17 June 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.


  International developments

Higher education officials from 30 European countries, meeting in Prague, have reaffirmed their commitment to harmonize the continent’s diverse national university systems. According to an article by Robert Koenig if the 25 May 2001 issue of Science, the movement which began as the “Bologna process” two years ago is aimed at creating a European Education Area by 2010. Elements of the plan include: compatible degrees, undergraduate and graduate programs, transfer of course credit, greater mobility, institutional accreditation, and joint degrees. During the discussions,  some speakers defended the value of keeping the typical European degree system for medicine, engineering, and law, in which students begin their specialized studies right after secondary school and do not earn a bachelor’s degree along the way. See

Prominent scholars and education leaders gathered in Ghana recently to promote efforts to revitalize the African continent’s feeble higher-education and research system, according to an article by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle of Higher Education. One mechanism discussed was the promotion of links between African academics who live there and those who now work elsewhere. It is estimated that some 100,000 Africans with specialized skills have taken jobs in the West because of lack of opportunities at home. Recommendations of the gathering deal with two areas: promoting links between African institutions and African scholars living abroad, and promoting fields of research and study that can provide particular benefits to African countries. The latter will include using indigenous knowledge to ensure a secure supply of food and adding value to Africa’s primary commodity exports – crops, fish, forest products, and minerals – by developing modern techniques of processing them. See

The United Nations plans to establish a university to train young entrepreneurs and policy makers in the poorest countries to play a bigger role in the global trading system, according to an article by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle. The World Trade University will be based in Toronto, with additional campuses in Africa and Asia. The university, slated to open in two years, will provide training in international banking, trade law, and other skills useful in promoting exports. See

The governing body of the Russian Academy of Sciences has drafted a plan for strict oversight of its members, which would require them to report any international activities and contacts to the academy’s governing presidium. According to an article by Constance Holden in the 8 June 2001 issue of Science, the plan is intended to avoid any harm to the Russian state in the sphere of economic and scientific cooperation by preventing the transmission abroad of information concerning national security. It calls for strengthening controls on articles being prepared and the exchange of information with foreign countries. Observers wonder whether this is a benign measure to protect Russian scientists from unwittingly revealing state secrets, or a chilling return to Soviet-style authoritarianism. See

Japan’s universities are rapidly increasing the number of faculty positions for which tenure is not awarded, according to a note by Michael Chan in the Chronicle. New data indicate that 56 universities hired a total of 607 professors or researchers for non-tenure track jobs in 2000, compared with 17 universities that made 83 such hires in 1998. The Education Ministry introduced a limited-tenure system in 1998; previously all public university professors were hired with tenure, as civil servants. The new law is aimed at increasing the quality of research by making it easier for universities to hire people with specialized skills. See

The Austrian government has approved plans for a major shakeup of the country’s university system, according to an article by Min Ku in the 1 June 2001 issue of Science. Proponents say that the proposal would infuse fresh blood into a system that has become stagnant, because most professors currently are civil servants with lifetime positions that provide raises not tied to job performance. That system leaves essentially no positions for young people. The education and science minister has proposed abolishing civil service status for all new university professors and assistants, with only senior professors retaining permanent positions. The plan also downplays Habilitation – a lengthy apprenticeship necessary to apply for a professorship.  The Austrian Rectors Conference has rejected the plan, saying that it supports the direction in principle but contending that the government has not provided funding for effective implementation. See

The Australian government has announced plans to spend $19-million to develop a high speed Internet backbone to connect 80 major universities and research organizations across the country, according to a note by Geoffrey Maslen in the Chronicle. Funds for the project are to be split between, universities, government research organizations, and private companies, with $47-million of additional resources expected from collaborating groups. In addition, there are plans to use undersea cables to connect this network with the United States and Canada, offering the additional prospect of international collaboration. See

The challenge of building a viable treaty response to climate change is enormous and multifaceted, according to an article by Sandalow and Bowles in the 8 June 2001 issue of Science. The authors note that scientific and political time scales are mismatched, with little change occurring in any given political cycle. They also note that responses to climate change involve modifications in energy and transportation infrastructures, which presents politicians with substantial challenges, and that widely varying national circumstances complicate policy responses. Particularly challenging is defining the relative responsibilities of industrialized and developing countries acceptable to each. The authors assert that a treaty response needs to accomplish at least three basic objectives: create strong incentives to start to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; provide a cost effective framework for international collaboration; and maintain options and flexibility as an international regime is built over the years and decades ahead. See

