23 May 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

A new French University in Egypt is seeking to challenge English-language instruction there, according to an article by Daniel Del Castillo in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The French University in Egypt states that “the hegemony of the English language can give future economic and political relations in Egypt a monodimensional character by pushing it mainly toward Anglo-Saxon countries”. The university’s founding was announced by France’s ambassador to Egypt, at a ceremony attended by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. With classes slated to open in September 2002 in al-Sharouq City outside of Cairo, the new university hopes to attract 3500 students during its first four years. Programs will focus on technology, engineering, computer science, information systems, and hotel management. See

A unique experiment to improve Russian science has been granted $12.5-million by two U.S. foundations, according to an article by Richard Stone in the 18 May 2001 issue of Science. The funding more than doubles the budget of the fledgling Basic Research and Higher Education Program, which aims to develop Centers of Excellence that bring top quality scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences institutes together with universities which often lack world-class scientists. Started in 1998, the BRHE Program has already developed eight Centers, and the new funds will allow funding for eight more. The initiative requires matching funds from the Russian federal government and local authorities. See

An Internet poll indicates that the majority of Chinese students are not satisfied with their studies and do not find them useful, according to a report on the China News Service noted by Daniel Walfish in the Chronicle. Students visiting a web site were asked “Are you satisfied with the curriculum and the use of teaching materials in colleges and universities?” Of the 12,398 students who responded, 2% were fairly satisfied, 20% said “all right, but not ideal”, and 77% were not satisfied. Unsatisfied students may have been more likely to respond to the survey than satisfied students, and the results could reflect such a bias. See

Representatives of over 300 European higher education institutions met in Salamanca at the end of March 2001 to prepare input on shaping the European higher education area for an upcoming meeting of higher education Ministers in Prague. The assembled educators agreed on a set of goals, principles and priorities, aimed at creating a European Higher Education Area by the end of the decade. Topics covered in the statement resulting from the Salamanca meeting included autonomy and accountability, research based higher education, quality, relevance, mobility, comparability of qualifications at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and attractiveness. The full statement is available at

Dozens of private colleges and universities in Japan are forming a holding company to take over many of their administrative operations, seeking to cut costs. According to a note in the Chronicle by Michael Chan, more than half of the 121 members of the Japan Association of Private Colleges and Universities plan to join the new venture. Private universities in Japan have been hit hard by the nation’s declining birth rate. The outsourcing of university administration will likely result in personnel cuts at participating universities. See

France is planning a sweeping reform of its higher education system, aimed at giving some 1.7 million students greater freedom to study in other European countries. According to a note in the 4 May 2001 issue of Science, the reforms proposed by the Education Minister have to date received a tepid response, however. The government ministry intends to take France into the European Credit Transfer System, developed in the 1990s to help standardize course credits between E.U. countries and to encourage student exchanges. See

Community colleges are becoming a force in developing nations worldwide, according to a major review article by Beth McMurtrie in the Chronicle. In the U.S., community colleges have been well developed for a long time, with nearly half of the students entering higher education choosing a community college. In developing countries, however, community colleges are a relatively new phenomenon. Universities there tend to be for the elite, with vocational training typically provided at the high-school level. But with many developing countries facing an explosion in the number of high school graduates, the university systems are unprepared to handle them. Also, developing countries are recognizing that economic growth requires a cadre of practically trained workers to run high-tech equipment, start small businesses, and provide health care. Community colleges in developing countries are less interested in providing programs that are a stepping stone to a university degree – a pattern that is typical in the U.S. See

Every year thousands of engineers from Ireland and other parts of the world donate their time and expertise to work on projects in disadvantaged areas, according to an article by Claire Robinson in the May 2001 issue of the Engineers Journal of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland. Agencies such as the Irish Agency for Personal Services Overseas promote service in the developing world, providing needs driven connections between developing countries and appropriate engineers. The Irish agency has provided services in some 50 countries around the world, averaging about 100 assignments per year. The agency provides training programs to prepare volunteers for their foreign assignments. See

