18 February 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

Egypt is planning a new university devoted to information technology, according to a note in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Daniel del Castillo. The private, not-for-profit Nile University will be built in a suburb of Cairo. A $30-million facility will be built, with planned opening in 2004. Limited operations in rented space are expected to commence this September, with assistance from universities in Britain, Germany, and the US. Degrees at undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels will be offered in information technology, communications, biotechnology, emerging technologies, and alternative energy sources. Partial financial support is coming from US AID, but the new university expects to be self-financing after the initial phase – charging about $ 4000 per year tuition. It is expected to grow to 10,000 to 15,000 students from Egypt, Africa, and the Arab World. See

Hong Kong’s universities see the Mainland as fertile ground for recruiting students, according to a note by Jiang Xueqin in the Chronicle. Four years after Britain returned the colony to China, Mainland students are being attracted to Hong Kong’s higher education institutions. Only 1% of the students there currently, Mainland students are being recruited actively by the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University. The latter school hopes to become the center for higher education in southern China, with its Mainland student population making up one-third of its student body. Cultural and legal barriers will need to be overcome in such a growth scenario. See

University reforms being sought by Spain’s government are sparking protests, according to a note by Xavier Bosch in the February 1st issue of Science. The government sees its reforms as a cure for cronyism, but the universities see them as an infringement on their autonomy. At the center of the debate is a new law governing hiring practices, which subjects candidates for academic posts to peer review by national panels before they can apply for a job. Under the old system, 90% of professorial posts openings went to internal or local candidates. The law also requires all rectors to step down in six months, to pave the way for a new generation of academic leaders. Universities responded with a massive hiring campaign just before the law took effect in January, using the old system. See 

A new university in Berlin will seek to educate Turks and others in Europe, according to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo. Germany has the largest number of Turks anywhere in Europe, and hopes that the new university in Berlin will foster better social and cultural links between Germans and Turks. The International Turkish European University is currently in the planning phase, and is expected to be operational by 2004. Instruction will be in Turkish, German, and English, and initially will be focused on the arts and humanities. Currently only 3% of Turks in Germany get university educations, compared to 40% of Germans. See

Zimbabwe’s Open University has increased its undergraduate fees by more than triple, according to a note by Henk Rossouw in the Chronicle. The only distance education university in the country, the Open University had been seen as a way to help many disadvantaged people to acquire degrees. Critics say that this increase is a move back toward the days when a university education was a preserve of the elite. The cost of higher education at all institutions in the country has risen as many Western donors, worried that Zimbabwe is heading for civil war, have cancelled financing arrangements. Officials at the Open University have tried to soften the blow by arranging loan programs at commercial banks. See

New Canadian programs are pumping more than a billion dollars into academic research, but a relative handful of universities are getting most of the money. According to an article in the February 1st issue of Science by Wayne Kondro, three new programs have changed the academic landscape: a $600-million Canada Research Chairs program aimed at stemming a brain drain to the US and Europe; the $520-million Canada Foundation for Innovation, to renovate aging buildings and laboratories; and the $353-million Canadian Institutes of Health Research, aimed at biomedical advances. But critics complain that the 10 biggest research universities are getting two-thirds of the funds, leaving the bulk of Canadian universities struggling to keep up with the rising costs of research. A forthcoming government policy paper on innovation promises to provide a forum for this debate. See

Canadian students have been protesting tuition increases at public colleges and universities, according to a note in the Chronicle by Karen Birchard. Thousands of students in dozens of cities took to the streets demanding a freeze on tuition, putting pressure on provincial legislatures. Over the past 10 years, tuition has increased 126.2%, six times as much as the overall inflation rate. Tuition currently averages about US$2150 for liberal arts programs, and the average student debt load is about $15,600. The protests, which were organized by the 425,000 member Canadian Federation of Students, had the support of dozens of organizations including labor unions, faculty associations, and teacher’s organizations. See

South Korea will allow limited numbers of students at two-year colleges to transfer to four-year universities starting next year, according to a note in the Chronicle by Alan Brender. The Education Ministry and the Universities have opposed such transfers in the past, because of a perception that two-year colleges are inferior to universities. The transfer path will remain limited, however, with a 3% cap on transfer students in any class, and transfers allowed only to universities located outside of major urban centers. Motivation for the change appears to be the need to graduate more engineers and other professionals. See