The European Union and the European Investment Bank have signed an agreement to promote research and technical innovation, according to a note by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle. The two groups will join their substantial forces in hopes of increasing research financing and in using their funds more effectively. There is concern that while European scientific quality is on a par with the US and Japan, they lag behind in patenting and setting up companies to develop products. This paradox is partly explained by Europe’s relatively low spending on research and development – with the EU countries investing 1.9% of GNP in research, compared with 2.6% in the US and 3% in Japan. See

Technology workers worldwide are beginning to feel the effects of a slowing economy, according to an article by Kathy Kowalenko in the June 2001 issue of the IEEE Institute. The engineering community has not been hard hit, but there have been many layoffs in the technical areas in positions that are not as fully qualified as engineers in companies such as the dot-coms. High talent and high demand areas are expected to remain secure, but there will likely be less of a barrage of headhunter calls. The article suggests strategies for those who face layoff. See

Independent libraries in Cuba are defying the government’s lock on information, according to an article by Marion Lloyd in the Chronicle. In a country where the government wields nearly absolute control over information, private collections represent a significant challenge to state authority. The majority of independent librarians are active members of opposition political parties, many with ties to Miami-based exile groups. New books of any kind have been hard to come by since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which deprived Cuba of its main supplier of textbooks and papers. While some fields such as political science have severe censorship, engineering is not so inhibited. In Cuba, only government officials and academics usually have access to the Internet, and then only to certain sites. See

  US developments

The $1.35-trillion tax-cut bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush contains several provisions of interest to the higher education community, according to an article by Lila Guterman in the Chronicle. The legislation will help students and parents save for college and repay student loans, and it makes permanent a tax deduction for educational assistance provided to an employee by an employer. The new law also eliminates taxes on interest earned under state prepaid-tuition plans and allows private colleges to set up such plans. One casualty in the final bill coming out of the House and Senate conference committee was permanent extension of the research and development tax credit, which is slated to expire in 2004. See

Specifics of the tax bill can be found at

Congressional lawmakers are vying to shape programs at the National Science Foundation, after President Bush’s proposal to spend $200-million a year on science and math education programs offered scant details. According to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 25 May 2001 issue of Science, a slew of bills that would flesh out Bush’s sketchy plan to forge partnerships between universities and local school districts are in the works. One important bill has been proposed by Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chair of the House Science Committee. His proposal would authorize $267-million a year in NSF programs to strengthen teacher training and professional development through the linking of  universities and nonprofit organizations to improve math and science instruction in elementary and secondary schools. Boehlert’s plan appears to be closely aligned with NSF’s thinking. See

The shift of control of the US Senate to the Democrats, resulting from the departure of Senator James Jefford’s from the Republican Party, has college lobbyists hoping that they can win more money for federal student-aid programs and scientific research that President Bush has proposed. According to an article by Stephen Burd and Ron Southwick in the Chronicle, this change in Senate leadership will likely change the whole appropriations dynamic. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will be chair of the Senate appropriations committee, which sets the budgets of student aid programs and the National Institutes of Health. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will chair the appropriations panel that oversees the National Science Foundation and NASA. She has urged more money for the overall research and development budget, and for NSF in particular. See and

Under a plan released by the Bush administration, federal grants would be easier to apply for and researchers seeking them would find out more quickly if they had won awards. According to an article by Jeffrey Brainard in the Chronicle, the plan represents the largest effort to consolidate and reform federal rules on grants since 1969. Congress ordered the overhaul in 1999, and the Department of Health and Human Services has been the lead agency on the project. Some of the proposed changes have already been underway, such as a uniform system for submitting proposals electronically. Federal officials also want to reduce the amount of time between application and decision – a gap that can now be six months or more. See

The US Senate has passed education reform legislation by an overwhelming vote of 91-8, according to an article by Helen Dewar in the15 June 2001 Washington Post. The bill calls for annual testing of students in reading and mathematics, and requires schools to demonstrate progress in eliminating achievement gaps. Failing schools would receive aid to improve, but would face the loss of funds and other penalties if they fail to make adequate progress. To encourage improvement and innovation, local school officials would be given more flexibility in how they spend federal funds – currently 7% of public education funds. In a major failure for President Bush, both the Senate and the House have rebuffed his bid to win approval of vouchers designed to help low-income children escape failing public schools by enrolling in private schools. The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference, which must work out the estimated $15-billion difference between what Bush and the Democrats want to spend to implement the anticipated reforms. See

