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The fact of placing competences and outcomes learning at the heart of the academic activity means overhauling the curricular architecture of higher education in Europe. Some universities have undergone important transformations moving toward a competence-based learning environment, while others maintain traditional curriculum packaged formats. In the realm of the European Higher Education Area, this paper examines the use of competence-based initiatives in curricular development for engineering degrees with special focus to the Spanish case. Although the concept of competence and competence-based learning has a long history in education and training research, these terms are still very diffuse and demand a clear conceptualization. In the first part of this paper, we provide a conceptual overview and a critical reflection of competences as implemented in a wide range of settings, including its origins, key concepts, and definitions. Next, we discuss the purposes, principles, pitfalls, and processes that enable defining a map of competences within engineering education. Lastly, we present a pilot project involving curriculum development and faculty enhancement within a competence-based learning initiative in electronic engineering.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2009