Mexican scientists are in an uproar over a surprise decision by the government to sharply cut research awards, according to an article by Joycelyn Kaiser in the February 8th issue of Science. The Fox government says the cuts are part of a major reshuffling that will result in a larger overall science budget, but critics are skeptical. President Fox has promised to double the budget of the National Council for Science and Technology, but what has happened to date is a series of financial problems – running out of money for graduate scholarships, halting grants for visiting scientists, delayed salary payments to researchers, and a 34% drop in basic research grants and fellowships between 2000 and 2001. Government officials hope to get the flow of funding up in 2002, but researchers are skeptical. See

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has called off its controversial plan to open a branch campus for undergraduates in Qatar, according to a note in the Chronicle by Julianne Basinger. The plan had been to create an undergraduate business degree program in Qatar, but it was called off after the University reached an impasse over financial terms with a foundation backed by the country’s royal family. The plan had drawn criticism on the Chapel Hill campus from people who disliked Qatar’s record on human rights issues, and who felt that the proposed program would cause the university to stray from its mission of serving the state. Qatar has an arrangement with Virginia Commonwealth University to create a college of design in Qatar, and an agreement with Cornell University to begin offering a two-year premedical program. A planned alliance with the University of Virginia to establish a branch campus in Qatar fell through in 1999. See


U.S. developments

A new survey of Americans shows concerns over cutbacks in education, according to a note in the Chronicle by Alex Kellogg. The biennial survey by the American Council on Education, “Attitudes Toward Public Higher Education”, indicates that many worry that cutbacks in spending on public colleges could diminish the quality of higher education in their states. Respondents also were asked to estimate the cost of public higher education to students, and they overestimated it by a factor of three. Benefits cited for higher education included producing a well-trained work force, the ability to be technologically competitive, enhancement of R&D in their state, and the creation of new jobs. See

Leading academic intellectuals support the US war on terrorism, according to an article by Alan Cooperman in the February 12th Washington Post. Sixty high-powered academics who study ethics, religion and public policy at American universities and think tanks have issued an open letter explaining why they believe the war on terrorism is necessary and just. The 10-page letter tries to speak for Americans as a whole, elaborating American values and declaring the nation’s right to defend itself after the September 11th attacks. It sticks with broad moral arguments, and does not specifically mention the military campaign in Afghanistan. It identifies the enemy as “radical Islamicism”. See

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has outlined an anti-terrorism role for colleges, according to a note by Christopher Flores in the Chronicle. He stated that colleges must safeguard sensitive research projects and develop campus-evacuation plans, as part of the national push for domestic security. He also called for colleges to support campus-based volunteer organizations, create emergency reserve medical corps, and offer more classes in subjects that touch on homeland security. Ridge further said that colleges should shift their research efforts to directly apply to homeland security, and heighten scrutiny of international students. See

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush proposed to expand by 50% the number of participants in AmeriCorps – which provides funds for college study in exchange for a year of community service. According to an article by Jeffrey Brainard in the Chronicle, Bush proposed recruiting 200,000 new volunteers to work to “rebuild our communities”. In a speech that was relatively light on issues affecting higher education, he also called for upgrading the training of teachers. The majority of his speech was focused on fighting terrorism and reviving the economy. See

The budget for the next fiscal year submitted to Congress by President Bush is heavily shaped by the war effort, according to an article by David Malakoff and others in the February 8th issue of Science. The proposals for 2003 are not as severe in redirecting research funds as had been anticipated: there are significant increases proposed for spending on bioterrorism, nanotechnology, and space science, and some minor reductions in defense, energy and environment research programs. Overall the $2.1-trillion blueprint calls for an 8% rise in research spending to $112-billion for the fiscal year starting in October 2002. White House Science Advisor John Marburger says that the proposed budget is a good story for most scientists, given the constraints imposed by a slumping economy and increased security demands. See

