Engineering education is undergoing rapid change. Programs across the world have instituted route-and-branch reforms and are navigating a path towards new educational models. This transition has been proactive, carefully planned and rolled out over time frames determined by the institution. Over the past eighteen months, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated major changes to program design and delivery. Here, changes have been reactive, unexpected, and introduced at speed. The timing of the Special Issue places it at the conjuncture of these two contrasting change processes. The editorial considers global developments in engineering education in this unique context. It begins by looking back to 2018. It then moves forward to the present and considers how programs have progressed along their planned change pathways, despite the sudden program changes instituted by the pandemic.