11 November 2002

Copyright © 2002 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, PhD., P.E.


International developments

  1. Merger of universities in London
  2. Iran to allow foreign university branches
  3. Indian software houses compete well
  4. Language debate at South African university
  5. Warnings for Japanese Postdocs headed for US
  6. Minority colleges allowed in India
  7. Future energy sources described
  8. Pakistan shifts toward Islamic order
  9. NATO cuts science budget
  10. Admissions document forgery problem
  11. EU targets abusive fixed-term contracts
  12. Engineering courses in UK criticized

U.S. developments

  1. Republican Party gains control of Congress
  2. Support for physical science research has declined
  3. Large jump in tuition charges this year
  4. Federal limits on “sensitive” research
  5. Congress debates national security information
  6. Protesters demonstrate against war
  7. White House resists doubling NSF budget

Distance education, technology

  1. Older women drawn to distance education
  2. California system invests in teleconferencing
  3. IBM to push “on-demand computing”
  4. Phoenix Online grows
  5. Instant messaging moves to business
  6. IT seen impacting research universities

Students, Faculty, Education

  1. More students on US campuses this fall
  2. Faculty more concerned with students
  3. Getting kids excited about engineering
  4. Supreme Court asked to rule on affirmative action
  5. Growth in part-time faculty
  6. New NAE Center for engineering education
  7. Cost-benefit analysis on education
  8. Unique approach to regional accreditation


  1. URI Colloquium on engineering education and foreign languages
  2. ABET annual meeting on outcomes assessment
  3. ASCE celebrates 150 years
  4. Upcoming meetings


  1. Issues in Science and Technology
  2. ASEE Journal of Engineering Education
  3. International Journal of Engineering Education


International developments

1) Two of Britain’s top universities have announced plans to merge, according to a note in the 18 October 2002 issue of Science. Imperial College London and University College London plan to merge into a single university, joining forces to better compete in the knowledge economy. The programs of the two institutions complement one another. The British Parliament must approve the merger, but the two institutions plan to begin sharing resources by December. See

2) Iran’s parliament has approved legislation to allow foreign universities to open branch campuses in that country for the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979, according to a note in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Daniel del Castillo. The bill also needs approval by the Council of Guardians, which determines whether legislation violates Islamic principles. The proposal appears to have broad support from conservatives, who see it as a way to keep talented Iranian students from leaving the country to attend universities abroad, and from liberals who view it as a sign of increasing openness to new ideas from the West. See

3) Indian software companies are raiding US turf, according to an article by Joanna Slater in the November 7th issue of the Wall Street Journal. The Indian companies offer high quality services at highly competitive prices, thus attracting the attention of cost-conscious executives in the US and Europe who do not see a world-wide economic recovery any time soon. India’s top software firms now have combined sales of more than $2.5-billion, and they are moving from their core specialty of custom software development to new areas such as hardware-software integration, operation of a company’s IT department, and call centers. This pits them head-to-head with the largest international computer service companies. See

4) A South African university is caught up in a struggle between course offerings in the English and Afrikanns languages, according to an article in the Chronicle by Henk Rossouw. The University of Stellenbosch has decreased teaching in Afrikaans, a language originated in the Dutch spoken by sailors that landed merchant ships on the southern tip of Africa several centuries ago, as the population of black students on campus has increased. Stellenbosch is a public university, and the government has been pressing its university council to offer more courses in English to accommodate black students. This year 82% of the university’s freshmen are white, in a country where 86% of the population is black or mixed race. See

5) Postdocs from Japan about to travel to positions in the US have been given a course on intellectual property rights and other cultural differences, according to an article in the November 1st Science by Dennis Normile and Andrew Lawler. The discussion at a recent meeting of the Japanese Biochemical Society was titled “Working in the US: Advice for Young Scientists”. Recent incidents have highlighted the difference between Japanese and US practices regarding the handling of academic research materials and data. In the US the results of research belong to the institution, while in Japan such data is typically passed around without any written agreements. Some US universities are now trying to do a better job of advising incoming foreign postdocs of issues such as intellectual property rights and conflicts of interest. See

6) India’s Supreme Court has upheld the right of colleges that are administered by minority groups to use quotas based on religion and language when admitting students, according to an article by Martha Ann Overland in the Chronicle. But the Court also ruled that state governments could impose regulations to ensure a minimum level of academic excellence at such institutions, even if they do not receive any government funds. The ruling settled a politically sensitive dispute over whether minority groups had the right to operate schools and colleges without state interference. Minority groups in India, such as Christians and Muslims, have a long tradition of running their own schools and colleges. See

