ética".

de Castro, P. M. S. T. 1999. "Engineering ethics in engineering education: a Portuguese experience". Paper presented at the Conference on Ethics in Engineering and Computer Sciences, Cleveland, Ohio, March 1999.

de Castro, P. T., and R. Guimarães. 2012. "FEUP homenageia Prof. Vasco Sá". Engenharia: Boletim Informativo da Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto no. 51: 34-35.

Destler, B. 2013. "The ultimate absurdity of college rankings". HUFFPOST, May 10, 2013.

Didier, C. 2000. "Engineering ethics at the Catholic University of Lille (France): Research and teaching in a European context". European Journal of Engineering Education 25, no. 4: 325-35.

E4C. n.d. "Engineering for change".

EC-European Commission. 2020. Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027: Resetting education and training for the digital age. Brussels: European Commission.

EC-European Commission. 2021. "Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027)".

EC-European Commission. n.d. "EU support for open access".

Eichenbaum, M., S. Rebelo, and C. de Resende. 2017. "The Portuguese Crisis and the IMF". In Background papers on the IMF and the crises in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, edited by M. J. Schwartz and S. Takagi, 363-447.

"Encyclical letter - Fratelli Tutti - Of the Holy Father Francis on fraternity and social friendship". 2020.

Fernandes, R. M. R. 2006. Memórias de um Rústico Erudito. Livros Cotovia.

Flaherty, C. 2020. "Big Proctor: Is the fight against cheating during remote instruction worth enlisting third-party student surveillance platforms?". Inside Higher Ed, May 11, 2020.

Fogel, R. W. 1999. "Catching up with the economy". American Economic Review 89, no. 1: 1-21.

Frølich, N., K. Wendt, I. Reymert, S. M. Tellmann, M. Elken, S. Kyvik, A. Vabø, and E. Larsen. 2018. Academic career structures in Europe: Perspectives from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria and the UK. NIFU Report; 2018:4. Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU).

Froyd, J. E., P. C. Wankat, and K. A. Smith. 2012. "Five major shifts in 100 years of Engineering Education". Proceedings of the IEEE 100: 1344-60.

Gibbs, B. 2020. "What are we learning about assessment?". In Emerging stronger: Lasting impact from crisis innovation, edited by B. Gibbs and G. C. Wood, 3-17. Godalming: Engineering Professors’ Council.

Grave-Resendes, L., and A. Nunes. 1998. "Open and distance education in Portugal". In The TEEODE Project. Technology Enhanced Evaluation in Open and Distance Learning. Introduction to Open and Distance Education, edited by A. R. Bartolomé and J. D. M. Underwood, 32-49. Laboratori de Mitjans Interactius, University of Barcelona.

Grugeon, D., and K. Tibbenham. 1980. "Teaching at a Distance: a selective survey of articles from issues 1–16". Distance Education 1, no. 1: 92-98.

Gurtin, M. E. 2004. "2004 Timoshenko medal acceptance speech by Morton E. Gurtin".

Hall, R. 2017. "Why should I care about the teaching excellence framework? – explainer". Guardian, June 19, 2017.

Hamad, J. A., M. Hasanain, M. Abdulwahed, and R. Al-Ammari. 2013. "Ethics in engineering education: A literature review". Paper presented in IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Oklahoma City, USA, October 2013.

Hambling, D. 2021. "Cloud control". New Scientist 249, no. 3326: 41-43.

Heitor, M., J. M. B. de Brito, and M. F. Rollo, eds. 2004. Momentos de Inovação e Engenharia em Portugal no Século XX. 3 vols. Dom Quixote.

Heitor, M., J. M. B. de Brito, M. F. Rollo, H. Cayatte, J. Pessoa, and R. Trindade, eds. 2003. Engenho e obra: Memória de uma exposição. Dom Quixote.

Hirsch, J. E. 2005. "An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102, no. 46: 16569–72.

Human Readers. 2013. "Professionals against machine scoring of student essays in high-stakes assessment".

Ioannidis, J. P. A., J. Baas, R. Klavans, and K. W. Boyack. 2019. "A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field". PLOS Biology 17, no. 8: Article number e3000384.

Kaplan, N. 1963. "Scientists in Industry: Conflict and Accomodation. By William Kornhause, Warren O. Hagstrom". American Sociological Review 28, no. 6: 1042-43.

Katz, S. N. 2002. Can Research Universities Teach Undergraduates Effectively?: Woodrow Wilson School [syllabus WWS 401a, Fall Term].

Keller, G. 1983. Academic strategy: The management revolution in American Higher Education. The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kemp, A. T. 2013. "Collaboration vs. Individualism: What is better for the rising academic?". The Qualitative Report 18, no. 50: 1-8.

Kerr, C. 2001. The uses of the University. 5th ed. Harvard University Press.

