THE Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) may sever its formal links with the UK Engineering Council in 1994 as part of its transformation for the future. According to HKIE Secretary John Boyd, the move is designed to internationalise HKIE, and ensure its independent standing well before the change of sovereignty in 1997. ''We realise that when Hong Kong becomes a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, HKIE's status will be the result of establishing itself as an independent professional body over the years leading up to 1997,'' Mr Boyd said. For the last four years, HKIE has been an ''affiliated body'' of the Engineering Council, with standards used to qualify engineers that are equivalent to those of the main UK engineering institutions. ''By letting the affiliate agreement lapse, we will be free to apply our own scrutiny to candidates for membership from China and elsewhere,'' Mr Boyd said. ''We will be taking every opportunity to demonstrate to other countries that our standards of qualification, although no longer dependent on the UK, still match UK standards.'' HKIE grew out of the Engineering Society of Hong Kong formed in 1947. In 1975, when HKIE was incorporated by a Legislative Council ordinance, it had fewer than 2,000 members. Today, with more than 11,500 members, HKIE represents the complete spectrum of Hong Kong's engineering profession with 15 disciplines into which members qualify. Traditionally, civil engineering in Hong Kong was an extension of Britain's construction industry. Now, with the Airport Core Programme, and many other major infrastructure developments, Hong Kong provides an international work place. Because methods and standards for qualifying and recognising engineers differ widely from country to country, HKIE is giving priority to achieving uniform means of qualifying engineers from a wide range of national origins, educational and experiential backgrounds. ''We need to inform major engineering employers that our philosophy for entry into HKIE has been adapted to be more user-friendly to engineers who have not been educated and trained in either the UK or in Hong Kong,'' Mr Boyd said. ''We need to be able to recognise their ability on the basis of what they have become as mature professionals, rather than assessing them on the basis of a standard routine.'' Mr Boyd said HKIE relied largely on an agreement between six of the main English-speaking countries, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland, for mutual recognition of degree courses. HKIE is now making major efforts to get its own accreditation system in place, and its accreditation board has a truly international flavour. Within the last two years, seven reciprocal recognition agreements have been signed with major UK engineering institutions. This means, for example, that a chemical engineer trained in Hong Kong and qualified by HKIE can obtain membership of the Institution of Chemical Engineers of London. HKIE is negotiating similar agreements with other organisations worldwide. ''We also have mutual co-operation agreements, not involving recognition of qualifications, with several major engineering organisations, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers,'' said Mr Boyd. Last week, HKIE past president Edwin Tau signed an agreement of mutual co-operation with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in New Orleans. HKIE has enjoyed regular contact with the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) since 1978. Through the Federation of Engineering Societies of the China Association for Science and Technology, (FESCAST), HKIE can interact with China's 150 engineering societies. ''We deal with CAST headquarters in Beijing, and we also have agreements of co-operation with branches of CAST in Shanghai and Guangzhou,'' Mr Boyd said. In 1988, the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Ji Pengfei, announced that HKIE would administer the engineering profession and qualify engineers in Hong Kong under the terms of the Basic Law. ''Mr Ji said he would not expect Hong Kong as a SAR of China to give recognition to engineers qualified by overseas bodies,'' said Mr Boyd. Since then, HKIE has strengthened its links with China's engineering profession. One example is the POLMET (Pollution in the Metropolitan Environment) series of major environmental conferences, the next of which will be held in Beijing in November, 1994. The POLMET event is organised jointly by HKIE and CAST. ''This is technology transfer in action,'' said Mr Boyd. ''The next stage is to facilitate acceptance of Hong Kong's engineers working in China, and China's engineers working in Hong Kong.'' HKIE is looking at the future in a realistic manner. Despite difficulties due to the discontinuity in China's education system in the early 1970s, Mr Boyd is confident that young graduates from China's top universities will be capable of qualifying through HKIE's rigorous procedure.