The University of the District of Columbia has lost accreditation for its bachelor's degree programs in engineering after failing to correct deficiencies in faculty and equipment that an accrediting group first cited three years ago, university officials have confirmed.

A commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) voted in mid-July to withdraw approval of UDC programs in civil and electrical engineering, and once again denied approval of UDC's mechanical engineering curriculum, which has never been accredited.

UDC, which graduated 78 engineering students in the past academic year, has not decided whether to appeal the action.

The loss of accreditation marks another setback to efforts to upgrade the District-run university. Also, it could pose serious obstacles for UDC students in obtaining engineering licenses.

Accreditation by ABET is a widely recognized standard for engineering programs. In most states and the District, almost all applicants for engineering licenses graduate from accredited programs before taking licensing exams, although the exams may also be taken by individuals after a lengthy apprenticeship.

While many engineering jobs may be done without a license, graduation from an accredited program is widely regarded by employers as an assurance of a proper education. Officials of several engineering organizations said that graduates of nonaccredited programs have more difficulty getting jobs.

The nine-year-old UDC, which has an open admissions policy, has been headed for almost a year by acting president Claude Ford after the forced resignation of Robert L. Green, who was accused of misusing college funds.

To comply with a D.C. Council mandate to trim high per-student costs, the university is laying off 63 nonfaculty employes and drawing up plans to cut some faculty.

N. Joyce Payne, chairman of the UDC board of trustees, said she had hoped that "engineering would be one of our strongest programs."

"The problems have been around for years, and unfortunately they didn't get the level of attention that we should have been devoting to them," Payne said last week. "We'll be working very hard to come into compliance with accreditation standards . We hope we will be able to turn it around."

UDC was notified of the decision early last week in a brief letter, but the university has not yet received an official report on the actions.

Six engineering technology programs at the university, which provide less-advanced training, have retained ABET accreditation.

An evaluation committee appointed by the group said after a visit last fall that the UDC programs had too few properly qualified faculty and inadequate equipment. Those were the problems that ABET cited in 1983 when it warned that accreditation would be revoked "unless satisfactory compliance with all . . . requirements has been achieved" by 1986.

Philip Brach, dean of the UDC College of Physical Science, Engineering and Technology, said the university has not yet decided whether to appeal the decision, which will be effective at the end of the 1986-87 academic year.

He said the engineering programs will continue. Their faculties now include a large proportion of part-time instructors. Several of the full-time professors do not have degrees in the field of engineering that they teach.

Payne said UDC is saddled with noncompetitive salaries and a residency requirement for its employes, which makes it difficult to compete with other schools and private industry for talented engineering professors.

Although average UDC salaries are relatively high and its scale for full professors goes up to $53,000 a year, Brach said the university is required by its union contract to pay the same in all academic fields.

The four-member ABET evaluation team that inspected UDC's engineering program in November recommended that accreditation be revoked. Brach said he disputed the recommendation in a 100-page response. However, he was notified last week that the 43-member accreditation commission, meeting in Kansas City, Mo., had rejected all three of UDC's engineering programs.

Brach said the evaluation committee report stated that UDC did not have sufficient laboratory equipment and did not properly maintain the equipment it has. The report criticized faculty office space and said library holdings were "outdated and inadequate."

In an effort to stave off loss of accreditation, the UDC trustees redirected $320,558 to the engineering programs in April for new equipment, books, offices and faculty travel. Most of the supplies have been ordered, Brach said, but they have not arrived. The trustees also asked the D.C. Council to waive the residency requirement for engineering faculty, but no action has been taken.

In its 1983 report, ABET said the UDC engineering programs had such a high percentage of foreign students that they were unable to meet the university's "primary objective . . . the serving of District of Columbia residents." Almost 90 percent of last year's engineering graduates were foreign nationals, according to the report.

Brach said the proportion of foreign nationals among the graduates was actually about 60 percent and that the number of foreign students is irrelevant to accreditation.