23 September 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

1.        World Summit on Sustainable Development

2.        Retired professor data base

3.        Flexible patent and copyright rules?

4.        Female professors in Sweden

5.        Japanese R&D funding

6.        Arab countries higher education

7.        Shortages at Peru’s universities

8.        Bangladesh engineering school closed

U.S. developm ents

9.        U.S. to rejoin UNESCO

10.     Colleges remember September 11th

11.     Department of Homeland Security

12.     President’s council recommends more S&T funding

13.     U.S. government to look at retention and graduation rates

14.     Annual US News and World Report rankings out

15.     Intellectual infrastructure suffers from short budgets  

Distance education, technology

16.     White House guidelines on computer network protection

17.     Faculty union seeks terms on distance education

18.     Open source software challenges Microsoft

19.     Student use of the Internet

20.     Twelve hour rule to be revoked

Students, Faculty, Education

21.     Study-abroad programs remain strong

22.     Academic freedom allows Koran book discussion at UNC

23.     Foreign student tracking system to miss deadline

24.     Too few minority faculty members in engineering

25.     Hispanic student enrollments

26.     Minority enrollments in Florida

27.     UK institutions rated

28.     Undergraduate research on the edge


29.     e-Technologies in Engineering Education

30.     SEFI annual meeting

31.     URI colloquium on international engineering education

32.     Development by Design conference scheduled


33.     Today’s Engineer available online



International developments

1) The United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, recently concluded in Johannesburg, South Africa, received mixed reviews on its effectiveness, according to an article in the 13 September 2002 issue of Science by Jocelyn Kaiser. The meeting did produce a 65-page Plan of Implementation in which more than 100 governments agreed to work together to protect the environment and reduce poverty. Commitments were made in the areas of water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity and ecosystem management. Critics pointed out, however, that there was a dearth of concrete plans, fund commitments, and fixed timetables. There were some significant commitments, however. Canada and Russia used the summit to declare their intention to ratify the Kyoto climate treaty – votes that would allow it to enter into force without the United States. In addition, countries agreed to boost funding for the Global Environment Facility to $2.9-billion, and a campaign was launched to save crop seed banks. The summit also generated some concrete partnerships between governments, citizens group, and businesses – an approach pushed by the United States. Many heads of state participated in the summit; President Bush of the US chose not to participate. See A three-page summary “Highlights of Commitments and Implementation Initiatives” and the Plan of Implementation, among other documents, can be found at

2) A new data base being developed in the United Kingdom will help match retired professors with short-term positions at universities in developing countries, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Kate Galbraith. The ‘Retired Academics Database’, started by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, aims to collect information from academics around the world that are interested in teaching overseas for three months or more. The association will then match them to short term positions in developing British Commonwealth countries – primarily in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Although the focus of the program is retired scholars and administrators, organizers are also interested in hearing from academics at earlier stages of their careers. See

3) Patent and copyright rules should be much more flexible for developing countries than for the developed world, according to a report cited in an article by Kate Galbraith in the Chronicle. The report by a commission of the British government, “Integrating Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy”, addresses the disproportional needs for access to medicine, publications needed in education, and intellectual properties in other areas such as agriculture in developing countries. The report calls for the “broadest possible exceptions to patent rights” for those in developing countries. The report is independent, and does not reflect British government policy. It is expected to be disputed by developed countries, which fear that they would lose out under a looser global intellectual property system. See

4) Efforts to increase the number of female professors in Sweden have caused considerable public discussion, according to an article by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle. Sweden has a long tradition of gender equality and of progressive legislation to provide support systems for working women. Forty-three percent of the members of Sweden’s Parliament are women, as are half of the 20 government ministers. But critics say that universities and industry are strong bastions of male domination. Women account for 14% of full professors in Swedish institutions, up from 7% in 1994 – compared to 18% in Finland, 20% in the United States, and only 5% in Ireland. The government has set a goal of 25% women full professors by 2008, which will require that considerably more than a quarter of new professors must be women. The debate centers on the question of merit vs. equity. See

