18 December 2003

Copyright © 2003 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E., with Bethany S. Oberst, Ph.D.


1 - International developments

2 - US developments

3 - Distance education, technology

4 - Students, faculty, education

5 – Employment

6 – Meeting


1 - International developments

Author chronicles changes in higher education in China Academe recently published a major article, “Chinese Higher Education Enters a New Era,” by Xin-Ran Duan.  The author gives a summary of major trends in higher education since the founding of the first Western-style institutions in the late 19th century, with their emphasis on comprehensive programming. That was followed by the development of single-disciplinary institutions based on the Soviet model preferred by the People’s Republic of China . Under that model, for example, sub-disciplines such as machine tools, casting and forging became specialist options for students in mechanical engineering.  Since the late 1990s, however, China has moved to consolidate and merge many of those focused institutions to form more comprehensive universities, designated some to become world-class institutions, opened doors to private higher education, begun to charge tuition, and eliminated the tradition of guaranteeing jobs to graduates.   (See

Presence of Muslin students in France raises concerns – Burton Bollag has written a lengthy article for the Chronicle of Higher Education on Muslim students in France . In the article he reports on incidents of overt conflict on French campuses, the presence of anti-Semitism and the increased polarization of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as issues such as how French universities respond to student requests for information tables and accommodation in exam schedules for Muslim holidays.  Bollag compares French “secularism” with the US concept of separation of church and state, and also points out similarities between the US legacy of slavery and the residue left on French-Muslin relations by the brutal Algerian war.  There are, for example, only twenty mosques in France , despite the fact that 7% of the French population (4.2 million) is Muslim.  Most recently, there has been a move to ban the wearing of all religious and political symbols in French schools (but not French universities), which has attracted even some very liberal supporters.  (See

The Rise of India The cover story in the December 8th Business Week, by Manjeet Kripalani and Pete Engardio, describes how economic growth is developing in India – based on the country’s brainpower. India is making major impact currently in several areas that are reshaping corporate America : software, IT consulting, call centers, and chip design. Corporate America is beating a path to India due to a growing pool of engineering and technology graduates, to a swelling workforce overall, and to its economic growth momentum fed by booming exports of IT-related services. Next major developing areas are expected to be financial analysis, industrial engineering, analytics, and drug research. Some of the largest US players in India currently are GE, IBM, Oracle, EDS, Texas Instruments, Intel, and J.P.Morgan. One major attractive feature is salaries – a top electrical engineering graduate from one of the six Indian Institutes of Technology starts at about $10,000 a year. (See

Students and faculty protest cuts in German higher education – This fall has seen many protests in Germany and elsewhere in Europe over cuts in funding to higher education. Demonstrators in Germany have occupied public buildings, filed lawsuits, even organized a public teach-in on physics in Potsdamer Platz in the middle of Berlin to express outrage over budget cuts, program closure, the introduction of tuition, and reductions of teaching staff, reports Aisha Labi in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  There is at least one bright spot, according to some: the imposition of tuition may cut down on the number of “professional students” who never leave the university. (See

Iraqi science minister starts from scratch – A civil engineer who fled Iraq in 1999 has returned to head a new entity focused on rebuilding the country’s shattered infrastructure, according to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the November 21st Science. Rashad Omar Mandan recently visited the US in search of support for more than 3500 engineers and scientists who come mainly from state-run organizations that helped design and manufacture Iraq ’s weapons of mass destruction. His new agency is an attempt by the Coalition Provisional Authority to turn swords into plowshares – but it is barely off the ground, and it is starved for cash. Omar’s employees receive a nominal salary to keep them on the hook until the ministry receives the $15-million he estimates is needed to get up and running. The US State Department plans to invest about that amount to keep the former scientists from selling their knowledge on the open market, through a Science, Technology, and Engineering Mentorship Initiative for Iraq (STEM-II). (See

Tuition in Australian universities set to increase substantially – Australian universities were recently “revolutionized” by passage of a new financing system that will place increased burden on students to pay for their education, while opening the doors to increased scholarships and loans for needy students.  A union leader estimated that by 2005 most students will be paying $7400 in annual tuition.  A controversial part of the legislation which would have limited union power was omitted from the final version.  David Cohen wrote this report for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Terrorist “university” announced – A report has circulated that there is an effort to establish a terrorist organization called “Al-Qa’ida University for Jihad Sciences” on the Internet to recruit students.  Specialties include “electronic Jihad,” and “media Jihad,” and students can learn about explosive devices and booby-trapping cars. (See