The National Science Foundation would receive $5.035-billion under the President’s proposed 2003 budget, according to an article in the Chronicle by Ron Southwick. This represents a 5% increase over the 2002 budget, and would allow NSF to award bigger grants to researchers and larger stipends to graduate students. NSF officials have long desired to raise the stipends to help attract more college students to enter graduate level programs in science and engineering. The budget proposal also would move the National Sea Grant College Program, currently under the Department of Commerce, to NSF. See Details of the NSF budget proposal can be found at the web site of the Coalition for National Science Funding, at

In a major article in the Chronicle, Ron Southwick examines the track record of Presidential Science Advisor John Marburger to date. He notes that while the main task Marburger was expected to tackle was providing advice on science spending, he has instead been put in charge of assessing the top research priorities in the fight against terrorism. Some lobbyists and scientists have been concerned that his advice may not be much of a factor, since President Bush has made up his own mind on certain controversial issues such as embryonic stem cell research. The article also includes a comparison of the relative effectiveness of science advisors to other recent presidents. See

“Where is the Office of Technology Assessment when you need it?”, asks Dan McGraw in an article in the February issue of ASEE Prism. The author points out that as congress holds hearings on such complex issues as the threats posed by anthrax and nuclear bombs, the kinds of authoritative facts that used to be provided by OTA are not currently available. Congress abolished that agency in 1995, so it no longer has an objective scientific source for input on some of the country’s most pressing issues, such as weapons of mass destruction, stem cell research, electric deregulation, information technologies, the irradiation of mail, etc. There is a growing movement both within Congress and in the scientific community to resurrect OTA in some form. See

Land Grant Colleges are considering cuts or new fees for extension efforts, according to an article in the Chronicle by Sara Hebel. The actions are precipitated by worsening state economies, and resulting lower support for state universities. Extension programs are particularly vulnerable because they typically are not self supporting – many of the outreach services have long been offered at no charge. Some states have responded by applying for a greater number of grants from federal agencies, while some have started to impose user fees. In some states the actions have raised the ire of rural lawmakers, who warn that such budget changes may have political costs. See

The Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute will be sold by the University to its employees, according to a note by Audrey Williams in the Chronicle. The sale will add $110-million to the IIT endowment, and will allow the Research Institute to run as a for-profit entity. Motivation for the change is to allow the Research Institute to compete better with private companies that can pay employees more and offer benefits like stock options. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of June. See


Distance education, technology

Instructors using distance education taught more classes than classroom counterparts in 1998, according to a note in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale. A U.S. Department of Education nationwide survey covering the fall of 1998 indicates that instructors involved in distance education taught an average of 5 courses that term, compared with an average load of 3.6 courses for those who taught face-to-face only. Faculty members in distance education were generally paid salaries similar to traditional instructors, but were more likely to express satisfaction with their workloads. See

The United States Open University has announced that it will shut down in June, according to an article by Michael Arnone in the Chronicle. A branch of the Open University in Britain, the US version opened in the spring of 2000 with five courses and 90 students. Enrollments have about doubled each semester, but have fallen behind projections. The University suffered due to lack of name recognition among American students, and lack of accreditation. Closing was delayed until the end of the spring semester to allow currently enrolled students to finish their courses. See 

Advanced learning technologies are changing the way we deliver education and training throughout the world, according to an article by John Klus in the IACEE News Bulletin. The author states that educators and researchers must focus not only on the technology, however, but also follow up on the soft skills – how people learn, what motivates them, and how to use technology to truly engage learners. One major trend currently is web enhancement to traditional classroom instruction. Technology trends are focused on the capabilities of digital technologies to build new learning environments that utilize multimedia, virtual reality, and collaborative methods of knowledge management. See

The Army’s huge distance education effort has won many supporters in its first year, according to an article in the Chronicle by Michael Arnone. The project, eArmyU, aims to keep enlisted soldiers in the Army by giving them an education online, essentially free. It is currently offering 90 degree programs from 23 colleges and universities to 12,000 soldiers at three Army bases. The program is expected to double the number of soldiers it handles in 2002, and increase to 80,000 worldwide by 2005. PricewaterhouseCoopers acts as integrator for the program, dealing with the colleges and the technology and distance education companies which operate the portal. See