5) Japan’s ministries have presented budgets calling for substantial increases in science-related spending, according to an article in the 6 September 2002 issue of Science by Dennis Normile. Proposals call for 36% to 44% increases in research funding in four economically strategic fields. Unlike previous years where the ministries recommendations would be closely followed, however, this year the prime minister’s cabinet office is expected to hold overall science spending flat and to set its own priorities for what to fund. The four fields identified for growth by the ministries are: life sciences, information technology, the environment, and energy. See

6) Higher education in Arab countries remains seriously inadequate, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum described by Daniel Del Castro in the Chronicle. The report, “The Arab World Competitiveness Report, 2002-03”, warns that Arab countries are among those at considerable risk of being left behind by the rest of the world if their universities continue to produce low-level and unskilled graduates unsuitable for the changing job market. While acknowledging laudable progress in expanding access to and improving the quality of education throughout the Middle East and North Africa in the last half of the 20th century, the report notes that gains have not matched those of Europe and Central Asia. Among other problems, Arab universities are hurt by poor secondary education in the region. See

7) Peru’s public universities have suffered due to rebel activity on campus, and by the government’s heavy-handed responses to regain control, according to an article in the Chronicle by Michael Easterbrook. Over the past 15 years, university budgets have been cut by the government as guerrillas were agitating on the campuses. There is now a severe shortage of books and computers, and faculty have been forced to supplement their incomes with part time jobs away from the campus. In the meantime, expensive private universities have developed to fill the void. The government of President Alejandro Toledo has appointed a commission charged with recommending reforms that will revitalize the public university system. It is expected to recommend that universities trim bureaucracies and governing bodies, eliminate some of the worst institutions in the system, and increase pay for faculty members. See

8) Officials have closed the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology indefinitely after student protests there turned violent, according to an article in the Chronicle by Martha Ann Overland. The engineering campus has been tense since June when a female student was killed by a bullet during a gunfight between two rival pro-government student organizations. The decision to close the university came after a day of running battles between students and police officers. The campus also faces a hunger strike by students who have vowed to fast until death. See


U.S. developments

 9) President Bush has announced that the United States is rejoining the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, according to an article in the September 13th issue of the Washington Post. The US withdrew from UNESCO 18 years ago to protest its alleged mismanagement and overly political policies. Bush said in an address to the UN General Assembly: “This organization has been reformed, and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance and learning”. At the time of its withdrawal, the US provided a quarter of the UNESCO budget. See

10) Colleges across the US commemorated the anniversary of September 11th with events that intertwined solemn ceremonies and spontaneous gatherings with weighty discussions on issues like bioterrorism, globalization, and American foreign policy, according to an article in the Chronicle by Megan Rooney. Lectures, religious ceremonies, tree plantings, and theater performances were among the many ways that colleges chose to observe the significance of the day. See

11) Congress is hammering out the final details of a bill to create a Department of Homeland Security, according to an article by Anne Marie Borrego in the Chronicle. College lobbyists pushed for changes in the bill, while looking forward to the proposed $2-billion research and development budget – most of which is expected to go to universities. House and Senate bills currently have many dissimilarities, which will have to be worked out – including which agencies and programs will be transferred to the new Department. See

12) The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology are recommending that the physical sciences need a significant research budget boost to close a ballooning gap with biomedical research, according to an article in Science by David Malakoff. The recommendation is intended to impact the White House 2004 spending proposal, soon to be developed. At the request of presidential science advisor John Marburger, PCAST   changed its recommendation from talking about a ‘doubling’ of funds to reaching ‘parity’ with the life sciences by 2009. The letter to Bush also contains two other recommendations: a major new program to fund graduate school fellowships for US students; and it urges the government to do a better job of analyzing what it gets for its money, how the US compares with other countries, and the future demand for scientists and engineers. See

13) College leaders and lobbyists have taken strong exception to one element of a plan by the US Education Department to improve education, according to an article in the Chronicle by Stephen Burd. One section of an 84-page document released in March suggests that colleges be held accountable for their effectiveness in retaining students and graduating them in a timely fashion. The report calls for colleges to report their performance on such measures to the federal government and for states to incorporate the measures into their own systems for evaluating colleges. Some fear that the Bush administration is considering linking a college’s eligibility to award student aid to its success in retaining and graduating students. Representatives of state universities and community colleges object to such a policy change, saying they should not be penalized for educating large numbers of low-income students, part-time students, and older students, all of whom are at a high risk of dropping out. See