The Chinese government is predicting strong growth in online education, according to a report in the China Daily cited by Daniel Walfish in the Chronicle. The report states that the Chinese Ministry of Education plans to have five million students in 50 to 100 online colleges by 2005. At present, 38 online universities with some 240,000 students are accredited by the Chinese government to grant degrees. This expansion is part of a plan to increase the percentage of the population receiving higher education from the current 11 percent to 15 percent by 2005. See

As the Bush administration considers what to do to address global warming, 17 national academies of science have taken a stand endorsing the Kyoto Protocol. In an editorial in the 18 May 2001 issue of Science, the group affirms the conclusion that human activities are warming the planet, and urges the US to ratify the Kyoto agreement. The statement was organized by the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, at least partly provoked by President Bush’s recent rejection of the Kyoto treaty. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences was invited to sign, but did not, according to an article by Jocelyn Kaiser in the same issue of Science. See

  U.S. developments

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has urged the Immigration and Naturalization Service to delay imposing new fees on foreign students until the agency develops a better system to collect the money. According to an article in the Chronicle by Ron Southwick, college representatives say that the proposed fee-collection system is unfair to students from less developed countries who cannot pay via the Internet with a credit card nor get access to a check or money order from an American bank. The new fees are designed to pay for a computer system, which will collect information on all foreign students in the U.S., so that the Justice Department can assure that they are not staying beyond visa limits and to guard against acts of terrorism. College lobbyists have said that the new system could hurt American colleges in the increasingly competitive market for foreign-born students. See

President Bush outlined his National Energy Plan on May 17th, saying that it was intended to counter “the most serious energy shortage since the oil embargoes of the 1970s”. The 105 point plan calls for Federal agencies to reduce regulations to encourage more output from coal fired plants, recommends the construction of more than 1300 new power plants, and calls for more gas and oil exploration. It also calls for an array of incentives for the industry, and includes a package of tax and other stimuli designed to promote conservation, energy efficiency, and wider development and use of alternative and renewable sources of energy. Environmentalists, who say they were excluded from the planning process, were unhappy with the plan. To see the report, go to

A report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy says that the federal Hope tax credit has failed to expand access to higher education for students from low income families, according to an article by Jennifer Yachnin in the Chronicle. The tax credit, championed by President Clinton and enacted in 1997, is worth up to $1500 per year for the first two years of college. The report claims that the basic design of the program is flawed. Some higher-education officials criticized the report, however, saying that the tax credit was meeting its primary goal – providing financial assistance to middle-income students. See

Many states in the U.S. are spending less on higher education due to less tax income in the slowing economy, forcing engineering schools at public universities to rely more on research dollars. In an article in the May-June 2001 ASEE Prism, Alvin Sanoff asks whether teaching will suffer as the belt-tightening continues. Some deans have also expressed concern about being able to attract new faculty members in such a climate, given strong competition from industry for hiring Ph.D.s in areas such as computer engineering. See

U.S. Representative Sherry Boehlert (R-NY), new chair of the House Science Committee, is profiled by David Malakoff in the 11 May 2001 issue of Science. Boehlert has spent 34 years in congress – 15 years as an aide, and since 1982 as a Representative. He has advocated environmental protection, alternative energy sources, and abortion rights when many in his party were going in the opposite direction. His accomplishments include helping to write legislation that has boosted support for higher education, funded research into nonpolluting cars and crime-fighting technologies, and committed the federal government to restoring Florida’s Everglades. He has promised to run the Science Committee “in a way that would make Einstein smile”. He has expressed concern at support for science in the Bush budget, and promises to work with his colleagues to start building up those budgets.  See

Government agencies that sponsor research are trying to comply with a new law that requires them to show how well they are using their funds, but they are concerned that Congress will use their reports to justify cuts in funds. According to an article in the Chronicle by Ron Southwick, a committee of the National Academies of Science and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine has issued a report expressing concern about how the performance reports will be used. Because much of fundamental research may take years to yield discoveries or useful technology, officials of the agencies have complained that it is difficult or impossible to measure science the way other functions are measured. See

Speaking at a 7 May 2001 Government Affairs Conference sponsored by the American Association of Engineering Societies, Joseph Bordogna of the National Science Foundation listed that agenciy’s current priorities for research: biocomplexity in the environment, information technology research, nanoscale science and engineering, and learning for the 21st Century. He noted that advances in the state-of-the-art of these fields due to research would also raise the levels of the core disciplines, such as math and biology, etc.