Koltun, V., and D. Hafner. 2021. "The h-index is no longer an effective correlate of scientific reputation". Preprint, submitted February 5, 2021.

Krathwohl, D. R., B. S. Bloom, and B. B. Masia. 1964. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook II - Affective Domain. David McKay Company, Inc.

Krause, S. D., and C. Lowe, eds. 2014. Invasion of the MOOCs: The promises and perils of Massive Open Online Courses. Parlor Press.

Latoeiro, P., and F. Domingues. 2021. O mundo não tem de ser assim: Biografia de António Guterres. Casa das Letras.

Les 100 Meilleures Universites en Europe. 1989. Libération.

Liang, C., and H.-T. Yeh. 2014. "The influences of personality traits on academic performance through imaginative capability: the differences between engineering and science". In Engineering Education: Curriculum, Pedagogy and Didactic Aspects, edited by J. P. Davim, 1-23. Chandos Publishing.

Lidicker Jr., W. Z. 2020. "A scientist’s warning to humanity on human population growth". Global Ecology and Conservation 24: Article number e01232.

Lima, R. M., and D. Mesquita. 2018 "Engineering Education (Research) in European Countries – An overview based on publications in journals". Paper presented at the 3rd International Conference of the Portuguese Society for Engineering Education (CISPEE), Aveiro, Portugal, June 2018.

List of Engineering Education Journals. 2015. Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).

Lodge, D. 1984. Small world: An academic romance. Penguin Books.

Malthus, T. R. 1826. An essay on the principle of population. 6th ed. John Murray.

Marope, P. T. M., P. J. Wells, and E. Hazelkorn, eds. 2013. Rankings and accountability in Higher Education - Uses and misuses. UNESCO.

Meadows, D. H., D. L. Meadows, J. Randers, and W. W. Behrens III. 1972. The limits to growth: A report for the club of Rome's project on the predicament of mankind. A Potomac Associates Books. Universe Books.

Merton, R. K. 1947. "The machine, the worker, and the engineer". Science 105, no. 2717: 79-84.

Merton, R. K. 1968. Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press.

Mintz, S. 2017. "11 lessons from the history of Higher Ed: Envisioning the future". Inside Higher Ed, May 7, 2017.

Mitcham, C. 2009. "A historico-ethical perspective on engineering education: from use and convenience to policy engagement". Engineering Studies 1, no. 1: 35-53.

Mónica, M. F. 2013. "A Universidade". XXI, Ter Opinião, 2nd semester, 148-51.

National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2014. The arc of the academic research career: Issues and implications for U.S. science and engineering leadership: Summary of a workshop. Edited by B. L. Benderly. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NC State University, and College of Engineering. n.d. "Richard Felder’s Legacy Website".

Nieto, A. 1989. "A tribo universitária – Actividades académicas de um catedrático". Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais no. 27/28: 275-82. Special issue published on the 700 years of the Universidade de Coimbra.

NSPE-National Society of Professional Engineers. n.d. "Frequently asked questions about engineering".

Oakeshott, M. 2004. "The idea of a University". Academic Questions 17, no. 1: 23-30.

Orwell, G. 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel. 1st ed. Secker & Warburg.

Pan, R. K., A. M. Petersen, F. Pammolli, and S. Fortunato. 2018. "The memory of science: Inflation, myopia, and the knowledge network". Journal of Informetrics 12, no. 3: 656–78.

Pearce, S. 2019. Independent review of the teaching excellence and student outcomes framework (TEF): Report to the Secretary of State for Education.

Petroski, H. 2010. "Engineers and scientists: similarities and differences". The Bent of Tau Beta Pi (Summer): 22-26.

Plovnick, M. S. 1972. Social awareness and role innovation in engineers. Working paper (Sloan School of Management); 604-72. MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

PORDATA. 2019. "Despesas em actividades de investigação e desenvolvimento (I&D) em % do PIB: por sector de execução".

QAA-Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. 2018. UK quality code for Higher Education. Advice and guidance. Assessment.

Ramos, M. J. 2020. "A universidade sem professores". Público, March 12, 2020.

Reid, C. N., C. W. A. Newey, K. A. Reynolds, G. Weaver, and K. Williams. 1978. "A case study approach to teaching fracture". In Advances in Research on the Strength and Fracture of Materials - Fourth International Conference on Fracture, 429-42. Pergamon Press.

Reilly, E. D., R. E. Stafford, K. M. Williams, and S. B. Corliss. 2014. "Evaluating the validity and applicability of automated essay scoring in two massive open online courses". The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 15, no. 5: 83-98.

"Relatos das sessões de trabalho". 1962. Paper presented in Congresso do Ensino de Engenharia, Lisboa, Portugal.