14) The annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of colleges are out, amid the usual complaints about their validity. According to an article by Amy Argetsinger in the September 14th Washington Post, schools heavily politicked each other to advance in the annual ratings. The rankings depend heavily on a subjective reputation score derived from surveying presidents, deans, and admission officers on their perception of other schools. Campus leaders report that they are getting more and more promotional materials from their peer institutions, with the apparent goal of swaying votes. See According to an article in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Young, Princeton University landed the top spot for the third year in a row, with Harvard and Yale Universities tied for second. Five institutions tied for fourth place: Cal Tech, Duke, MIT, Stanford, and Penn. Dartmouth was ninth, and Columbia and Northwestern tied for tenth. The ranking method was unchanged this year. The magazine did add a new feature, however – a listing of data on student behavior from the National Survey of Student Engagement. See

15) Budget cuts for libraries, university presses, journals, and culture are combining to threaten the infrastructure on which professors and students depend, according to a special report by Scott Smallwood in the Chronicle. Budget items such as faculty salaries, tuition increases and construction have gotten wide attention – but the crumbling intellectual foundation is also being hard hit in the current economic downturn. In a world where universities have positioned themselves as economic-development engines to please state legislators, businesses or donors, technology and vocationalism have often been given higher priority than intellectual life. See


Distance education, technology

16) The White House has released a draft report calling on colleges and universities to develop network safeguards to protect computers from online attacks, according to an article in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale. The draft report is part of a developing national plan for protecting computer networks from terrorist attack. With computers controlling utilities, banking, and other crucial elements of the infrastructure, there are concerns that online attackers could wreak havoc. The Critical Infrastructure Protection Board released a draft for comment, prior to the anticipated final report in November or December. In addition to protecting their own systems, universities are expected to play a key role in network security research and development – presumably with federal support. Academic officials have made recommendations to the panel on how colleges and universities could play a role in protecting computer networks. See

17) The faculty union at the University of Massachusetts wants to create a collective-bargaining agreement to make sure that its professors are not overworked or underpaid when they venture into distance education, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. Negotiators on both sides are optimistic that they can agree on policies that will encourage the growth of distance education while protecting faculty rights. The union wants to assure that there is an incentive system for participation in distance education, not a coercion system. Administrators appear ready to keep distance education assignments voluntary for professors, and let faculty members retain ownership and control of courses. Professors already are paid extra for developing and teaching online courses. One point of contention is expected to be class size – where the union is asking the university to cap enrollments in online courses at 15, the same as for traditional courses. The university argues that the latest technology allows professors to teach more students online effectively, while the union says that quality education comes from small, interactive classes. See

18) Sun Microsystems is throwing its weight behind the ‘open source’ software movement as part of an industry movement to offer an alternative to Microsoft’s Windows and Office programs, according to an article by John Markoff in the September 18th New York Times.  Sun is basing its challenge on the Linux alternative to Windows-based software, and focusing on cost-sensitive markets like corporate call centers, retail banking, and government and educational institutions. See Sun is specifically targeting the U.S. school market, according to an article in the September 17th Wall Street Journal by Rebecca Buckman. Since last spring it has offered its competing StarOffice product to U.S. schools for $25, and now it is offering it free to schools throughout Europe and South Africa. While StarOffice is not generally considered as full-featured and easy to use as Microsoft’s products, Sun is apparently trying to destabilize Microsoft’s dominance on the computer desktop by introducing its alternative to the many children who first use such programs in school. See

19) Many college students who regularly use the Internet for academic purposes see cyberspace as a supplement to, not a replacement for, traditional classrooms. According to research reported by Vincent Kiernan in the Chronicle, in a survey of some 2000 college students conducted this spring, 79% reported that the Internet has had a positive impact on their college experience. Most frequent use is for e-mail messages to faculty members to make appointments, discuss grades, or ask for clarification on assignments. Three-fourths of the students said that they used the Internet more than the library when searching for information. Sixty-eight percent said that they subscribed to academically oriented mailing lists. Only 6% of the students said they had taken an online course for credit, suggesting that they still value traditional classroom settings. See