India cancels MBA admissions test India recently cancelled the national admission test for its elite Institutes of Management when it was discovered that copies of the exam were being sold for as much as $9000 each.  The crackdown came as students were sitting for the exam, and caused great confusion and concern. The test is administered to tens of thousands of applicants, with only a few hundred winning coveted places at the Institutes.  Government authorities indicated that the same group selling the MBA exams was also involved with selling answers to medical school entrance examinations.  Martha Ann Overland reported for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Sustainability visions sought – Attaining sustainability in the environment will require concerted interactive efforts among disciplines, according to an article in the December 12th Science by A.J. McMichael et al. An integrated approach to sustainable development is needed to adequately address such interrelated goals as ensuring environmental sustainability, reducing fertility and poverty, improving gains in equity, improving material conditions, and enhancing population health. Early efforts in sustainability have focused on increased economic performance, greater energy efficiency, better urban design, improved transport systems, better conservation of recreational amenities, and so on. But such changes in technologies, behaviors, amenities and equity are only the means to attaining desired human experiential outcomes, including autonomy, opportunity, security, and health. The authors state that interdisciplinary centers at universities, and interdisciplinary societies, research institutes, and research networks are needed to achieve sufficient intensive collaboration on a large enough canvas to meet the needs of sustainable development. (See

Vandalism reported on British crop research – Over the past four years vandals have repeatedly attacked British research projects dealing with genetically-modified crops, according to the non-profit group, Sense About Science. Kate Galbraith, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, says that twenty-eight instances of vandalism have been reported from ten research institutes, and the pace may pick up, given the increased media coverage.  (See

Academic oasis in Arabian desert – The ruler of the oil-rich Emirate of Sharjah has earned a reputation as one of the Gulf’s most enlightened figures, according to an article in the December 5th Science by Richard Stone. In his 31 years of rule, Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi has established two universities, six museums, and a science foundation. As a result, UNESCO has designated Sharjah, home of half a million people, as the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World.” The university of Sharjah , with 4500 students, separates men and women in the Islamic tradition. The second university, AUS, is co-ed and has 3500 students. The universities have the latest scientific equipment and well stocked libraries, and they have attracted Western-trained scientific faculty. Shaikh Sultan also aspires to develop scientific cooperation across the Gulf. (See


2 - US developments

Scientists make pitch for increased research funding – In an attempt to influence the White House budget, due to be announced in February, 2004, four Nobel laureates met with US Vice President Richard Cheney, asking that funding for scientific research be increased.  While no promises were made, or expected, the scientists, whose meeting was arranged by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, reported that they were listened to seriously. This report came from Jeffrey Brainard, reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Bush may propose dramatic NASA plan - Since President John Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon, US presidents have sought similar bold visions to win support for human space flight. According to an article in the December 12th Science by Andrew Lawler, current President George W. Bush is considering proposing a dramatic new direction, in the wake of February’s space shuttle disaster. Under consideration are human Mars missions, a return to the Moon, and a base between Earth and the Moon for assembly of planetary spacecraft or large telescopes. Congressional observers warn that any new mission will have to fit into an agency budget already strained by repairs to the space shuttle. (See

Gender-discrimination suit settled at Lawrence Livermore Lab – The University of California’s Board of Regents settled a class action suit against Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by agreeing to pay $9.7 million, make changes in its personnel ranking system, and promising to address other issues brought by women employees.  Jeffrey Selingo, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, reported that the lawsuit was originally filed in 1998 and represented 3200 women employees at the lab.  (See

University invention income reported for 2002 – The Association of University Technology Managers published its 2002 report, and Goldie Blumenstyk covered it for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The report ( indicates that US universities earned nearly one billion dollars from academic inventions last year, according to data received from 94 of the 100 institutions which are most heavily invested in research.  Two thirds of that income went to thirteen institutions, and fifteen percent of the total ($155.6 million) went to Columbia University alone, with the University of California system earning the second highest amount ($82 million).  A comparison with previous years’ reports is difficult because of differences in reporting.  Profitable areas of research included drugs and software.  (See

