Why don't they send students out with more knowledge and experience with more widely used controllers... such as AVR's, PIC's, and the like.
I've learned embedded computing with Intel 8051, and it was in 2000/2001. When I started to play with AVR last year, I had to peruse the datasheet to understand the architecture and the registers, but that was it. I knew the basic concepts (timers, interrupts, ...) and these are common to most of the mictro-controllers, even the old ones. My point is, I was taught embedded electronics, not 8051 programming. The 8051 was just an example we used. IMHO, what makes a good engineer is the ability to learn and grasp new concepts quickly.
The only reason to switch to AVR or PIC would be to allow student to work outside the labs. But from what I've seen, motivated students are ready and able to use something different at home. Unmotivated ones won't work outside the lab anyway
and changing lab equipment is not cheap !