20) Distance education officials have been pleading for years to have the federal “12 hour rule” revoked, and it is now about to die, according to an article in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale. The rule, which requires distance education programs to deliver at least 12 hours of coursework a week for students to be eligible for federal financial aid, was originally intended to deny fly-by-night course providers access to such aid programs. The Department of Education is proposing the requirement of “one day” of instruction a week instead. Critics of the change argue that the new definition is too vague, and could open the door to fraud. Distance educators also want another rule revoked – one that says that an institution must enroll no more than 50% of its students via distance education for its students to be eligible for federal financial aid. The 12-hour rule can be changed by the Education Department, but the 50% rule was created by statute and can only be changed by Congress. See


Students, faculty, education

21) Study-abroad participation by U.S. students seems unaffected in the aftermath of September 11th, according to a survey conducted by the Institute of International Education. As reported in the Chronicle by David Wheeler, studying abroad has become more popular than ever, and foreign-student enrollments in the U.S. are generally holding steady. Two-thirds of the 530 international educators who responded to the informal online survey reported that applications for study abroad have either remained the same or have continued to increase. This pattern follows a 61% growth in American students studying abroad over the past five years. See A similar survey by the American Council on Education indicates that overall public, student, and faculty support for international education, study abroad, and language training remains strong a year after September 11th. Results of a telephone survey to 1000 adult Americans show that nearly three out of four agree that higher education has a responsibility to educate the public on international issues, events and cultures, and 79% supported international course requirements in college. Surprisingly, one in four of the Americans surveyed said that their formal education did not give them the knowledge to fully understand current international events. See, and scroll down to “Of special interest”.

22) Freshmen at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, puzzled by the uproar over an assignment to read a book about the Koran, found value in their first assignment, according to an article in the Chronicle by Eric Hoover. Two-hour seminars of about 30 students each discussed the book, after federal courts rejected attempts by a Christian group to block the discussions. The Chancellor of the University declared: “Academic freedom is safe in North Carolina”, as he described the book as “yeast for the bread of discussion”. On a campus with relatively few Muslim students, the book was seen as a good doorway into dialogues about Islam. Critics of the assignment, however, said that the university was forcing answers on students. See

23) A Justice Department official has testified at a Congressional hearing that the new system to track foreign students in the U.S. is unlikely to be operational by the Congressionally mandated deadline, according to an article in the Chronicle by Jonathan Margulies. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (Sevis) will apparently miss the January 30th deadline, because the Immigration and Naturalization Service has been unable to fully develop its technical structure and to provide adequate training to the thousands of college officers who will be using it. College representatives at the hearings expressed concern that the new system imposes significant burdens on colleges and universities. See

24) “Facing the Problem”, the cover story in the October 2002 issue of ASEE Prism, states that the puny number of minority faculty members at colleges of engineering in the U.S. is ‘bleak, shocking and appalling’. Author Margaret Mannix cites statistics: women comprise 8.9% of tenure/tenure track faculty in engineering schools, with Hispanic professors at 2.9% and African-American professors at 2.1%. The article quotes many leaders in engineering education who are trying to improve the situation. One says “Unless we bring more women and minorities into science and engineering fields, we will not have the intellectual capital to address the major economic, environmental, health and security issues facing our nation. Developing our underutilized human resources can be our competitive advantage”. The article points out that the optimum solution lies in increasing the pipeline of female and minority undergraduate students headed for graduate school. See

25) Enrollments at Hispanic-serving institutions grew rapidly in the 1990’s, according to a new report described in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Brainard. The Department of Education report says that the number of students enrolled in institutions with significant numbers of Hispanic students grew by 14% over that decade, double the rate of increase for all institutions. The report defined ‘Hispanic-serving institutions’ as colleges where at least 25% of the students are Hispanic. Given the growth rates observed and projected for the future, the study concluded that such institutions are likely to continue to play an important role in providing Hispanic Americans with access to postsecondary education. See In a related report, an article in the Chronicle by Megan Rooney indicates that while the enrollment rate of Latino-American students is high, graduation rates are lower than for most other major racial and ethnic groups. A study by the Pew Hispanic Center indicates that Latino-American students are less likely to enroll in college during the traditional college-age years, are the least likely of all college students to attend school full time, and are more likely to attend two-year colleges – all factors that make college graduation less likely. See

