22 September 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

Colleges outside the United States that are identified as American have tightened security in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Burton Bollag. American embassies are telling such colleges that there does not appear to be any increase in threats of terrorist attacks abroad, but many institutions are trying to keep a low profile to avoid being potential targets of any anti-American acts. Similarly, various efforts are being made to reassure the parents of young Americans studying abroad, indicating that there appears to be no particular danger to them at the moment. See

Kabul University in Afghanistan is preparing for even more isolation, according to an article by Daniel del Castillo in the Chronicle. After decades of invasion, war, neglect, and most recently the calamitous reign of the Taliban militia, the school has been struggling to survive. Now with the threat of war hanging over the country, the many faculty and students at this university who long for contact with the outside world are likely to become even more isolated. The only department that seems to be functioning currently is the medical school, recently rebuilt and supported by Loma Linda University in California. The Taliban regime has expelled most women from the university, and limits instruction based on its conservative religious beliefs. See

New reports are adding to a picture of corruption in Chinese college admissions, according to a report in the Chronicle by Jiang Xueqin. New accusations of corruption are feeding a furor over how bribery and political influence are tainting the process of selecting Chinese students to be allowed to go on to higher education. Entrance into a university is seen as the only route to a good future in China, creating an obsession over admission processes such as the national college entrance examination. The latest accusations of corruption have come from an investigative underground reporter who observed a massive bribery scheme where parents paid to have high school teachers responsible for assigning students to colleges get their children on the right lists. See

The United Kingdom’s largest biomedical charity has proposed guidelines and procedures for handling allegations of scientific misconduct, according to an article in the 24 August 2001 issue of Science by Robert Koenig. The draft rules from the Wellcome Trust go beyond U.S. government standards in the definition of misconduct, and offer relatively little protection for whistleblowers. Language similar to the U.S. standards covers plagiarism, fabrication and falsification of data, but the Wellcome Trust language goes on to introduce deviation from accepted practice as misconduct. See

The government of Oman has announced that the first private university in the country will open later this month, according to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo. Sohar University, in Oman’s second largest city, will offer undergraduate degrees in engineering, business, management, and information technology. The for-profit school has established ties with the University of Queensland in Australia, and will base its courses on that institution’s curriculum. Oman has one public university – Sultan Qaboos University – and six government run colleges. See

Sixty-four Canadian universities have banded together to establish nationwide site licenses for online scholarly journals, according to a note by Janice Paskey in the Chronicle. The $ 30-million National Licensing Project will provide 650 journals and numerous citation indexes to its members. The three-year licensing agreement is expected to create a more level playing field between big and small universities. Major funding is being provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, with the remainder coming from the Universities involved and their Provincial governments. See

Israel’s cabinet has adopted legislation to allow all students who earn a high school diploma admission to the country’s public universities without having to take a standardized test, according to a note in the Chronicle by Haim Walzman. The action came in response to the urging of a cabinet minister who argued that the currently used psychometric exam is culturally biased and discriminates against young people from underprivileged areas. The minister of education opposed the move, and university administrators have long expressed concern that open admissions would reduce their institutions from high quality centers of research into mediocre institutions engaging in remedial education. The Knesset must approve the legislation before it takes effect. See

Kuwait’s deserts are still drenched in crude oil ten years after the Gulf War, according to an article by Ben Shouse in the 24 August 2001 issue of Science. The country is about to tackle the ecological calamity, caused by oil spilled by Iraqi invaders as they beat a hasty retreat, with a belated $ 1-billion effort. It is one of the largest environmental remediation projects ever attempted, involving oil spills 20 times as large as that of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989, covering one-third of the land area of Kuwait. Major funding will come from reparations granted by the United Nations Compensation Committee from UN-controlled Iraqi oil sales. Removal of the oil from soil is a difficult process – adhesion and weathering make crude oil stubborn, and desert dryness deters natural degradation. In one pilot project conducted in Kuwait, the soil is excavated and washed with kerosene, piled up, then pumped with air and water to nourish oil-eating microbes. See