The National Academy of Sciences has rejected Bush administration skepticism about global warming, according to an article by Eric Planin in the 7 June 2001 Washington Post. In a report that came in response to a White House request for guidance on the conclusions of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NAS declared that global warming was a real problem caused at least in part by man-made pollution, and that it could well have a serious adverse impact by the end of the century. The 24 page report acknowledges that some uncertainties remain about how much natural variation is contributing to global warming, but in general it provides ammunition to European leaders and environmental groups who are demanding action on greenhouse gas emissions from the Bush administration. See

In partial response to the NAS report, President Bush called for more climate change research and voluntary controls on greenhouse emissions. He announced several new programs to study climate change and greenhouse gases, and vowed to fully finance climate change science over the next five years. See

College presidents should support and encourage collaborations between university researchers and private corporations, according to a report recently issued by the American Council on Education and the National Alliance of Business. As reported in an article by Julianne Basinger in the Chronicle, a two-year effort by the Business – Higher Education Forum led to recommendations for ways for universities and industries to work better together, covering controversial areas such as intellectual property rights, indirect costs, and conflicts of interest. The report notes that some university leaders and faculty worry that collaborations with industry could threaten their academic missions by influencing what kind of research is done and even what is taught. See The full report can be found on the ACE web site at

The Library of Congress and 100 or so other libraries around the world have been helping one another to provide round-the-clock answers to reference questions. Now, according to an article in the Chronicle by Goldie Blumenstyk,  the libraries are gearing up to expand their membership and hope to extend the service soon to anyone with access to the Internet. The Collaborative Digital Reference Service hopes to recruit as many as 200 additional academic, national, public and private libraries by the end of the year. The service was conceived by librarians at the Library of Congress who want to provide an intellectually richer alternative to a quick-hit Web search – which can only access information that happens to be on line. So far the service has operated as a library-to-library operation, with reference experts submitting patron’s questions online via software that routes the question to the library best suited to answer it. Organizers hope to begin offering the service directly to the public via the Internet soon, with an aim of responding to patron’s questions within two hours. See

  Distance education

Eleven universities in the US and Britain have joined together to create and sell online graduate courses, according to an article in the Chronicle by Sarah Carr. Worldwide Universities Network hopes to provide a much higher quality offering to students than could be offered by a single institution. The network includes Penn State, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and in the UK the Universities of Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton, and York. The organization hopes to grow through the addition of private colleges and institutions in a range of countries. See

Some US institutions are trying to broaden their international reach by offering their online courses in both English and Spanish, according to a note by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. As more countries get improved access to the Internet, people who do not speak English well or at all are looking for distance education courses in their native languages. Jones International University, for example, has been translating online courses needed for an MBA and for a master’s in education. Another example, the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering and its extension program are providing continuing education credits in disaster management in Spanish. See

In Beijing, Jakarta, and elsewhere in developing countries, enrollments are increasing in distance education courses. According to an article in the Chronicle by Burton Bollag, developing countries are responding to increased demand with online courses instead of with new brick-and-mortar universities. But educators face many challenges in this shift – including how to use online technology in countries where few people have access to computers or even phone lines, and how to ensure the quality of programs offered to their citizens by online institutions both inside and outside their borders. In China, where only one out of 20 young people receive higher education, distance education is playing a central role. China Central Radio and Television University has 1.5 million students, two-thirds in degree programs, and caters to working adults. Beijing has ordered the system to expand by 100,000 students per year. One response to the quality control issue is in place in Argentina and Chile, where all distance education offered in their countries is under the purview of their national university accreditation agencies. The World Bank is expanding its financial support for low-tech correspondence courses and radio programs to upgrade the skills of rural schoolteachers across Africa, in Brazil, and elsewhere. See

The US Senate has passed a bill that would allow faculty members to use many of the same copyrighted works in online courses that they have long been allowed in traditional courses, as reported in a note by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. If an identical bill makes it through the House and is signed by the President, it would extend the existing copyright exemptions for classroom use to nonprofit distance education courses. Publishing associations originally opposed the changes, but later offered support after the bill’s language was narrowed to protect copyright holders while allowing academic use. See