Colleges and large corporations are collaborating on the creation of online graduate degree programs that meet specific needs of the companies, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. The programs are typically created from existing graduate degrees, except that course content is altered so that the students learn by working on real projects for their companies. Students come away with regular degrees, but learn material that can be immediately beneficial to them and to their employers. Some critics express concern that universities are working too closely with the corporate world, but educators involved say the programs are just as rigorous as their other degree programs. See

The for-profit online learning provider run by Columbia University has added corporate training courses to its academic and cultural offerings in a bid to market itself to corporate achievers and job hunters, according to an article by Michael Arnone in the Chronicle. The move is the latest change in direction that Fathom has made in search of customers and investors, in the competitive distance education market. Fathom has joined forces with four for-profit education companies to offer mostly noncredit courses on business-related subjects, making a 20% increase in the number of courses it offers. Fathom’s original financial setup, where it was to get a percentage from sales or distance-education courses and books, failed to bring in expected profits. See


Students, faculty, education

Professors are scrapping conventional textbooks in favor of custom-designed digital materials that are more relevant and less expensive, according to an article by Warren Cohen in the February issue of ASEE Prism. Customized assemblies of class notes, lab resources, and other materials are being posted on the web or on a CD-ROM by professors who cannot find the right coverage in printed textbooks. Putting such a self-designed textbook together can be a lot of work, however – finding relevant materials, assembling them into a coherent package, and dealing with copyright issues. Textbook publishers are also moving in this direction, allowing faculty members to select portions of several books to be assembled in an electronic version for direct delivery to students. Some publishers will also incorporate a professor’s own materials in such an assembly. Multimedia presentations can also be incorporated. See

Professional school enrollments are booming as students choose graduate education rather than enter a poor current job market, according to an article by Katherine Magnan in the Chronicle. They hope that an additional professional degree will make them more marketable, and that they will bridge over the current economic downturn. Among fields seeing an upsurge in enrollments are law, business, nursing, pharmacy, and engineering. Medicine is absent from this list, having lost some of its luster in the age of managed care. In engineering, for example, applications for graduate programs at Michigan State are up 20%, and those at Cal Tech are up 31%. See

Engineering accreditors are struggling to set standards for online lab sessions, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. At issue is how to evaluate engineering programs that let students complete laboratory work over the Internet. Some courses already rely on online labs, but there are no official guidelines to help instructors establish or evaluate such labs. Engineering officials are looking to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology for guidance. ABET is in the early stages of developing a set of guidelines – first establishing objectives for traditional labs, then applying those objectives to online labs to make sure that the same standards are met. The Sloan Foundation is supporting the ABET work, as part of its Asynchronous Learning Network program. See

For the first time in the history of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards a higher education institution has been selected for an award, according to an article in the February issue of Engineering Times. The University of Wisconsin – Stout, an institution often recognized for innovative technical programs and industry partnerships, was honored in the annual round of Baldrige awards. Considered noteworthy, employer ratings of graduate preparedness show superior and consistent performance relative to a best-in-class comparison. See 

A new report calls for changes in high school accelerated study programs in math and science, according to an article by Alex Kellogg in the Chronicle. The report, published by the National Research Council, states that high school courses that let students pursue advanced study in mathematics and science should be more in depth, and should also be made more widely available to poor and minority students. The report argues that many of the advanced study courses currently in use try to cover too much material and often emphasize rote memorization rather than a deeper grasp of the underlying concepts. Noting that advanced study at the high school level is virtually mandatory for students hoping to attend a top college or university, the report argues that such courses should be made more widely available to low-income and minority students. See

Freshmen pay dearly both mentally and physically as they adjust to college life, according to a survey reported in the Chronicle by Thomas Bartlett. A new assessment tool surveys students in the spring, and compares the results with those gathered at college orientation. The comparison yields insights into how the first year affects students – and most of the news is not good. For example, the percentage rating their mental health as ‘above average’ dropped from 52.4% to 44.9%, and those similarly rating their physical health dropped from 51.4% to 41.3%. There were increases in the numbers of students who reported feeling depressed at some point during the past year, an in the number who felt overwhelmed by all that they had to do. The survey also showed a big dip in those who attended religious services, from 84.7% to 59.6%. See

The newest aspect of Engineers Week is the “ZOOM into Engineering” program, according to an article in the February issue of Engineering Times. Inspired by the PBS television show Zoom, the new program promises to share the excitement of engineering with younger audiences than ever before. It aims at teaching engineering concepts to children, through involvement with engineer volunteers who have been trained to utilize a resource kit full of projects. See for the article, and for more information on the program.