7) A major review article in the November 1st issue of Science, written by a large team of authors headed by Martin I. Hoffert, surveys possible future energy sources which have the capacity to supply massive amounts of carbon-emission free energy. The authors see stabilizing the carbon dioxide induced component of climate change as an energy problem. Possible candidates for primary energy sources include terrestrial solar and wind energy, solar power satellites, biomass, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, fission-fusion hybrids, and fossil fuels from which carbon has been sequestered. Non-primary power technologies that could contribute to climate stabilization include efficiency improvements, hydrogen production, storage and transport, superconducting global energy grids, and geoengineering. The authors note that all of these options have current limitations, and recommend that intensive R&D is urgently needed to produce technological options that can allow both climate stabilization and economic development. See

8) A coalition of religious parties that recently gained substantial power in Pakistan has announced plans to impose “true Islamic order” by banning coeducational universities and setting up separate institutions for women, according to a note in the Chronicle by Martha Ann Overland. Pakistan has some women’s colleges now, but most of the universities are coeducational. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) is a six-party alliance of conservative religious groups opposed to American military operations in neighboring Afghanistan. It recently gained enough seats in the National Assembly to become the third largest political party, and one of the two largest parties will have to get its support to form a majority government. The MMA does have control of one province, and will likely impose its beliefs there first. See

9) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has decided to cut its $24-million science program by 13%, according to a note in the November 1st issue of Science by Richard Stone. The science program supports research grants, fellowships, and workshops for scientists from NATO’s 19 member countries and 34 nations in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and North Africa. Science has never been a high priority for NATO’s military leaders, and this cut follows a decade of budget stagnation. In recent years the science program has received praise for funding security projects for its innovative Internet projects. Science committee members are appealing the cut decision. See

10) Admissions officers and credentials consultants increasingly have to check documents for forgery, according to an article in the Chronicle by Katherine Mangan. Cases of fraud typically involve students from developing countries who are desperate to get degrees from universities in developed countries, including those in Western Europe and the United States. Many graduate programs in the US have opted to farm out their transcript-verification work to private companies. Among other considerations, US universities are under more pressure to screen foreign applicants – and some already admitted students – to be sure they are not connected to terrorist organizations. See

11) A new directive from the European Commission could lead to a radical change in how contract researchers, mainly postdocs, are employed, according to a note in the October 25th issue of Science by Kirstie Urquhart. The EC’s Directive on Fixed-Term Work mandates that EU nations “prevent the abuse of fixed-term contracts through their continuous use”. Implementation of the rule will vary from country to country. In the UK, for example, universities and other employers will be forced to give permanent positions to any research staff member whose positions are renewed and run longer than four years, unless they can offer good reasons for not doing so. Some 59,000 academics are now on fixed term contracts in the UK. See

12) Engineering courses in the UK are lacking art and creativity, according to a survey taken concerning the satisfaction of engineering graduates. In a survey reported in the Times Online, graduates complained that their courses focused too heavily on the mathematics side of the subject, missing out on the creative aspects of engineering. They also stated that a more balanced approach would increase motivation. The author of the survey believes that engineering is an art form, and that learning should be more studio based, with workshops, brainstorming, and working in teams. See (Reported in NEWS@ SEFI, October 2002)


U.S. developments

13) The Republican Party regained control of the US Senate in mid-term elections, and extended its majority in the House of Representatives. According to an article in the Chronicle by Michael Arnone and Jeffrey Selingo, this gives Republicans total control of the reauthorization of the law that governs student-aid programs, and could clear the way for the confirmation of a critic of affirmative action to head the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. The change will affect the leadership of several committees that are important to higher education, particularly the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will rewrite the Higher Education Act. See

14) A new report details the shift in federal research priorities, with a relative decline in funds for the physical sciences, according to a note in the Chronicle by Anne Marie Borrego. The report prepared by the Rand Corporation, “Federal Investment in R&D”, finds that while federal spending on research in biology, computer science and mathematics increased sharply from 1993 to 2000, spending on the physical sciences – including chemical engineering, geological sciences, and physics – declined. Overall federal spending on R&D would reach $110-billion if the President’s 2003 budget proposals were approved, but when viewed as a percentage of gross domestic product and adjusted for inflation, such spending has actually shrunk to levels similar to those of the 1950’s. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Policy is reported to be preparing a recommendation asking Mr. Bush to increase federal funds for research in the physical sciences and engineering, See