Sweden plans to create a virtual university by compiling online courses offered by many state universities, according to a note by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle. The Net University is expected to open next fall, initially with 2,350 places for degree seeking students. Like conventional education at state institutions, enrollment in the Net University will be free. The project is aimed at making the universities open to groups of students who traditionally have had limited access to higher education, such as people who live in isolated areas in Sweden’s artic north and people who want to study without giving up their jobs. See  

Several universities in southern Africa and the University of Virginia in the U.S. have teamed up to create a distance-learning program in environmental science, according to an article by Michael Arnone in the Chronicle. The program, which will start with basic courses and later expand to graduate level offerings, will help to improve science education in Africa. It is an experiment using the Internet to give Virginia students access to African experts and to enable African students to work with American instructors, without the costs and difficulties of international travel. It is hoped that such programs will allow African students to get quality university educations in their own countries, thus avoiding the extended foreign study periods that often result in a permanent ‘brain drain’. See

Pakistan’s Ministry of Science and Technology has announced plans to establish a virtual university, according to a note by Daniel del Castillo in the Chronicle. The driving force for its establishment is a shortage of manpower for the IT sector in the country. The Virtual University will initially offer undergraduate degrees in computer science and other IT fields, and plans to begin master’s programs in the same fields within three years. See

US developments

Many U.S. colleges cancelled classes after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, according to a report in the Chronicle by Dana Mulhauser. Colleges closed, in the words of one president, “out of respect and grief for the magnitude of this loss”. A number of institutions set up emergency centers for students – such as that at the State University of New York at Buffalo, which has 4,000 students from the New York metropolitan area. Other colleges nationwide reported setting up special programs to help students and to discuss the attacks. See

After a day of closings, most U.S. colleges resumed classes on Wednesday, September 13th, according to a note in the Chronicle by Dana Mulhauser. The colleges of lower Manhattan, however, were just beginning to assess the damage and loss from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. As classes resumed across the country, class time was largely devoted to discussing the terrorist attacks; but many professors hoped to return to regular subject matter as quickly as possible. Some universities warned instructors to be sensitive to the feelings of students of Middle Eastern descent. See

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida has received harassing phone calls in the wake of the terrorist hijacking of jets, according to an article by Julianne Basinger in the Chronicle. In the wake of news reports that some of the hijackers might have received flight training at the campus, callers have accused the school of ‘training terrorists’ and have asked it to expel its Middle Eastern students. Embry-Riddle trains more than a quarter of the commercial airplane pilots in the United States. Some 12 percent of its 4,800 students come from 108 foreign countries. Public attention was focused on Embry-Riddle after it was reported that the FBI had subpoenaed student records from the university. See

The collapse of the two World Trade Center towers was probably due to the fires that were spread by spilled jet fuel, according to an article in the September 12th New York Times by James Glanz. Though the buildings contained insulation and sprinkler systems designed to prevent normal fire damage, the fires that raged after the plane impacts were greater than could have been anticipated or designed against. Experts believe that any building, regardless of its design and construction, could never withstand an attack such as the one that occurred on September 11th. See

At least four racially motivated assaults on Middle Eastern and Asian college students have been reported in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, according to an article in the Chronicle by Ron Southwick. Some foreign students are leaving the country, either out of concern for their safety or at the behest of worried families. Federal officials urged university administrators to work actively to protect Muslim students and those of Middle Eastern descent. Officials at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington said that about 20 college students in the US have asked for assistance in returning home, and that the embassy will provide free airfare for such students. See

Students at more than 140 colleges have rallied for peace, urging the U.S. to combat terrorism without killing civilians, according to an article by Dana Mulhauser in the Chronicle. Rallies took the form of speeches, town meetings, and letter writing campaigns to Congress. The largest rallies were in California and in the Northeast. One speaker said: “We’re searching for justice, and we want action. We just don’t want violent action”. A spokesman for the College Republican National Committee said, “Most college students understand that military interventions are not revenge. They are about protecting ourselves.” See

