Exploring the development of engineering identity in students in two educational settings using narrative enquiry

  • Maria Elena Liquete Cotera

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Every year around 35% of new engineering graduates (mainly females and ethnic minority graduates) pursue careers outside engineering. Why does that happen? Could it be that those graduates did not develop an engineering identity during their studies? In the UK there are two paths to becoming an engineer: studying for a BEng or an MEng at university and since 2015, completing a degree apprenticeship. However, engineering education in England largely overlooks the development of students’ engineering identity. This research studies how first and final year students enrolled in a traditional engineering degree at a university and a degree apprenticeship at DA provider in England develop their engineering identity.

The research follows a qualitative approach, using narrative enquiry to gain insights into the process of engineering identity development, a methodology that has been used extensively in social science research but rarely in engineering education. The research examines students’ perceptions of the people and the experiences that support or challenge the development of their engineering identity, concluding that an engineering degree or degree apprenticeship do not guarantee the development of an engineering identity.

The research findings suggest that developing an engineering identity requires the development of all three kinds of identity: person, role and group and this makes it more challenging, particularly for underrepresented groups in engineering who, by virtue of their low representation, could have a greater difficulty in having their engineering identities validated. An unexpected finding from this research is that female and ethnic minority students seek different objectives from their engineering education than do white males. Engineering identity is largely ignored in the engineering curricula of higher education institutions in England; this project concludes by providing some suggestions of interventions engineering educators may consider to encourage the development of an engineering identity in their students and by exploring how identity theory may support greater diversity in the engineering profession.
Date of Award22 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorGina Wisker (Supervisor) & Elies Dekoninck (Supervisor)


  • Identity
  • engineering education
  • Degree Apprenticeships
  • diversity
  • stereotypes
  • professional identity

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