The University of Washington plans to offer free, short versions of some of its online courses, partly as a marketing strategy. According to a note in the Chronicle by Sarah Carr, subjects such as “Business Writing” and “History of New Orleans Jazz” will be offered. The courses will take students only a couple of hours, and will be followed by a brief online quiz. See

At least 35 states now have a virtual university or other statewide organization to deliver or promote distance education, according to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle. An updated list of these organizations is maintained by the Instructional Telecommunications Council, and is available on its web site. See

Distance education is playing an unusual role in Cuba’s literate but desolate society, according to an article in the Chronicle by Marion Lloyd. The University of All transmits hour-long classes via television to homes and to public places such as restaurants, covering such topics as English, geography, and classical dance. The effort is in response to a substantial decrease in the number of Cuban’s going to college – now 145,000 compared to 350,000 in 1985. The decrease is due to the lack of jobs in traditional fields such as engineering, and the ability of less well educated people to earn money by servicing the growing tourist industry. See

  Students, education

Because times are tough in the semiconductor business, Intel Corp. is eliminating 5000 jobs, delaying raises and reducing spending on travel, overtime and consultants by 30%. Yet, according to an article in by David Wessel in the 14 June 2001 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Intel is continuing its program of building relationships with community college presidents and deans to establish a long term flow of appropriate graduates to fill its long term personnel needs. One goal is to make sure that new plants in Colorado and Massachusetts have workers five years from now. Intel recognizes that training programs cannot be turned on and off like a spigot. Intel is also spending less money on trash collection in its plants, but still spending on contests and scholarships for science-minded high school students. See

The US Supreme Court has declined an opportunity to clear up the muddled legal status of affirmative action in higher education admissions, according to an article by Michael Fletcher in the 30 May 2001 Washington Post. The Court refused to review an appeals court decision that upheld the use of race as a factor at the University of Washington Law School. Offering no explanation, as is customary, the Court’s decision not to review the case lets stand the legal principle undergirding an appeals court decision last December which ruled that racial diversity on campus is a compelling public interest that allows race-conscious admissions decisions. One observer said: “There is a lot of confusion out there – but for those who oppose affirmative action and have already proclaimed it dead, the Supreme Court order undercuts that proposition”. See

After a year and a half of study and deliberation, the Task Committee on the First Professional Degree of the American Society of Civil Engineers has completed a draft report. It can be reviewed at

Its major recommended policy for the society: “ASCE supports the concept of the Master’s Degree or Equivalent as a prerequisite for licensure and the practice of civil engineering at the professional level”. Discussion is invited at

“Managing Technological Change: Strategies for College and University Leaders: (A.A.Bates, 2000, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 235 pages, $34.95) is a new book reviewed by Donald Tucker in the June 2001 AAHE Bulletin. The reviewer characterizes the book as not so much a handbook for using and implementing technology in education as it is about rethinking our educational methods, institutional purpose, learning goals, core values and priorities. Bates urges institutions to ask hard questions about how quality teaching at the highest levels of learning (analysis, synthesis, problem solving, and decision making) takes place. See


A pilot electronic conference on engineering education is available for review and interaction at The emphasis of the electronic conference is to allow engineering educators in developing countries to participate in a ‘meeting’ with peers, without having to travel. Several papers have been posted, and discussions are invited. The pilot project is being done by the National Technological University, and a summary of papers and discussions will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) in Copenhagen in September, with Internet broadcast of the session.

A unique opportunity for US and other non-European engineering educators to learn first hand about engineering education in the new Europe will take place this September. A day-and-a-half pre-conference will be held prior to the SEFI Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, on September 10-11, providing exclusive briefings by leading European engineering educators. Then participants registered for the pre-conference will participate fully in the SEFI Annual Meeting itself, from September 12-14. For details on the pre-conference program see, and for on line registration to the combined pre-conference and SEFI conference see

 Positions of possible interest

From the 8 June 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Vice Provost/Graduate Studies, University of Denver, CO

Ø      VPAA, Morgan State University, MD

Ø      President, University of Dayton, OH

From the 15 June 2001 Chronicle:

Ø      Dean of Academic Affairs, DeVry Institute of Technology, CA

From the 22 June 2001 Chronicle:

Ø      Dean, Science and Engineering, San Francisco State University, CA

Ø      Dean, College of Engineering, Valparaiso University, IN




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