The Department of Education has advised colleges that they may provide data on specific students to the FBI without running afoul of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to an article in the Chronicle by Andrea Foster. That act bars colleges from releasing student’s personal information without their written permission. But the law allows for several exceptions, including a “health and safety emergency”. The Department of Education is using that exception in telling colleges that they may release student information as requested by the FBI. Normally law enforcement officials would need to have a subpoena to gain access to student data. See

Congress needs a mechanism for systematic analysis by experts on complex issues in science and technology, according to an article in the 14 September 2001 issue of science by Morgan, Houghton, and Gibbons. For questions such as ‘what is the best way to evolve a reliable and effective air-traffic control system’, Congress and its committees need more than bare facts and brief interactions with technical experts. They need balanced analysis and synthesis that sorts, integrates, and analyzes information to frame the issues and extract knowledge and insight. Since Congress unwisely closed its Office of Technology Assessment in 1995, it has not had such comprehensive analysis capabilities – although some inputs have been available from the National Academy of Sciences and from Congressional Science and Technology Fellows supported by the major science and engineering societies. The authors argue that major efforts from scientists, engineers, their societies, the business community, and individual citizens will be needed to stimulate Congress to rebuild an appropriate mechanism for balanced nonpartisan advice and assistance for today’s high tech world. See

A new report on federal research support for science and technology concludes that money for research in certain physical science and engineering fields is significantly down, according to a note by Andrea Foster in the Chronicle. The fields of physics, geological sciences, and chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering received 20% less federal research money in 1999 than in 1993, as reported in a study by the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy. Several fields received increased support over that period, including aeronautical research, biological and medical sciences, computer sciences, and oceanography. The report also found that federal money for research in the aggregate started to increase in 1998 after five years of stagnation. See

Senators Lieberman (D-CT), Bond (R-MO), and Frist (R-TN) are introducing a “Tech Talent” bill aimed at increasing the number of scientists, engineers, and technologists in the United States. House Science Chairman Sherwood Boehlert will introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives. For more information, see

Library advocates are criticizing a federal report on digital copyrights, according to an article in the Chronicle by Andrea Foster. The recently issued report from the U.S. Copyright Office recommends against revising copyright laws to assure that libraries and consumers can archive and lend software and other electronic materials that they purchase. The report states “given the relative infancy of digital rights management, it is premature to consider any legislative changes at this time”. The Microsoft Corporation has stoked libraries’ concerns by configuring its new Windows XP operating system so that one copy cannot be used on different computers. See

Congress has grilled the National Science Foundation on its selection process for major facilities support, according to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 14 September 2001 issue of Science. A Congressional hearing was stimulated by a report from the NSF inspector general that faulted the agency’s management of large facilities under construction. One revelation was that the science board does not prioritize its choices after screening for scientific merit. Critics were concerned that this left decisions on which projects to fund to the Office of Management and Budget and the politicians. NSF has partially responded to such concerns by setting up an office for large facilities, to assure that funded projects are built on time and on budget. See

Salaries of engineering faculty members continue to rise, as reported in the Spring 2001 issue of Engineers. Data from ‘Salaries of Engineers in Education 2000’ compiled by the Engineering Workforce Commission indicate that engineering educators have been enjoying another cycle of salary growth. Full professors median salaries at all engineering institutions are reported at $ 87,655, with associate professors at $ 68,312 and assistant professors at $ 60,169. Average annual increases since 1998 have been 3.6 percent. Engineering educator’s salaries still trail the salaries of their counterparts working in industry. See

The National Academy of Engineering has named honorees for two top awards, according to a note in the Chronicle by Michael Blasenstein. The NAE Founders Award, given for ‘lifelong contributions to engineering’, will go to Chang-Lin Tien, former chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. The Arthur M. Bueche Award, which recognizes ‘statesmanship in the field of technology’, will go to Ian M. Ross, president emeritus of Bell Laboratories. See

