15 February 2001

Copyright © 2001 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

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



The First Electronic International Conference on Engineering Education is being organized by the National Technological University (NTU) and the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI). Particularly invited to submit abstracts are engineering educators in developing countries who seldom have the opportunity to participate in major face-to-face engineering education conferences at the international level. The electronic conference will be conducted through a Web based posting of papers and their presentations, followed by electronic interactions among participants through the summer of 2001. Papers and discussions will be summarized at a major plenary session at the SEFI annual meeting in Copenhagen in September 2001 – broadcast live via video. For details on submitting abstracts see . Submission deadline has been extended to 15 March 2001.

“Global Changes in Engineering Education” is the theme of an international conference co-sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) in Berlin on 15-18 September 2001. Conference topics will be educating engineering students in entrepreneurship, national accreditation/global practice, and technology in learning systems. Prospective presenters for a poster session on the Tuesday of the conference are invited to submit abstracts through the ASEE web site:

International developments

Universities across Africa are expected to support a growing movement to introduce tuition in countries where higher education is traditionally free, according to a report by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Association of African Universities, with more that 170 member institutions in 43 countries, is expected to adopt a resolution of support for such charges to students. Other declarations from a five-day meeting in Kenya point toward development of the Internet as a priority, redressing of gender imbalance, and improvement of the quality and relevance of education. See

American Universities have been advised by the Educational Testing Service that test scores from China should be treated with caution, implying that the integrity of the tests has been compromised. According to articles in the Chronicle by Daniel Walfish, ETS feels that the Graduate Record Examination and Test of English as a Foreign Language may have been compromised in administrations in China. ETS has sued China’s most popular exam coaching school, the New Oriental School, charging it with using test questions that were stolen from tests currently in use. The New Oriental School gives standardized test preparation courses to as many as 80% of the 24,000 Chinese students who go to the U.S. each year. See

Humbolt University in Germany, once a haven for Nobel laureates, has lost much of its influence over recent years, according to an article by Robert Koenig in the 2 February 2001 issue of Science. Now Humbolt is endeavoring to win back talent and recapture lost glory. The push to overhaul Humbolt began last December, with the announcement of a program to promote more independence for young researchers and a commitment to move its natural science faculties from outmoded buildings downtown to new labs in Berlin’s Adlershof Science Park. Increased government support will be crucial for meeting the university’s research goals. See

Several developments in British Higher Education have been reported in the Chronicle by David Walker and Karen Birchard. A parliamentary panel has proposed that top British universities should be paid a premium for enrolling students from low-income backgrounds. Elite institutions would receive up to $2900 for each student who is from a low-income background. See Student leaders at the University of Warwick are criticizing the institution’s plan to become the first British university to require students to own their own laptop computers. The “e-strategy” prepared by the university calls for students to use the laptops to gain access to online lectures, tutorials, and seminars. Students say the plan, which would require all incoming freshmen to own laptops starting in 2003, could cause them serious financial problems. See Britain’s Conservative party is proposing $12-billion in spending cuts for higher education, including a plan to encourage universities to go private. Under the proposal a willing university could qualify for a one-time government endowment if it agreed to become a private institution and forgo any future government financing. See

The Australian government has promised a spending package worth 3 billion Australian dollars to increase higher education enrollments and improve the nation’s research and development efforts. According to an article by Geoffrey Maslen in the Chronicle, the proposal would establish a loan program for 250,000 graduate students and create 21,000 new undergraduate places over the next 5 years. In addition, support for the Australian Research Council would be doubled, and tax write-offs for companies undertaking research and development would be increased. The moves are intended to keep Australia competitive in a world of highly mobile capital and labor. Education leaders welcomed the promised increases, but noted that they did not deal with several crucial problems facing universities: soaring student-staff ratios and higher education’s increasing reliance on nongovernmental sources of income. See