26) The affirmative-action rollback in Florida, imposed by Governor Jeb Bush in 1999, has apparently not hurt minority admissions. As reported in the Chronicle by Vincent Kiernan, state figures indicate that 36% of new undergraduates at Florida’s 11 public universities are members of minority groups this year, compared with 35% last year and 37% the year before that. Bush substituted a plan that would admit the top 20% of the graduates of every Florida high school to a state public university. The University of Florida, which increased freshman class minority enrollment to 30% this year compared with 26% last year, cited its techniques to achieve its increase: fostering closer ties with three low-performing high schools and offering scholarships to their top graduates, expanding the staff of the admissions office, holding student-recruitment conferences, offering additional scholarships, and purchasing a telephone system that automatically places calls to prospective students. See

27) The outcome of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) conducted for UK tertiary institutions confirms that universities with a high research profile also have high teaching qualities. Dr. Brin Lang of St. Andrews University in Scotland states that ‘Good researchers want to pass on their findings to a wider body of knowledge - and to do that they have to be good communicators for the benefit of students’. Highest overall rankings in the UK, for universities offering engineering, including teaching and research assessments, are, in the order of merit: Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College, Warwick, Southampton, and Lancaster.  For details of the 2001 RAE see

28) Science funding agencies are letting students experience weightlessness and other opportunities ‘on the edge’, in hopes of keeping them interested in science, according to an article in the 6 September 2002 issue of Science by Robert Service. NASA assigns a fraction of time of its microgravity research airplane to undergraduates, and other agencies are expanding such adventurous undergraduate research opportunities in an effort to encourage students to choose careers in science and engineering. Astronomy students, for example, have the opportunity through NSF to pursue galactic questions at an observatory in Chile. According to NSF, such experiences elicit interest in science and technology and reinforce student’s decisions to pursue careers in these fields. See



29) An Engineering Foundation conference on “e-Technologies in Engineering Education” was held in Davos, Switzerland last month. Well organized by Jack Lohmann of Georgia Tech and Michael Corradini of Wisconsin-Madison, the week-long conference focused on the electronic technologies that are being rapidly infused into engineering education as a result of improvements in computing and communications capabilities, ease of use, and declining costs. Approximately 100 educators from the U.S. and abroad presented papers and discussed the effectiveness of e-learning for engineers, achievements and challenges of e-tools for enhanced learning, interactive learning tools, and assessing the impact of e-technologies. Details of the conference, and eventually its output in the form of a white paper and summaries of presentations, can be found at

30)The annual meeting of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) was held in Florence, Italy early this month. SEFIrenze2002 had as its theme “The Renaissance Engineer of Tomorrow” – particularly appropriate with the history of the venue. Major sessions considered the historical development of engineering education, enhancing engineering education in Europe (E4), mobility and the European education area, the status of the employed engineer, unexpected vulnerabilities, and new technologies and cultures in engineering education. Domenico Lenarduzzi, Honorary Director General of the European Commission, was awarded a career prize for his work in promoting student mobility throughout Europe. Alfredo Soeiro of the University of Porto was chosen as president –elect, to succeed Tor-Ulf Weck of the University of Helsinki at the next annual meeting of SEFI – scheduled for September 2003 in Portugal. For details of the conference see

31) The International Engineering Program at the University of Rhode Island will hold its fifth annual colloquium on international engineering education in Warwick, RI, on October 24-27. The interdisciplinary meeting will focus on best practices and strategies to internationalize American engineering education – for a supportive exchange of information among current practitioners and those who seek to internationalize their engineering programs. See

32) A second international conference on Development by Design – open collaborative design for sustainable innovation – will be held in Bangalore, India from December 1-2, 2002. The conference seeks to establish a critical dialogue towards collaborative and sustainable design innovation to tackle global challenges in the environment and underserved communities. See http://www/



33) The September 2002 issue of the electronic journal “IEEE-USA Today’s Engineer” is available at http://www/ Its section on career features contains three important articles: Engineer to Entrepreneur, Making the Career-Enhancing Transition; Enhanced Skills for Engineers, Setting Yourself Apart with Soft Skills; and Successful Consulting, Make the Transition from Marketing to Paid Consulting as Quickly as Possible.


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