Distance education

Distance education is harder on women than on men, according to a report by the American Association of University Women. As reported in the Chronicle by Scott Carlson, distance education classes often add a ‘third shift’ to a woman’s workday, after a first shift of a full-time job and a second shift of homemaking and childcare. Women compose the majority of online learners, according to the report, because it allows them to stay home with children. See  

Many colleges charge distance education students for campus-based services that they do not use, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. Students who take online courses from institutions that offer both traditional and online programs often end up paying for athletics, student organizations, parking, and day care availability. Administrators acknowledge that such charges are not fair, but they have trouble differentiating between students who live on campus and those far distant, who take the same online courses. As online education expands, however, online students are getting pickier about what they are willing to pay for. With competition for online students growing, colleges are being forced to rethink their fee policies. See

The American Federation of Teachers has released a report warning that quality could suffer as universities create a business culture for the development of distance-education courses, according to a note in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale. The new report, ‘A Virtual Revolution: Trends in the Expansion of Distance Education’, says that too many distance education courses center on teaching a collection of facts rather than giving students a broader understanding of a topic and different ways of thinking about it. The report complains that the traditional role of the professor is being ‘unbundled’ by online course creators, with parts doled out to technology experts and instructional designers. See

Market forces have invaded the academy, leading to a new competitive arena, according to an article in the September/October 2001 issue of Change by Frank Newman and Lara Couturier. The authors point out that American higher education has always viewed itself as competitive, particularly as compared to systems elsewhere in the world. But market forces today are pressing higher education to address its flaws (such as large classes, too much lecturing, too little faculty contact), to keep costs down, and to improve the quality and excitement of teaching. Competition to traditional colleges is coming from a rapidly growing number of new sources – including over 650 for-profit degree-granting universities. There has also been an explosion of virtual or online courses available from virtual institutions, virtual arms of traditional institutions, for-profit universities, and consortia. Altogether there are several thousand American institutions providing virtual courses enrolling well over a million students. The authors argue that every institution will need a competitive strategy, and that the rate of change requires that the strategy be dynamic, not a one time effort. See, and the Futures Project Web site at

Several countries have announced the creation or enhancement of virtual universities. Jordan’s Hashemite University has announced the establishment of a new distance learning university, scheduled to begin operation in November 2002. It will have satellite branches in other Arab countries, such as Yemen and Kuwait. See  The government of Uzbekistan is creating a virtual university with the assistance of the University of Maryland at College Park. Existing University of Maryland courses will be offered, plus new courses created specifically for Uzbek students. See

A new online university in Indonesia, inaugurated in August, will offer online courses in information technology and business administration. It will lure students with relatively low tuitions. See

Students, education

More students are deciding that college can wait, deferring enrollment for a year of travel or service, according to an article by Eric Hoover in the Chronicle. As competition at selective institutions grows more intense, many students are leaving high school with a high-achievement hangover – and choosing to take a break from essays and exams after college admission as a remedy. Other students are delaying the admissions process by taking a year off for pursuits that might add luster to their applications. There is now an array of options for students who want to defer college. A small industry of “time-off consultants” is available to guide such students. See

The 31 August 2001 issue of Science contains a major section on Trends in Undergraduate Education. Major articles include “Reintroducing the Intro Course”, “Making Room for Diversity Makes Sense”, “Europe Seeks to Harmonize its Degrees”, “Student Research: What is it Good For”, “China Broadens Training for Elite Students”, “Online, On Campus: Proceed with Caution”, “Are We Having Fun Yet? Joys and Sorrows of Learning Online”, “Open University: A Pioneer Presses On”, and “Online Science is a Stretch for Asia”. See

Demand for cross-disciplinary training is leading professional schools such as law and medicine to cooperate in new educational programs, according to an article by Katherine Mangan in the Chronicle. The number of combined degree programs has soared over the past decade. The nation’s 125 accredited medical schools, for example, now offer more than 80 such programs in league with other professional schools. The creation and growth of such programs has been stimulated by the vagaries of supply and demand. Joint degrees include M.D./M.B.A., M.D./J.D., Pharm.D./M.B.A., M.S.W./J.D., and many others. Such cross-disciplinary programs carry their own set of challenges – who controls the budget, who sets the agenda, and who gets top billing. But these differences can be smoothed out by the ever-growing number of faculty members with dual appointments. See