MIT President stepping down – Charles Vest has announced that he will be leaving his position as President of MIT, according to an article by Andrew Lawler in the December 12th Science. The 62 year-old mechanical engineer has served 12 years in one of the top positions in academia. In that position he has played a significant role in national debates ranging from federal support for research to the tensions between science and security. He made a lasting contribution to the status of women in academia by releasing a 1999 report that was highly critical of MIT’s dealings with its women faculty members. (See  

University representatives and Department of Energy confer on national lab contracts – Several problems have been reported in the management of the US Department of Energy’s 18 government-owned labs, including Los Alamos , Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore.  The problems include the burdensome cost for non-profit institutions such as universities to bid for management contracts, an apparently oppressive system of performance reviews, and the small incentives the government provides for undertaking to run these labs.  The three reports which described the problems can be accessed at This article was written for the Chronicle of Higher Education by Anne Marie Borrego. (See


3 - Distance education, technology

UN conference debates control of Internet – At the first round of the UN World Summit on the Information Society serious divisions appeared on the way the governments of rich and poor countries think about the Internet, according to an article in the December 11th Economist. One major issue was the attempt to address the ‘digital divide’, the inequality of access to computers and the Internet in developing countries compared with the rich world. Some countries, notably in Africa , called for creation of a special fund by Western countries and technology firms to help subsidize hardware and software for poor countries. The idea got a frosty reception, with a possible compromise of a voluntary fund. A second major issue was how to run the Internet’s addressing and numbering system. Current control is by a US dominated body, and some countries believe that co-ordination of the Internet’s core infrastructure should be under an international treaty organization. With no clear agreements, the Summit ’s declaration called for the establishment of a UN working group to develop policies on the Internet in time for the Summit ’s second round in Tunisia in 2005. (See 

US Congress passes antispam bill – Both houses of Congress have passed a bill to thwart junk commercial e-mail, and have sent it to President Bush for his signature. According to an article in the December 9th New York Times by Jennifer Lee, the bill represents a compromise that takes aim at the most egregious tactics used by junk e-mailers, but allows a relatively broad set of guidelines for companies that simply want to market their products. Consumer advocacy groups say that it is doubtful that consumers will see a drop in advertisements. Among controversial aspects of the bill is the overriding of stronger state laws, including one in California that would have required prior consumer consent for mailings. (See

Net-phone use expands – Time-Warner’s cable division has announced plans to roll out a new telephone service using Internet technology, according to an article by Peter Grant and Shawn Young in the December 9th Wall Street Journal. The move is the latest boost for voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP), which holds potential for shaking up the telecom industry by slashing costs and offering new features that traditional phone carriers cannot offer. VOIP turns voice into digitized data then transmits it over the Internet, less expensively that traditional phone technology. It also makes possible a wide range of features, including video phones and listening to voice mail from the Internet. (See

Access tax for Internet? An ideological war is brewing in the US over Internet taxation, according to an article by Lee Gomes in the December 8th Wall Street Journal. In 1998, US lawmakers and President Clinton agreed to put a moratorium on any state or local taxes on Internet access for five years. The temporary tax ban was justified by saying that it was needed to nurture the emerging Net. Now the Republican dominated Congress is considering a permanent ban, including all forms of Internet access including cable and DSL. The states are angry, particularly as voice service migrates from currently taxed phone access to net-phone access. The separate issue of whether Internet companies should be forced to collect the state sales taxes that their customers are supposed to pay for online purchases also is being hotly debated. (See

Measuring the data mountain – Around five exabytes (5 billion gigabytes) of information was created in 2002, up from about two exabytes in 1999, according to a survey reported in the December 4th Economist. This is the equivalent of half a million libraries the size of the US Library of Congress, or about 800 megabytes per person per year. Almost all new information (92%) is stored on magnetic media, primarily hard disks. The remaining 8% is in the form of still and moving film images, and paper-based information and optical media (CDs and DVDs). Overall, the amount of information is growing by 30% per year, with the US the single largest producer. (See