  Students, education

Computer networks contain a wealth of student data, and universities are struggling to preserve the privacy of students by setting strict policies on who can see it. According to an article in the Chronicle by Andrea Foster, colleges should notify students of their privacy rights, have policies governing if and when online activity is monitored, and inform students about how their data will be used. Problems include hackers breaking into campus systems, untrained staff members allowing inappropriate access to data, and harassment of student by phone or e-mail after addresses have been obtained. See

Computer technology has been used by a professor at the University of Virginia to expose cheating in his courses, according to an article by Amy Argetsinger in the 9 May 2001 Washington Post. In a physics course that draws 500 students a semester, the professor designed a simple computer program to sniff out plagiarism in term papers. Looking for any common phrases in his 1500 term papers from the last three semesters, he turned up 122 matches. UVA has a strict honor code, and the student- run disciplinary system will deal with each case. Students who graduated this week, and many who graduated a year ago, face penalties as severe as revocation of their diplomas if found guilty. See

Study abroad is moving from the academic margins to the core of U.S. higher education, according to a major article by John Marcum in the Chronicle. A growing number of Americans believe that going abroad to study gives students distinctive learning opportunities that they cannot get at home or online – language, culture and pedagogical experiences – that better prepare them for careers in the global economy. A fringe benefit for the institutions that send students abroad is more linkages, including scholarly research, shared data, and other intellectual interactions. Today, less than 3% of U.S. undergraduates study abroad – sending only 114,000 students abroad in 1999, compared with some 500,000 students from abroad studying in the U.S. The author exhorts faculty members and institutions to encourage more students to go overseas, and to remove the hurdles that often make that difficult. See

The academic world converts enthusiastic faculty recruits into early-career doubters, according to an article by Trower, Austin and Sorcinelli in the May 2001 AAHE Bulletin. “Paradise Lost” is the common theme that encompasses the perspectives of doctoral candidates considering academic careers, doctoral graduates on the job market, and first- and second-year faculty members. Individuals surveyed believed that there was a stigma attached to non-tenure track positions, which are becoming more prevalent. But some were willing to accept non-tenure track appointments if given the proper incentives – such as the right mix of teaching and research in the right location. In general, the researchers found a troubling gap between the vision and reality of an academic career – hoping for autonomy and academic freedom, but finding an incomprehensible tenure system, a lack of community, and an unbalanced life. See

Colleges are being urged to play a role in ending the “senior slump” at the end of high school, according to a note by Alex Kellogg in the Chronicle. Current college admissions processes provide few incentives for high school seniors to work hard during their final year, according to a recent report. “Overcoming the High School Senior Slump” says that colleges could reduce the cost of remedial education by dealing with this issue. The main problem is that college admissions decisions are typically based on academic work only through the junior year in high school. The report suggests that high schools link their senior-year curriculum requirements to the general education requirements that students are likely to encounter in their first year in college, and that colleges and universities align their placement exams with high school assessments and standards. See

  Distance education

A new program offering online Advanced Placement courses to high school students throughout South Dakota has dramatically increased student access to the upper-level courses, but high school teachers say that students are struggling to complete the courses. This spring, 116 students in 31 schools across the state participated in the program; at 26 of the schools, no Advanced Placement courses had ever been offered. While high school teachers praise the program for exposing their students to college level work, the say that many of their students lack the motivation and discipline to work through the self-paced courses on their own. See

Students who enroll in the online version of Brenau University’s master’s program in early childhood education automatically get a $200-per-course scholarship, according to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle. The unusual incentive was created to attract students who might not otherwise be able to afford the university’s distance education courses, which cost more than its traditional ones. See