Several ingenious new engineering programs that stress teamwork, creativity, business and society are highlighted in an article by Caitlin Kelly in the September 2001 issue of IEEE Spectrum. Programs described include those that infuse engineering with a social conscience, provide engineering with a creative edge, grasp how real engineers do it, and incorporate the business of engineering. See

Professors will increasingly delay retirement, according to a new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research. As reported in the Chronicle by Piper Fogg, the elimination of mandatory retirement in 1994 is significantly reducing the retirement rates of 70- and 71-year old professors. The study’s findings suggest that a significant percentage of faculty members currently entering their 60s will remain at work into their mid-70s, with the rise in that figure highest in private research universities. See

Service learning links student learning with off campus experiences, often drawing upon socially complex learning environments. The lead article in the September 2001 AAHE Bulletin discusses how to prepare students for service learning, drawing upon insights from the AAHE Campus Compact Consulting Corps. See

The University of Virginia is trying a new way to warn students about misusing computers, according to an article by Andrea Foster in the Chronicle. UVA is showing new students a video, created and produced at the university, that humorously parodies a 1999 commercial, “When I grow up …”. The short video features mock interviews with children earnestly describing all the computer rules they want to break when they go to UVA. The video is only part of the university’s training for new users of its network. A handbook helps prepare new students for a quiz that they must pass before they are granted network access. See


The number of minority students attending college and earning degrees continues to rise, but the rate of growth is slowing, according to a report released by the American Council on Education. As reported in the Chronicle by Stephen Burd, minority enrollment rose 3.2%, to 3,891,000 from 1997 to 1998, slightly less that the 3.7% increase in the preceding year. The number of bachelor’s degrees rose 5.3% to 243,555 from 1997 to 1998, and the number of master’s degrees awarded increased by 8.8% to 69,669. Modest gains also were posted in graduation rates for most minority groups, except for black students. From 1997 to 1998, the percentage of black students who graduated within six years of the time they enrolled dropped by three percentage points to 37 percent. See

In a major blow to affirmative action, a federal appeals court has ruled that the University of Georgia unconstitutionally used race in admissions by giving an arbitrary advantage to nonwhite students. As reported in articles by Ben Gose and Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle, the court also questioned whether the Supreme Court’s 1978 ruling in ‘Regents of the University of California v. Bakke’ provided any meaningful justification for using race in admissions decisions. The Bakke case has guided most colleges’ affirmative action policies. Advocates of affirmative action are trying to demonstrate that the educational benefits of diversity provide a compelling interest. That defense has been made most thoroughly in two lawsuits challenging the University of Michigan’s use of racial preferences in law school admissions. Those two cases, plus the Georgia case, are seen as the lawsuits that stand the best chance of being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. See and

Positions of possible interest

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Santa Clara University, Dean, School of Engineering, 8/31/01

Ø      University of California at Davis, Dean, College of Engineering, 8/31/01

Ø      University of Colorado at Denver, Dean, College of Engineering/Applied Science, 9/5/01

Ø      North Carolina State University, Department Head, Electrical and Computer Engineering, 9/14/01

Ø      Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, VPAA/Dean of Faculty, 9/7/01

Ø      University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Dean, College of Engineering and Technology, 8/31/01

Ø      University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Provost, 8/31/01

Ø      University of Toledo, Provost, 8/31/01

Ø      Clemson University, VPAA and Provost, 8/31/01

Ø      Old Dominion University, Provost and VPAA, 8/31/01

Ø      Arizona State University, President, 8/31/01

Ø      Florida A&M University, President, 9/7/01

Ø      American University of Paris, President, 9/7/01

Ø      Case Western Reserve University, President. 8/31/01

Ø      University of Tennessee at Knoxville, President, 9/14/01

Ø      Texas A&M University, President, 8/21/01


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