Trash-talking trash cans – Reports from Berlin reveal (warn?) that the trash can a pedestrian “feeds” may be so grateful that it thanks the donor, in three languages. 
Officials will install several of these mouthy, multi-lingual, high-tech items around the city next spring, hoping to motivate more people to keep their homeland clean. (See


4 - Students, faculty, education

US women earn more doctorates than US men in 2002 – While the total number of doctoral degrees awarded in the US dropped slightly in 2002, the number of US women receiving those degrees exceeded for the first time the number of US men.  If international students are included in the statistics, women earned 45 percent of all doctorates in 2002.  Since 1997, reports Scott Smallwood in the Chronicle of Higher Education, doctorates in engineering have declined 17 percent.  Of doctorates in engineering awarded in 2002, 18 percent went to women, including international women, and 39 percent went to US citizens, including women and men.  The full statistical report is available at  (See

New rankings for US graduate education – The National Research Council, working arm of the National Academies, hopes to launch a user-friendly version of its assessment of US doctoral research programs next summer. As reported by Jeffrey Mervis in the December 12th Science, two previous reports in 1982 and 1995 have ranked departments based on their reputations – information useful to the institutions. But NRC plans that its third edition will also help give prospective students the information they need to select a program that is right for them. The lack of such a guide has left the door open for commercial ventures, such as the annual ranking of “best” graduate schools by U.S. News and World Report. The new assessment will cover more than 4000 programs across 57 fields at some 350 institutions. NRC hopes to use objective measures such as productivity, citation rates, levels of funding, etc., rather than just relying on ‘reputation’. (See

Textbook costs – A recent study found that the average New York college student freshman spends more than $900 a year on textbooks, according to an op-ed column by Erwin Cohen in the December 2nd New York Times. For a student taking about eight courses per year, that averages more than $100 per course for books. The writer of this op-ed article suggests that the faculty who specify textbooks should be more cost conscious. And that publishers should resist issuing new editions routinely, allowing solid textbooks a longer life in the used book market. (See  

Cash-cow universities – For-profit universities are growing fast and making money, according to an article by William Symonds in the November 17th Business Week. The University of Phoenix , for example, has 96,000 students scattered among 134 locations across 28 states. Instead of using tenured faculty, over 95% of the instructors are working professionals who teach only part time. Students at Phoenix are typically working adults in their 20s and 30s looking to get ahead by finishing a bachelor’s degree or earning an advanced degree. It is in the business to make money, and is doing that in spades. Its parent company, Apollo Group Inc., saw earnings surge 53% in the year ended August 31st, to $247-million on a revenue base of $1.3-billion. Phoenix is only the most prominent of a new generation of for-profit colleges that are emerging as a dynamic new force in higher education. As traditional universities struggle with soaring costs and plunging taxpayer subsidies, the 10 largest publicly traded for-profits have already grabbed more than a half-million students. They are filling a need by catering to the voracious appetite for college level skills among groups neglected by conventional higher-ed institutions. (See 

Close the doors: it’s holiday time! – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( USA )
plans to shut many of its doors during the holiday break this month, as part of efforts to compensate for a budget shortfall.  Other initiatives already announced include the possible loss of several hundred jobs.  Vital services will be maintained during the December 25 – January 4 furlough. (See

Math problems: any solutions? – Research into the difficulty some people have in learning math has still not produced consensus about nature vs. nurture, or the multiple factors that come into play as the human mind attempts to grasp math, or even whether math learning is unique, or somehow similar to learning foreign languages.  Washington Post staff writer Valerie Strauss investigated and summarized the field in an article dated December 2, 2003 .  (See


5 – Employment

My job lies over the ocean – Globalization is helping to strengthen economies abroad by creating high-tech jobs at wages well below American levels, and US engineers are beginning to feel the effects. Writing in the December 2003 issue of ASEE Prism, Dan McGraw explores several dimensions of the phenomenon. He provides a scope of the issue by noting that a recent survey of large financial services firms indicates that they expect to move 2-million jobs and $356-billion in operations to low-wage developing countries within the next five years. The author also explores implications for engineering education, including an increase in public/private partnerships, programs to retrain older workers, and more focus on international marketing and economics. There is concern that the best and brightest students in the US will shun engineering as more technical jobs move overseas. (See

