24 August 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

Presidents of Iranian universities and research institutes have warned that attacks by the authorities on students and professors are leading to the departure of large numbers of educated people from the country. According to an article by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Presidents call the brain drain a national crisis. Their statement was issued shortly after the second anniversary of a bloody attack by police and vigilantes on a student dormitory at the University of Teheran. Last winter, Iran’s parliament passed a law that would bar police from entering universities without permission from both the university president and the government, but the group of conservative theologians and jurists that must approve all legislation rejected the bill. See

The Russian Academy of Sciences has quietly rescinded a controversial directive requiring its 55,000 researchers to report their foreign contacts to the RAS governing body. According to an article in the 10 August 2001 issue of Science by Andrey Allakhverdov and Vladimir Pokrovsky, the rule was intended to protect Russian intellectual property. It has been replaced by one that simply seeks to help institute directors keep tabs on their more western-oriented researchers. The new rule is expected to calm the fears of scientists who saw a return to Soviet-style authoritarianism. See

Nigeria’s government is planning to establish a separate university for graduate studies, according to a note in the Chronicle by Wachira Kigotho. The education minister said the decision to set up the new university was made to give graduate researchers a conducive working environment, which is absent on Nigeria’s current higher education system. It will probably be located in the nation’s capital, Abuja, and will be the country’s 43rd university. See

The United Kingdom has decided to conduct a review of the supply of scientists and engineers in the UK, in response to concerns that innovative businesses there sometimes find it difficult to recruit the skilled researchers that they need. In addition to looking at the numbers of scientists and engineers in the UK and the jobs they do, the study will examine the skills needed by businesses for their R&D activities, and at the skills gained by graduates. A major focus will be to investigate how businesses and universities communicate and collaborate in providing relevant training to students. See

 Two major universities in Japan plan to start their own on-campus incubation centers, to support university-based start-up companies, according to a note in the Chronicle by Michael Chan. The centers, to open in 2003, will be based at Tokyo and Waseda Universities, Japan’s most prestigious state and private universities, respectively. The centers, sponsored by the Education Ministry, will allow private companies to work with university scientists to commercialize R&D efforts. Student entrepreneurs and researchers hoping to start new ventures will also be able to use the facilities free. See

China’s top graduates in technology are finding success with high-tech startups in Silicon Valley, according to an article by Junko Yoshida and George Leopold in Electronic Engineering Times. Several thousand graduates from Tsinghua University of Beijing, China’s most prestigious engineering school, are working in a string of startups funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Observers credit the relentless drive that separates Tsinghua graduates from their contemporaries for their success. See

The Arabic publishing scene is a desert, according to an article in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo. Writers and scholars have difficulty getting their books printed, distributed and read. According to critics, the quantity of books published in the Arab world is small, especially relative to the region’s population. There are 275 million Arab speakers in 22 countries, but for Middle Eastern publishers print runs of 5000 are considered large. The region is plagued by literacy rates, and by not having proper distribution of the few books that are published. See

Canadian universities experienced a 15.7% increase in revenue for the 1999-2000 academic year, according to a note in the Chronicle by Doug Payne. The $ 9.7-billion revenue figure was a record high, and marked the third consecutive rise. Grants and contracts from three levels of government, providing 55% of the total revenue, were up 15.1%. The surge in government funds follows years of cutbacks during the 1980’s and 1990’s. But other statistics may point to financial problems for Canadian higher education. The Association of Colleges of Canada has issued a report saying “real per capita provincial spending on postsecondary education fell for the second consecutive year in 2000-01”. See

African countries and other poor areas will be helped to use information technology for economic and social development, according to an article in the 16 July 2001 Wall Street Journal by David Bank. Resources and expertise have been pledged by the technology consulting firm Accenture Ltd, a United Nations agency, and the Markle Foundation. The commitments accompanied the release of a report by the three parties that analyzes the ways that Brazil, Costa Rica, Estonia, India, and Malaysia are effectively using technology exports, Internet connections, and telecommunication services to try to create a ‘digital dynamic’ of sustainable development. See

New Zealand universities are being encouraged to play a greater role in supporting the needs of local companies, according to academic and business leaders at a major conference convened by the country’s government. As reported in an article by David Cohen in the Chronicle, nearly 500 business and education leaders attended a three day gathering, which ended with 142 proposals meant to assist political leaders in drafting a national innovation strategy designed to improve New Zealand’s economic competitiveness. Speakers said that time was running out for the country to upgrade its scientific and technological capacity by increasing specialized programs at universities. See

Students in Japan will be able to apply to Japanese universities via the Internet next year when an association of 120 private universities introduces an experimental online-application system, according to a note in the Chronicle by Michael Chan. Universities hope to lower application fees for students and reduce administrative costs for processing applications. They also hope to secure stable enrollments of students by strengthening their ties with high schools through the system. See