A British Web site teaches users how to find information in their disciplines, according to a note in the Chronicle by Karen Birchard. The ‘Resource Discovery Network Virtual Training Suite’ teaches users how to find reliable information quickly and easily on the Web. Each of the self-paced tutorials takes about an hour to run through, and users can personalize the sessions by downloading useful links. Some 40 tutorials in various disciplines are available free. See

Some providers of online educational content are breaking their courses down into small chunks, according to a note in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale. That way students can take only those lessons they need, instead of sitting through an entire course that may repeat information they already know. Institution that offer such bite-size versions of course materials do not yet permit students to complete a degree that way, but instead see them as teaching specific skills in narrowly focused subjects. See


Textbook publishers are tentatively experimenting with e-books, according to an article by Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle. By fall, traditional publishers will be offering hundreds of their textbooks in digital formats, up from a few dozen this past year. Some institutions – such as the University of Phoenix, which hopes to become “bookless” – see e-books as a way to customize and improve instruction. Because they worry that faculty and students will not buy the new offerings, publishers are typically not investing in upgrading the content with built-in multimedia elements that would make e-books a more compelling teaching tool. Some students complain about the inconvenience of using e-books, such as having to scroll to find sections – while others say they found the e-book’s search functions easier to use than the index of a printed volume. See

A new report details options for paying for the technology expenses of colleges, according to an article by Florence Olsen in the Chronicle. The report, “Funding the Infrastructure”, says that traditional institutions need to be more flexible about financing the information systems, personnel, and wiring infrastructure required for the effective use of information technology. It says that most colleges pay for information technology from year-end savings and other budget breakages that do not produce sufficient funding to meet technology needs. Several suggestions are offered for financing college’s information-technology needs: revenue bonds, revolving funds, student technology fees, group purchasing arrangements, and profit making subsidiaries. See

The University of South Dakota has announced plans to provide handheld computers to all of its incoming freshmen this fall, according to an article by Sarah Carr in the Chronicle. The institution, which may be the first aiming to provide every undergraduate with a wireless handheld device, plans to have all undergraduates so equipped after a four-year phase in. The goal is to provide convenience for students, as well as improving the educational environment. Most of the cost of providing the handhelds, made by Palm, will be paid by the University’s Foundation, a fund-raising arm. See

The University of System Georgia is ending its pilot laptop lease program after three years, according to an article in the Chronicle by Florence Olsen. The state bought 8000 laptops in 1997, and leased them for $300 per semester to students at two colleges. Officials found that they could not charge students enough to amortize the costs, while keeping fees affordable. One of the institutions plans to keep a requirement that all students use laptops, but will let students buy their own computers. See


The April 2001 issue of the ASEE Journal of Engineering Education contains more than a dozen papers on educational developments in engineering education. Paper titles include: “Hands on Laboratory Experiments in Flexible and Distance Learning”, “Integrated Learning – Paradigm for a Unified Approach”, and “Ethics Instruction in Engineering Education – a (Mini) Meta Analysis”. See

The May-June 2001 ASEE Prism contains a special section on the 2001 ASEE Annual Conference, which will be held in Albuquerque, NM, on 24-27 June. Full information is also available on the ASEE Web site, at

  Positions of Possible Interest

From the 18 May 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Chair, Department of Human Factors and Systems, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, FL

Ø      Vice President (Chief Information Officer), Duke University, NC

Ø      Vice President Research, University of North Dakota – Grand Forks

Ø      Provost, Ohio University – Main Campus

And from the 25 May 2001 Chronicle:

Ø      Dean, College of Engineering, Akron University, OH

Ø      President, University of Dayton, OH


From the May-June 2001 issue of ASEE Prism:

Ø      Chair, Department of Electrical Engineering, Lamar University, TX

Ø      Head, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M University

Ø      Faculty positions in Civil, Electrical, and Computer engineering, The American University in Dubai

Ø      Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Duke University, NC

Ø      Assistant Dean, Cooperative Engineering Education, Northwestern University, IL




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