U. S. developments

The number of doctorates awarded by U.S. research universities fell in 1999 for the first time in 14 years, according to a recent national study. As reported by Courtney Leatherman in the Chronicle, the 41,140 PhD’s awarded in 1999 were down 3.6% from the previous year. Engineering and the physical sciences showed the biggest percentage drops – 9.8% and 6.2% respectively. Ethnic diversity in PhD awards increased, with the number of minority doctoral recipients increasing by 5.1% for American citizens. Women earned 44% of the doctorates awarded in 1999, the highest proportion ever. The report is available at

A distinguished group of senior leaders in foreign affairs has made a case for State Department Reform – from recruiting methods to ambassadorial powers – to be a national priority for the Bush administration. Synthesizing 12 previously released reports on State Department reform, the group presented a far-reaching strategy to tackle management and structural reforms, resource increases, and the ‘closed structure’ in the State Department. The task force report is available at

The National Academy of Engineering has announced its top honors for 2001, according to a report by Karolina Augustynowicz in the Chronicle. Four men will share the Charles Stark Draper Prize, which carries a $500,000 award, for their individual efforts in developing the Internet: Vinton G. Cerf of WorldCom, Robert E. Khan of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, Leonard Kleinrock of UCLA and Nomadix, and Lawrence G. Roberts of Caspian Networks. In addition, two men will receive the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize, also $500,000, for their invention of the first pacemaker for human heart patients: Earl Bakken of Medtronic, and Wilson Greatbatch of Greatbatch. The awards will be presented on February 20, at an Engineers Week dinner. See

Two U.S. Senators have introduced a resolution ‘expressing the sense of Congress that the United States should establish an international education policy to enhance national security and significantly further United States foreign policy and competitiveness…’. As reported by NAFSA/Association of International Educators, the bipartisan resolution highlights the importance of international education to the national interest and its substantial contributions to the U.S. economy. The resolution states that such a policy should achieve the following outcomes: strengthen citizen and professional international exchanges and promote the exchange of scholars; streamline taxation, visa, and employment regulations impacting international students in the U.S.; significantly increase the number of U.S. students participating in study abroad; promote greater diversity of locations, subjects, and languages involved in study abroad programs; ensure that U.S. college graduates have knowledge of a second language and world area; strengthen the educational system through which Americans gain international experience; and regain 40% of the market of internationally mobile students for the U.S. See

New Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige has told private college leaders that the Bush administration will ask Congress to increase spending on Pell Grants, and to give the same federal tax advantages to tuition-savings plans for private colleges that state-sponsored programs now receive. According to a report by Stephen Burd in the Chronicle, Paige urged college presidents to rally behind the package of education proposals recently delivered to Congress by President Bush. He said that if the plans are enacted, fewer incoming college students will need to take remedial courses. See

The U.S. Commission on National Security has released a “Road Map for National Security; Imperative for Change” to both Congress and the Bush administration. The report highlights concerns about America’s national security infrastructure. It recommends doubling the federal R&D budget, and cites the need for better math and science education for American students. The report specifically recommends overhauling the national laboratory system of the Department of Energy in order to ensure that the U.S. maintains its R&D leadership. The report can be found at

California universities are struggling with the power shortage that the state is experiencing, according to an article by Kit Lively in the Chronicle. Many institutions have interruptible service contracts with utility providers, which looked like good business deals when they signed up several years ago. The contracts provide lower rates for major users of power that agree to shut off or reduce electricity use when the state’s supply drops below a certain point. Penalties for not interrupting when the utilities need to shed power consumption are high – sometimes 100 times normal costs. Power shutdowns can disrupt medical facilities on campus, and labs such as those involving animal experiments. Conservation has become a must, as have backup generators for critical facilities. See

Engineers need to get organized to face obstacles in international mobility, according to a viewpoint article in the February 2001 issue of Engineering Times. The author, Bernard Ascher, is Director of Service Industry Affairs at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. He points out that the pressures of mobilization call for greater professional mobility, but that differences in national licensing systems pose a problem for engineers who want to practice internationally. Mutual recognition agreements are one way to deal with national licensing system constraints, and the policy of the government is to have appropriate groups representing the professions in each country work these out with only minimal government oversight. MRA’s have been implemented in fields such as architecture and accounting, but to date such agreements have failed to be negotiated for engineering services. See http://www.nspe.or