Where your job is going – In a major article in the November 24th Fortune, Justin Fox describes a visit to Bangalore, India – where tech is hot, work is plentiful, and the salaries are a lot lower than in the US. Some 109,500 tech workers there currently focus on chip design, software, bio-informatics, call centers, IT consulting and tax processing. Companies there include Intel, IBM, SAP, SAS, Dell, Cisco, TI, Motorola, HP, Oracle, Yahoo, AOL, E&Y, Accenture, Wipro, Infosys, and Msource. Outsourced jobs are also popping up in other major cities in India : Bombay (62,050), Delhi (73,000), Madras (51,000), etc. The primary attraction of the Indian knowledge workers is that they are paid 10% to 20% of what Americans would expect for similar work – and in many cases they do it better. (See

IBM exporting highly paid jobs to India and China – In one of the largest moves to ‘offshore’ highly paid US software jobs, IBM has told its managers to plan on moving the work of as many as 4730 programmers to India, China and elsewhere abroad. The unannounced plan, reported by William Bulkely in the December 15th Wall Street Journal, would replace thousands of current employees in Connecticut, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado and elsewhere in the US. The plan, still under development, will take place over a number of months in stages. IBM has already hired 500 engineers in India to start taking on some of the work that will be moved. IBM declined to comment on the plan, and stated that most of its growth in developing countries will result from winning new contracts, and that US hiring next year will equal or exceed 2003 levels. (See

Winners and losers as jobs move overseas – Advances in communications technology have enabled white-collar professional jobs to be shipped from the US and Europe to countries such as China and India, according to an article in the December 7th New York Times by Erika Kinetz. US employment has fallen by 2.8 million jobs since early 2001, but has bounced back by 240,000 jobs since August 2003. That gain, less than expected, has not resolved whether the nation is suffering cyclical losses or permanent job destruction. The article reports on a roundtable discussion of experts held last month in New York which addressed several related questions: How big an issue is job migration? Who wins in offshoring and who loses? Does government need to intervene? What happens when China ceases to be an endless pit of poverty? (See

Choking off upward mobility – Writing in the December 1st Business Week, Aaron Bernstein describes concerns about the American dream: dead-end jobs and the high costs of college could be choking off upward mobility. Much of corporate America has embraced strategies to control labor costs, such as hiring temps and part-timers, fighting unions, dismantling internal career ladders, and outsourcing to lower paying contractors at home and abroad. While these tactics have held down consumer prices, they are costly in other ways. More than a quarter of the US labor force, about 34-million workers, is trapped in low-wage, often dead-end jobs. And many middle-income and high-skilled workers face fewer opportunities as companies shift work to subcontractors and temp agencies and move white-collar jobs to China and India . The result has been an erosion of one of America ’s most cherished values: giving its people the ability to move up the economic ladder over their lifetimes. (See

Learning lessons about overseas support – Companies with customer support operations overseas are having to tread a fine line with their clients, according to an article by Laurie Flynn in the December 8th Wall Street Journal. Dell, for example, has received sufficient complaints from some of its most coveted business customers that it has decided to direct some customer service calls to help desks in the USD rather than to its call center in Bangalore , India . Customers complained that Indian technical support workers relied too heavily on scripted answers and were unable to handle more complex computer problems. Analysts say that along with skill considerations, some companies may be worried about criticism from labor groups and some customers who object to sending jobs overseas. Several state governments are also considering restricting workers hired under state contracts to be American citizens or documented workers. (See

Bangalore , Texas ? – In a reverse of the current trend for US firms to outsource work to countries like India , some Indian high-tech firms are opening operations in the US . According to an article in the November 20th Economist, two Indian conglomerates – the Godrej Group and the Essar Group – are buying a struggling American call-center firm. Wipro, an Indian IT services firm, has announced the purchase of two small American consulting firms. Scandent, another Indian IT group, has bought a minority stake in an American operation that administers benefits plans. And other Indian firms, flush with cash, are seeking similar deals. These moves are seen as efforts by Indian firms to build closer relationships with US customers. (See  


6 – Meeting

SEFI 2004 in Valencia , Spain The European Society for Engineering Education has issued a call for paper proposals for its 8-10 September 2004 annual meeting. The deadline for submitting outlines is 9 January 2004 . The conference website is, and the e-mail address for proposals is


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