The spread of urbanization is a global phenomenon and Mexico is no exception. Over the past decades, the rise in population and the decrease in available surface space in the country, have naturally led to a boom in the field of tunnelling and underground works, with major metro and sewerage tunnel projects calling for specialized expertise.
Sensing the need to make up for the lack of qualified engineers for such works, in 2014 the National Autonomous University of Mexico, (UNAM), the Alliance for Training and Research in Infrastructure for Development in Mexico (FiiDEM Alliance) and the Mexican Association for Tunnel Engineering and Underground Works (AMITOS) set up a Master’s degree in civil engineering, with a specific focus on tunnelling and underground works.
Eager to promote the Master’s and to increase the number of tunnelling engineers, for which there is a strong demand, in 2017 AMITOS put forward a request for ITA endorsement of the course. ITA-CET is responsible for examining such requests and so began the lengthy process of analyzing the course content, the teaching and evaluation methodology and the lecturer profiles.
The course, which has a duration of two years, is designed around 13 modules, covering essential topics such as geology, rock and soil mechanics, numerical methods in underground works, excavation procedures, support systems, laboratory and field testing and shotcrete use. These subjects are studied in the first two semesters. The third semester focuses on research activities and provides students with the chance to work on real projects through an internship, whilst a thesis is defended at the end of the fourth semester.
To be accepted on this high-level course, students must have already completed a civil engineering degree (9 semesters). So far, 13 students have graduated and the majority are now working on major underground projects in the country, with starting salaries that are double that of non-graduate Master engineers. The next edition of the course will start in August 2018.
Whilst the course is taught primarily in Spanish by local lecturers with both academic and industry backgrounds, the Master students are enrolled on ITA-CET courses organized in Mexico, which enables them to benefit from wider international expertise.
During the ITA-CET meeting in Dubai in April 2018, and after having closely examined all the relevant information, the decision was taken to grant ITA endorsement of the Master’s. It is hoped that this endorsement will help encourage numerous young engineers to pursue a career in the underground works industry.