 Princeton University has announced that it is eliminating loans for its next incoming freshman class, and replacing them with grants. According to an article by Andrew Brownstein in the Chronicle, this decision significantly tilts the balance in what is already an exhausting competition for the nation’s elite students. Admissions officials at other schools predicted an increasingly heated ‘bidding war’. Princeton will spend an additional $16-million from its $8.5-billion endowment in the next year to eliminate loans from undergraduate student aid. See

The Massachusetts Board of Education has voted to require that engineering be taught in grades K-12, the first state with such a program. According to an article by Jennie Ganz in the February 2001 issue of Engineering Times, this new approach to engineering education is the result of more than a decade of work by advisory boards, teachers, and engineering professors. Proponents argued that the science curriculum was out of date – emphasizing such topics as how volcanoes erupt, but putting no emphasis on the human world like how cars and computers work. Supporters hope that the new curriculum will break down socio-economic and gender barriers which have deterred some students from becoming engineers. See 

The Educational Testing Service has announced that it will give away free test-preparation materials to anyone who registers for the Graduate Record Exam. Critics have pressured testing companies to make test-prep materials available to try to raise the scores of minority and low-income students. Test takers will receive a free CD-ROM which originally sold for $45. It is expected that the move will help improve the scores of some test takers, so that differences in scores are more likely to reflect differences in ability rather than differences in preparation. The program will cost ETS $1-million per year. See

K-12 textbooks are full of errors, according to a study by North Carolina State University. As reported by Deborah Fowler-Longview in the 12 February 2001 issue of Time, one review of math books had as many as one mistake every four pages. In response, the major publishers have hired more fact checkers and instituted extra layers of review. For the slightly longer term, publishers are preparing on-line versions of their printed texts, to allow correction of errors immediately. Five years from now the resolution of hand held devices should be clear enough, and the cost low enough, that one portable e-textbook containing downloads for every subject, could replace a backpack full of books.

As laptops become more popular on campuses, some faculty members are letting students use them to take exams. According to an article in the Chronicle, professors like the gains in efficiency, but worry about the reliability of the laptops and whether the machines will allow new forms of cheating on exams. Many law schools that let students take exams on their own laptops use ExamSoft, which blocks access to any information on the laptop’s disk drives or a network. Such software systems make it difficult for students to cheat on computer-based exams. See

The University of Pittsburgh and the University of New South Wales in Australia are jointly offering a course in “Energy Today – Energy Tomorrow” for undergraduate engineering students. Students will explore current U.S. energy technologies at Pitt for four weeks, then travel to Australia for six weeks to explore energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Field trips are a large part of the Australian portion of the program, with visits to Darwin, Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, the Outback, and Central Australia. Applications for Summer 2001 are being accepted until the end of March. For more information see

As states increasingly develop exit tests and other assessments of high school achievement, a group of research universities is seeking a voice in the discussions to ensure that the preparation of students for college is not lost in the process. According to an article by Sara Hebel in the Chronicle, the group from 14 prominent research universities will develop an agreement on the set of skills needed by freshmen at research institutions. Nineteen states already require their high school students to pass a test before graduating, and eight more plan to do so. The goal of the university group is to encourage states and schools that use such tests to strive for high-quality exams that measure the skills and knowledge essential for succeeding in college. See

The National Academy of Sciences has issued a new report on how children learn math, aiming to quiet the debate currently raging by summarizing what researchers have learned about teacher and student competencies and suggesting how to assess their progress. According to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 2 February issue of Science, the report walks down the middle of the road in the debate over skills versus understanding. It offers a new definition of mathematical proficiency that includes both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. It also emphasizes the importance of problem solving, thinking logically, and seeing math as useful and worthwhile. The academy plans to discuss the report at a public forum, and to issue a condensed version of the 440 page report. “Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics” is available at