15) Tuition at public colleges has taken the biggest jump in a quarter of a century, according to an article by June Kronholz in the October 22nd Wall Street Journal. In its yearly survey of higher education pricing, the College Board said that tuition at four-year public colleges and universities is up 9.6% from a year ago, or about seven times the rate of inflation. Private college tuition increased 5.8%, and community college tuition is up 7.9%. The other side of the coin, though, is that student aid also increased to $90-billion, almost triple what it was a decade ago. More than half of that aid amount is in loans which must eventually be paid back. An increasing amount of aid funding is in merit scholarships for high scoring, high GPA students. The College Board took pains to portray college as a good investment and a bargain. See

16) Provisions that limit foreign-student involvement in research projects or allow the government to review findings from unclassified research for “sensitive” information before scientists can publish it, are turning up in federal contracts these days according to an article in the Chronicle by Ann Marie Borrego. Several academic institutions have been successful in negotiating softening of these restrictions, and at least one major institution has refused a contract when the provisions could not be negotiated out. At issue is the gray area of research and information that is not secret enough to be labeled as “classified”, but that government officials fear may aid terrorists. The Bush administration is currently debating a new label, “sensitive”, that could act as a middle ground. The restrictive clauses fly in the face of what many researchers consider fundamental tenets of academic freedom and responsible science: open access to research and the ability to publish findings from unclassified projects. See

17) The House Science Committee has held hearings on finding the right balance between scientists and the government on how to handle information that might threaten national security, according to an article in the October 18th issue of Science by David Malakoff. The previous posture, worked out two decades ago, had been: Classify some things, and don’t touch the rest. In the wake of 9/11, however, the government is considering a more restrictive posture, including such ideas as: rules governing researchers who can work with potential bioweapons, a new government committee to screen foreign graduate student entering certain fields, and guidelines on how the heads of several major government departments can wield new powers to classify research results. See

18) Tens of thousands of protesters – more than half of them college students – flooded the streets of Washington recently as part of an international day of demonstrations against the US threatened war with Iraq, according to an article by Richard Morgan in the Chronicle. Mirror events sent some 50,000 people through the streets of San Francisco, with smaller protests in Chicago and Denver, and Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. Speaking at the Washington rally, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said that Martin Luther King, Jr., would be “especially happy to see so many young people leading a new peace movement”. See

19) Legislators have been trying to set a path for doubling of the budget of the National Science Foundation over the next five years, and thought they had worked out a deal. But, according to a note in the October 25th issue of Science by Jeffrey Mervis, the Bush White House has raised last minute objections. A counterproposal from the Office of Management and Budget would shorten the appropriations bill to three years, and remove the word “doubling”.  Congressmen and lobbyists hope to salvage the original doubling deal when Congress reconvenes. See


Distance education, technology

20) A US Department of Education study shows that distance education attracts older women with families, according to an article in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale. Overall, about 7.6% of students taking college courses during the 1999-2000 academic year did so through distance education. The study shows that women with families and jobs were more drawn to undergraduate distance-education programs in that year than were members of other groups. The study shows that more females than males take distance education, and that more students over 24 take such courses compared to younger ones. Of those students who took courses at a distance, about 29% completed an entire distance-based academic program, with the rest having some traditional components in their studies. See

21) The California Community College System will connect its 108 campuses with a web based teleconferencing service in order to cut travel costs, according to an article in the Chronicle by Florence Olsen. With budget cuts curtailing travel money, the teleconferencing service will allow substitution of virtual meetings. The system has been designed for future use for teaching online classes, holding virtual office hours, and providing reference desk support. It also meets accessibility guidelines for people with disabilities. See

22) IBM’s new chief executive has announced that the company is making a $10-billion bet on a strategic shift that he calls “on-demand computing”, according to an article by Steve Lohr in the October 31st issue of the New York Times. Samuel Palmisano said that on-demand computing would allow corporate customers to purchase computing resources as needed as a utility-style service, almost like electricity. He explained that the utility model would help companies become more flexible and fast moving by integrating more closely internal operations such as procurement, marketing and manufacturing. The new IBM initiative will be called “e-business on demand”. See

23) Phoenix Online is one of the nation’s largest online university businesses in a growing field of private, for profit competitors, according to an article by Florence Olsen in the Chronicle. Online students are taught by 7,000 faculty members, most of whom are part-time employees of Phoenix who have full-time jobs elsewhere. The university also has a support staff of 1,700 online admission advisors, academic counselors, faculty recruiters, instructional specialists, software developers, and technicians. Phoenix officials are planning for the expansion of Phoenix Online in the international market, where they already are adding international enrollments at the rate of 200 each month. See