Renouard, M. 2016. Fragments d'une mémoire infinie. Grasset.

Renouard, M. 2017. "Nouveaux fragments d'une mémoire infinie". Esprit, Mars/Avril.

Renouard, M. 2020. "To infinity and beyond". Harper’s Magazine, May.

Ribeiro, J. F. 2020. Economia, Tecnologias e Engenharia - Contributo para uma Reflexão Estratégica da FEUP com o Horizonte 2037. Edited by A. T. Marques and C. C. de Oliveira. FEUP.

Rodrigues, J. N., and T. Devezas. 2009. Pioneers of globalization: Why the Portuguese surprised the world. 2nd ed. Edições Centro Atlântico.

Rosovsky, H. 1990. The University: An owner’s manual. W. W. Norton & Company.

Rosovsky, H., and M. Hartley. 2002. Evaluation and the academy: Are we doing the right thing? Grade inflation and letters of recommendation. American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Santos, F. D. 2020. "O acordo de Paris e a geoengenharia". In Memórias da Academia das Ciências de Lisboa. Classe de Ciências, 127-37. Academia das Ciências de Lisboa.

Santos, F. D. 2021. Time, progress, growth and technology: How humans and the earth are responding. Springer.

Schumacher, E. F. 1975. Small is beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered. 5th reprint. Blond & Briggs Ltd.

Schwartz, M. J., and S. Takagi. 2017. Background papers on the IMF and the crises in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. IMF.

Shanti, M. 2017. "Campus fiction - A critical study". PhD diss., Goa University.

Shay, S. 2018. "Rethinking university rankings: We need to talk about quality (and inequality) of teaching". The Conversation, October 3, 2018.

Shoaff-Ballanger, S. M., and D. J. Davis. 1992. "Professional conferences for Art Educators: A pilgrimage to excellence". Art Education 45, no. 4: 37-44.

Sianipar, C. P. M., G. Yudoko, K. Dowaki, and A. Adhiutama. 2013. "Design methodology for appropriate technology: engineering as if people mattered". Sustainability 5, no. 8: 3382-425.

SIC. 2020. "News September 18, 2020" [circa 22h40].

Simpson, I. H. 1972. "'The Professions: Roles and Rules’ by Wilbert E. Moore in collaboration with Gerald W. Rosenblum". Social Forces 50, no. 3: 407-08.

Squazzonia, F., G. Bravo, and K. Takács. 2013. "Does incentive provision increase the quality of peer review? An experimental study". Research Policy 42, no. 1: 287-94.

Stewart, T. 2006. "Teacher-researcher collaboration or teachers' research?". TESOL Quarterly 40, no. 2: 421-29.

Temple, P. 2018. "Academic strategy: The management revolution in American Higher Education, by George Keller (1983). Can strategy work in higher education?". Higher Education Quarterly 72, no. 2: 170-77.

Teoh, R., U. Schumann, A. Majumdar, and M. E. J. Stettler. 2020. "Mitigating the climate forcing of aircraft contrails by small-scale diversions and technology adoption". Environmental Science & Technology 54, no. 5: 2941−50.

The Economist. 2020. "How France created a university to rival MIT". August 29, 2020.

Trindade, A. R. 2005. "The salami concept". Educação a distância: percursos: 41-42.

Trumbul, E., C. Rothstein-Fisch, and P. M. Greenfield. 2000. Bridging cultures in our schools: New approaches that work. WestEd.

"Uni-test Europa. Spiegel serie: Studieren ohne Grenzen". 1998. Der Spiegel, May 4, 1998.

Valcke, M., and M. Thorpe. 1995. "Distance education: A particular context for teaching and learning. Introduction to this special issue". European Journal of Psychology of Education 10, no. 2: 111-19.

Van Noorden, R., and D. S. Chawla. 2019. "Policing self-citations: some top academics cite themselves heavily, and researchers are debating what to do about it". Nature 572: 578-79.

Vest, C. M. 2008. "Engineering education for the 21st Century". Paper presented in ASEE Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, June 2008.

Wankat, P. C., and F. S. Oreovicz. 1993. Teaching Engineering. McGraw-Hill.

Williams, K. 1989. "The gift of an interval: Michael Oakeshott's idea of a university education". British Journal of Educational Studies 37, no. 4: 384-97.

Willoughby, K. W. 1990. Technology choice: A critique of the appropriate technology movement. Westview Press.

Yáñez-Arancibia, A., J. W. Day, C. A. S. Hall, and E. Reyes. 2013. "Diminished resources, energy scarcity and climate change: Unsustainable future development". In Ecological Dimensions for Sustainable Socio Economic Development, edited by A. Yáñez-Arancibia, R. Dávalos-Sotelo, J. W. Day, and E. Reyes, 557-74. Southampton, UK: WIT Press.