The U.S. is lagging behind the United Kingdom and other European countries in rolling out digital television, according to an article by Barry Fox in the February 2001 issue of IEEE Spectrum. In the U.K. 8 out of 10 homes can pick up digital terrestrial signals with rooftop antennas and some 20% of viewers now do so, while in the U.S. only around 650,000 HDTV compatible sets have been sold. Cost is one big difference – prices for HDTV sets in the U.S run $1500 to $2800, while converters in the U.K. are essentially free. One big difference is that the U.S. system is focused primarily on improving picture quality by delivering high-definition pictures to expensive new receivers, while the European system focuses on adding channels at standard definition. Outside Europe and the U.S., a Babel of different standards are developing. See

Internet service provider Juno Online, which operates in the free-subscription market, plans to add a new line of business: supercomputing. According to an article in the 5 February 2001 Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Rewick, the venture will draw upon the computing power of its subscribers to operate the Juno Virtual Supercomputer. Participating Juno customers will have to leave their computers on at all times so that Juno can sell unused capacity to third parties such as scientific researchers who want to solve large computational problems. Juno is still working out the details of its plan. See

Distance education, etc.

The University of Nebraska system, faced with little growth in the number of potential students in its own state, plans to invest in distance education as a way of reaching students elsewhere. In an Chronicle article by Dan Carnevale, growth statistics are cited to show why: Nebraska high school graduates will increase by only 1% over the next decade, while other states will see significant growth (such as 117% in Nevada). Nebraska will try to capitalize on programs where it has expertise, like agriculture. The system is seeking $4-million in state money over the next two years to fund the project. See

A report released recently urges Canada’s government and higher education institutions to invest heavily in online education so that Canadian programs can remain competitive with Internet courses created elsewhere. According to Dan Carnevale writing in the Chronicle, the report recommends providing broadband accessibility across the country, developing course content that focuses on Canada’s needs, studying effective ways of teaching over the Internet, and sustaining a generous level of financing for online programs. Members of the Canadian Association of University teachers criticized the report for its emphasis on online education. See

MIT is seeking support to finance a 24-hour-a-day video streaming project that would involve Webcasting of lectures, symposia, and other events on the campus. As described by Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle, “MIT World” would capture the dozens of top notch presentations which occur on campus each week, and let thousands who don’t live near MIT to view them. The broadcasts would be made available to MIT’s 90,000 alumni, and perhaps to the employees of companies which sponsor MIT programs. Cost is estimated at $500,000 per year. See

Corporate Universities are flourishing in the U.S., ballooning from 400 to more than 2000 in the past decade. During that same time period more than 100 4-year colleges have closed, according to an article by Jeanne Meister in the Chronicle. A number of corporate universities are offering courses not only to their direct constituencies, but also to the public. According to the writer, corporate education and training programs represent a big opportunity for higher education institutions – working in partnerships with corporations to conduct on-site courses, sharing libraries and research, and creating custom-made degree programs. Companies are demanding courses that fit their particular business needs and challenges. See

Computer Learning Systems, which enrolled thousands of students and qualified for millions of dollars in federal student aid, canceled classes and locked its doors last month. According to an article by Anne Marie Borrego in the Chronicle, the chain of 25 for-profit computer training operations in 11 states filed for bankruptcy after the U.S. Department of Education ordered the company to repay $187.5-million in federal student aid, alleging violations of federal laws governing recruitment of students. Complaints about Computer Learning Centers included charges of poor quality instruction, exaggerated job placement claims, inadequate facilities, lax admission standards, sloppy record keeping, and deficient refund practices. The company denied many of these charges. Students from the former Computer Learning Centers campuses are scrambling to find ways to complete their training. See


Leaders of nine top research universities have signed a pledge to work for better treatment of female faculty members in science and engineering. An article in the Chronicle by Ana Marie Cox describes the outcomes of a meeting at MIT between the leaders of the universities and 25 female professors. The agreement of administrators that gender discrimination does exist differentiated this meeting from previous attempts to call attention to the issue. The group’s closing statement said that ‘barriers still exist to the full participation of women in science and engineering’, and listed three goals to work toward: ‘a faculty whose diversity reflects that of the students we educate; equity for, and full participation by, women faculty; and a profession, and institutions, in which individuals with family responsibilities are not disadvantaged.’ See  For additional coverage of this issue, see an article by Andrew Lawler in the 2 February 2001 issue of Science.