24) Instant messaging is no longer just a facet of teenage life, but now means business, according to the cover story by Steven Cherry in the November 2002 issue of IEEE Spectrum. It is exploding in applications ranging from stockbrokerage to customer service, from e-retailing to police emergency communications, and the military. While the phone is still a major mode of interactivity, people have erected walls around it with voicemail. And regular e-mails often join a long list of clutter on the computer screen. Commercial IM is becoming a communication tool of choice in reaching key people when immediate communication is needed. One problem is that the four major IM systems are mutually incompatible, as AOL and Microsoft battle for control. See

25) The National Academy of Sciences predicts that information technology is likely to reshape research universities dramatically, according to an article in the Chronicle by Vincent Kiernan. In a report entitled “Preparing for the Revolution: Information Technology and the Future of the Research University” the Academy warns academe against complacency in the face of fast-paced technological developments and new competition from online universities and for-profit institutions. The report says that changes will be driven by expanded computer-network bandwidth and dramatic improvements in both hardware and software, such as vastly more powerful notebook computers and “software agents” that will autonomously collect information requested by a user. The report suggests that the future may be dominated by freelance instructors selling their services to many institutions, which in turn compete for students who buy courses a la carte from many different colleges. See


Students, Faculty, Education

26) More students than ever have descended on American campuses this fall, with many public and private colleges reporting record enrollments, according to an article by Megan Rooney in the Chronicle. While the trend is a boon for some small private colleges, it is further straining the budgets of several state universities already hit by the economic downturn. In some cases higher enrollments will lead to higher tuition and fees, as basic student services are threatened by cuts. Experts say that a variety of factors have led to the widespread enrollment increases. When the national economy stalls, college enrollments tend to grow as a competitive job market leads more students to seek degrees. Meanwhile, the traditional college-age population is swelling across the country. And nontraditional older students are also returning to the classroom in droves, looking for new skills as their economic prospects falter. See

27) According to the findings of a newly released nationwide survey of professors, faculty scholars are caring more about students and less about prestige these days. As reported in the Chronicle by Robin Wilson, professors say they are paying significantly more attention to undergraduates – both inside and outside the classroom. But they feel that their institutions still consider increasing their prestige a high priority, with developing a sense of community involving students and professors less important. The survey, done every three years by UCLA, asks professors how they spend their workdays and what they find satisfying about their jobs. It also asks them to identify their professional goals and their universities’ highest priorities. The increased interest in undergraduate’s well being, compared to a 1989 base year survey, is one of the most striking findings this year. See

28) The cover story in the November 2002 issue of ASEE Prism, written by Linda Creighton, describes a number of innovative programs that are reaching out to get kids excited about engineering. Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to require engineering instruction in every grade in public schools, in 2001 – and remains the only state to have such a program. A different approach is being taken in Texas, where an entrepreneurial approach funded by private industry provides a turn-key package for school districts to buy. In Colorado, kids at the third grade level are experiencing hands on learning, where engineering provides the vehicle for making science and math relate to things in the kid’s world. The author states that the campaign to bolster K-12 engineering education is just beginning to provide models that might be adopted by individual school districts to produce more engineers and make our society more technology-literate. See

29) Ten states have asked the US Supreme Court to take up a case involving the use of race-conscious admissions policies by the University of Michigan Law School, according to an article in the Chronicle by Peter Schmidt. The attorneys general of the ten states do not endorse or condemn affirmative action in higher education, but say that the states need clarity on the issue – which only the Supreme Court can give. Their brief argues that state institutions must know whether their admissions policies are in compliance with the Constitution, and to what degree they can consider the race of applicants in attempting to create a diverse student body. See

30) The number of part-time faculty members and those who work full-time without tenure-track status has increased strikingly in the past two decades, according to a new analysis of federal data by the American Council on Education. As reported by Sharon Walsh in the Chronicle, the number of part-time faculty members increased by 79% from 1981 to 1999, to more than 400,000 out of a total of one million instructors overall. The large increase is attributed to the economic recession and a significant increase in the enrollments of college-age students. Among other findings: 82% of part-time faculty members and two-thirds of full time, non tenure track professors, did not have a doctorate (compared to almost 70% of full time tenured or tenure track who had a doctorate). And despite wide disparities in pay and benefits, nontraditional and traditional faculty members reported similar levels of job satisfaction. See

31) The National Academy of Engineering has initiated an effort in support of continuous improvement in engineering education, a newly formed Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education (CASEE). Its core activities will include a Fellows program to recognize and support individual researchers, as well as a Community Network program to link individuals and organizations into a practice-based community. CASEE’s activities will encompass: the teaching and learning process; teachers and learners as individuals, and archetypes; instructional materials and learning technologies; engineering education management and goal structures; and the social, economic, and political influences on engineering education. An overview of the new Center is available under “NAE Operating Units” at

