The growing need for fire safety engineering (FSE) design around the world has led to higher education degrees, many of which lack strong foundations in fundamental knowledge and are somewhat deficient in developing skills (application of knowledge) and appropriate attitudes (reflective assessment and synthesis of knowledge). This paper discusses how such programmes are delivering professionals to an FSE industry that has not yet adequately defined competence. Motivated by the need to have a new generation of leaders in FSE that can drive the field through the ongoing and necessary transition to performance-based design that it is currently experiencing, a one-week, intensive global technical leadership seminar was held at Edinburgh University, supported by The Lloyd's Register Educational Trust (LRET). The Seminar was aimed at reflecting on the content and methodology required in comprehensive university programmes capable of educating in design for fire safety in the built environment. Performance-based design for fire, in which prescriptive codes are simply a tool within a performance-based mindset, offers many important benefits but also has many acknowledged problems and risks; this paper argues that paramount among the problems is the way that we, as a global engineering profession, educate and nurture FSE professionals. It is argued that fire safety is a relatively immature discipline, thus it should be supported by holistic, purpose-centred education that places an emphasis on learning environments broadly focused on design. Technical (fundamental) knowledge is clearly critically important, but it should not be the driving force, and it should not eclipse the development of the skills and attitudes essential for the future survival of fire safety engineering as a distinct, competency-based engineering discipline.