In a related development, a report by the Independent Women’s Forum states that MIT acted too hastily to redress gender discrimination that may not have even existed. According to an article by Scott Smallwood in the Chronicle, the report criticizes MIT’s 1999 study of female faculty members in the sciences, suggesting that discrimination is not the only possible explanation for differences in salary or laboratory size. The Forum report found that older male biologists at MIT had markedly stronger publication records than female peers who were at comparable stages of their careers. The report from the women’s forum is available at

For disabled college students, professor’s increased use of the Web for instruction can create obstacles rather than clear them away. According to Andrea Foster writing in the Chronicle, many disabled students find that new technology cuts them off from the learning process. To prevent that, many colleges are designing Web sites and providing computer workstations to meet the needs of disabled students. Fueling the activity is the federal government’s enforcement of the Americans With Disabilities Act at California community colleges, and a new rule that requires federal agencies and state institutions to make their Web sites accessible to disabled people. In the California case, community colleges were ordered to take specific steps to make print and electronic information available to visually impaired students. The new rule requires that video and multimedia productions understood through visual presentation must be made audible as well. Biggest impact is expected in distance education, where current Internet technology and Web design techniques may not easily translate to an accessible medium for disabled persons. See

Women faculty members in Japan are fighting to improve their conditions in academia, according to an article by Dennis Normile in the 2 February 2001 issue of Science. They allege academic harassment through abuses of power by senior professors against junior faculty members, as well as other more subtle forms of discrimination, which have kept women from moving up the academic ladder. The root of the problem is the hierarchical structure of research groups, in which the senior professors hold near absolute power. Women hold only 6.6% of faculty positions at Japan’s 98 national universities, despite the sizeable number of women earning advanced degrees. The ‘koza’ system is changing slowly, and a few university departments have even abandoned it and given independent status to associate professors – but vestiges of the old system and attitudes remain. At many institutions, senior professors still control all funding, along with the allocation of office space and equipment, travel authorization, and even the choice of research themes.  Practices that discriminate against female researchers include assigning first authorship of research papers to male colleagues, tougher standards during evaluations, unequal access to funding and equipment, and hostile comments. See

Fewer than half of the low-income and minority students responding to a survey last summer said that they felt academically prepared entering college. According to an article by Jennifer Jacobsen in the Chronicle, only a quarter of these students had participated in pre-college preparation programs. A report on the survey, prepared by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, concludes that low-income and minority students face financial, academic, and social barriers in college. Many of the students surveyed faulted their high schools for not adequately preparing them for college, and said that their freshman workloads were too heavy. Surveyed student who had participated in pre-college programs felt that the programs had helped them. See

Positions of possible interest

From the 16 February 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      VPAA/Provost, University of Maryland, College Park

Ø      Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Missouri, St Louis

Ø      Provost/VPAA, Montana State University

Ø      Provost and VPAA, Adelphi University, NY

Ø      Provost, Temple University, PA

Ø      VP Information Technology, University of Texas, Arlington

Ø      Dean of International Studies, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Ø      President, DeVry Institute of Technology, IL

Ø      President, University System of New Hampshire

Ø      President, Utah System of Higher Education

From the 9 February Chronicle:

Ø      Engineering faculty positions, University of Bahrain

Ø      Director, Women in Engineering, Purdue University, IN

Ø      Dean/Engineering, LeTourneau University, TX

Ø      Dean, Faculty of Applied Science, RMIT University, Australia

Ø      Vice Chancellor for Research, University of California – Santa Cruz

Ø      Dean of Graduate College, University of Iowa

Ø      VP Graduate Studies and Research, University of Notre Dame, IN

Ø      Provost, Youngstown State University, OH

Ø      Vice President/Provost, University of Virginia

Ø      Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Wisconsin – Madison



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