32) Among ten of the world’s most industrialized countries, the relative rewards of higher education are greatest in Britain. According to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, described in the Chronicle by Kate Galbraith, higher education graduates in Britain get a 17% rate of return on their investments. After Britain, the US was next highest, with a 15% rate of return. Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden followed, all with rates above 10%. The rate of return was calculated by weighing the benefits of higher education, such as earnings, against costs, such as tuition fees. See

33) The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has developed a radical approach to higher education, the Academic Quality Improvement Project, according to an article in the Chronicle by Ben Gose. AQIP draws heavily on principles of industry and business management, fuses academic planning with accreditation, and features much more interaction between the colleges and the accrediting group than does the standard accreditation process. Officials at participating colleges say the new process requires more staff time but is worth the investment, because they can tackle their most pressing projects rather than spend years putting on a good face for an accreditor. North Central’s three year old quality improvement project is the most radical of several new efforts by the regional accrediting groups to invigorate the process. See



34) The 5th Annual Colloquium on Engineering Education organized by the International Education Program at the University of Rhode Island was held on Providence RI in late October. Given the character of the program at URI – a dual bachelor’s degree in engineering and a foreign language in a five year education – the Colloquium attracted speakers and participants from engineering study abroad programs and from foreign language faculties interested in serving engineering students on their campuses. Lively sessions included descriptions of the international engineering education programs at several schools, inputs from industry on their needs for internationally experienced engineering graduates, and the roles of professional and accreditation organizations. The full program can be viewed at

35) The annual meeting of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology was held in Pittsburgh at the end of October. Featured was the 2nd National Conference on Outcomes Assessment, a full two day program on one of the major features of ABET’s Criteria 2000. Lively sessions asked whether outcomes assessment was achieving its goals, whether it has helped prepare engineering students for the real world, and how campuses are uniting over outcomes assessment standards. One session was conducted as a debate on the topic of use of the NCEES Fundamentals Exam as an assessment tool – with pros and cons effectively stated by two panelists each. Outgoing ABET President Jerry Yeargan outlined three challenges for ABET: process improvement (less time and effort required), how to handle emerging fields (e.g., information technology), and working with the Canadian and Mexican engineering accreditation agencies to mount a Western Hemisphere Initiative to assist in the growth of accreditation in Central and South America. See

36) The annual meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers, celebrating its 150th anniversary, was held in Washington DC in early November. “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert gave the keynote address, putting the national and international scenes in perspective just prior to the mid-term elections. A major Federal Forum had top representatives of several federal agencies discussing the capabilities of new hires (need better teamwork, business, leadership and international skills), trends in federal procurement (moving toward design/finance/build/operate/maintain), interaction with the private sector (more outsourcing, more privatization), and new priorities (sustainable development, infrastructure security). Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta spoke on the status of air travel security upgrades, and on efforts at increased security for rail, sea, and pipeline systems. Many technical and professional breakout sessions completed the program. See

37) Upcoming meetings:


-         “Enhancement of the Global Perspective for Engineering Students by Providing an International Perspective”, 6-11 April 2003, Tomar, Portugal. Organized by Engineering Conferences International (formerly United Engineering Foundation Conferences). See

-         “Fourth Mudd Design Workshop”, 10-12 July 2003, at Harvey Mudd College in California. Focus on issues that engineering design educators should address. For information write



38) The Fall 2002 Issues in Science and Technology features a group of papers entitled ‘Caught in Traffic’ – covering the use of information technology in fighting traffic congestion, countering sprawl with transit oriented development, and challenges for developing countries. Other papers discuss biological pollution from invasive species, the perils of groundwater pumping, a fair deal for universities doing federal research, and results of a poll on public views of science issues. See

39) The October 2002 issue of the ASEE Journal of Engineering Education contains some thirteen papers on a wide variety of topics: interactive internet based education, integration across disciplines, faculty development activities, laptops in the classroom, groupware for student collaboration, science fiction in the classroom, course assessment, minority engineering programs, innovative first year programs, and environmentally smart engineering education. See

40) The latest issue of the International Journal of Engineering Education is a special issue on Nanotechnologies, with 11 major papers introduced by a guest editor. Papers discuss challenges to engineering education in the field, undergraduate and graduate level programs, and web based courses. This issue of the IJEE also contains five papers on engineering education in more traditional areas. See


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