A new study indicates that online plagiarism by students is not nearly as widespread as has frequently been suggested, according to an article in the Chronicle by Alex Kellogg. Two professors at Rochester Institute of Technology asked students how much plagiarism they had engaged in. While 16.5% reported having ‘sometimes’ cut and pasted text into a paper without a citation, only 8% reported having done so ‘often’ or ‘very frequently’. These numbers contrast with 50.4% of the students who thought that their peers engaged in such plagiarism. The study also found that the amount of online plagiarism students reported engaging in is comparable to the amount of conventional plagiarism – from books and other printed sources – that has been reported for years. See

The cover story in the February 18th issue of Business Week is about President Larry Summers – pushing bold changes, and facing heavy resistance. As the new president of the nation’s leading University, the former Treasury Secretary plans nothing less than a full overhaul. He wants to stiffen grading, transform tenure reviews, persuade professors to spend more time with undergraduates, and nearly double the size of Harvard’s campus. But given the virtual autonomy of the university’s 12 schools and colleges, he will need to persuade a lot of ego-driven people to join in the quest. See

The February issue of IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article by Glenn Zorpette on the November 2001 World Solar Challenge. The race, held every two years, is the equivalent of the America’s Cup for engineering students – a grand international contest that sends state-of-the-art solar powered electric cars 3000 kilometers across the entire Australian continent. The author spins an interesting story of several of the competing teams, complete with photos, following stellar performers from Delft in the Netherlands, Melbourne in Australia, and the University of Michigan in the US through the grueling race. See


Upcoming meetings

The ASEE/SEFI/TUB colloquium originally scheduled for last September has been rescheduled for 1-4 October 2002 in Berlin. Topics are “Educating Engineering Students in Entrepreneurship”, “National Accreditation/Global Practice”, and “Technology in Learning Systems”. For information on registration, hotels, speakers, call for papers, and the complete program, see

The ‘European Standing Observatory for the Engineering Profession and Education’ will hold a one-day International Workshop on Accreditation in Paris on 12 March 2002. The purposes of ESOEPE are to facilitate the free exchange of information and provide an effective communication channel for those bodies and individuals throughout Europe concerned with educational and professional standards in engineering. See


Positions of possible interest

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      University of Alabama at Birmingham, Chair, Mechanical Engineering

Ø      Northern Arizona University, Chair, Computer Science and Engineering

Ø      San Jose State University, Dean, College of Engineering

Ø      UCLA, Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science

Ø      University of Qatar, Dean, College of Engineering

Ø      Texas A&M University at Kingsville, Dean, College of Engineering

Ø      University of Texas – Pan American, Dean, College of Science and Engineering

Ø      Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Chancellor

Ø      Montana Tech, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research

Ø      Texas A&M University at College Station, Vice Chancellor, College of Engineering and Director of Engineering Experiment Station

Ø      Texas tech University, Chancellor

Ø      University of Alabama at Birmingham, President

Ø      University of Northern Colorado, President

Ø      SUNY College at New Palz, President

Ø      Kent State University, President

Ø      Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, President

Ø      Northern Arizona University, Provost

Ø      University of Toronto, Vice President and Provost

Ø      Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Ø      University of Minnesota, Executive Vice President and Provost

Ø      East Carolina University, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Ø      University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


From the February issue of ASEE Prism:

Ø      North Dakota State University, Chair, Mechanical Engineering

Ø      Tennessee Technological University, Chairperson, Chemical Engineering

Ø      Youngstown State University, Dean, College of Engineering and Technology

Ø      Northern Illinois University, Chair, Industrial Engineering

Ø      Northern Arizona University, Chair, Computer Science and Engineering



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