Ireland has taken a major step in shoring up the basic research end of its R&D pipeline, according to a report by John Pickrell in the 10 August 2001 issue of Science. Science Foundation Ireland, the country’s nascent grants agency, has announced that 10 scientific stars will share $67-million, as a down payment on an ambitious effort to stem the country’s accelerating brain drain problem. The foundation will also provide another $530-million over the next 5 years to retain Irish talent and lure senior researchers to its shores. Ireland’s economy is booming, and high tech companies have fueled a 7.5% average rise in annual gross domestic product over the past 5 years. But that prosperity has not extended to academia. See

Syria has legalized private higher education, and may allow US colleges to open branches, according to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel Del Castillo. The move by President Bashar al-Assad is part of an effort to strengthen public higher education through cooperative ventures and competition. The first private venture is the High Institute for Business Administration, which is scheduled to open next year, with classes taught in English by faculty members educated in Europe. The American Cultural Center, a division of the US Embassy in Syria, hopes to explore possibilities for linking American universities with Syrian universities. See

Iraq is pushing to increase university enrollments, according to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo. The Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has announced that 100,000 new undergraduates will enroll in Iraqi universities this fall. The increase, nearly doubling the previous 120,000 undergraduate student population, is attributed to government efforts to compensate for the large brain drain of academics and educated professionals who have been fleeing over the past decade as a result of the Persian Gulf War and international sanctions. See

“Bush on the World Stage” is the cover story of the September 2001 issue of World Press Review. In his recent international trips, Bush has created a swirl of controversy over the proposed anti-missile system, his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, and his chilly stance toward China, according to the Review. Articles cited from various parts of the world raise concerns about the new President’s postures. From Sao Paulo, Brazil, a writer states that a new wave of anti-Americanism is sweeping the world. From a Saudi owned paper in London, a writer critiques the new administration’s backing away from its major role in the Middle East peace process. From a paper in South Korea, a writer notes a new toughness toward Asia – particularly China. See

US developments

President Bush’s decision to support the use of existing embryonic stem cell lines surprised many and angered some, according to an article by Gretchen Vogel in the 17 August 2001 issue of Science. Ending months of speculation, Bush told a national TV audience on August 9th that he would allow federal funding for limited research on embryonic stem cells, But his compromise has sparked a new round of scientific questions, including exactly how much research the new policy will permit. His assertion that some 60 ES cell lines would be available for research is more than twice the number most scientists would cite. Bush’s announcement does not affect research in the private sector. See

Though layoffs are striking the US technology sector, corporate America is still going overseas to attract skilled workers according to the latest analysis of Immigration and Naturalization Services figures. According to an article by Terry Costlow in the 30 July 2001 issue of Electronic Engineering Times, H-1B visa applications are up 12.5 percent over last year, making it likely that the maximum of 195,000 visas will be issued before the September 30th cutoff. Last year, H-1B visas were capped at 115,000. The influx of current workers, many of them programmers and other skilled technical employees, comes as US layoffs continue across the high tech sector. Surveys show varying degrees of concern about the influx of immigrant workers, along with acknowledgement that they are a necessary part of the technical work force. See

Congressional spending for the academic pork barrel ballooned by 60% this year, to the largest total ever, according to a note in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Brainard and Ron Southwick. For the 2001 fiscal year, Congress directed federal agencies to award at least $1.668-billion to projects involving specific universities. That total is $624-million higher than last year’s, and more that five times the 1996 sum of $296-million. The Chronicle has prepared a package of articles, charts, tables, graphics, and a searchable database of academic earmarks since 1990. See

The National Science Foundation is linking supercomputers at four sites across the country to create a powerful new system for researchers. According to an article in the 17 August 2001 issue of Science, the new $53-million TetraGrid network should be operational by 2003. It promises benefits to researchers working on everything for drug discovery to climate forecasting. The institutions linking supercomputers are: the University of California at San Diego, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the California Institute of Technology, and Argonne National Laboratory. The winning institutions were the only entrants in what was scheduled to be a competition, working against a very tight three-month deadline. See

A wave of consolidation is hitting for-profit higher education in the US, according to an article by Anne Marie Borrego in the Chronicle. Small companies can not compete while larger operations seek new markets, and are often being bought up by large, publicly traded, for profit companies – such as Education Management Corporation, Corinthian Colleges, and Career Education Corporation. Some buyers are familiar names that have only recently started to run degree-granting institutions, such as Sylvan Learning Systems and Kaplan Colleges. See

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology has been appointed Secretariat for the Washington Accord for 2001-2003. The Washington Accord was first signed in 1989 by accreditation organizations in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Unites States. Since then Hong Kong and South Africa have joined, and Japan has recently been granted provisional status. As the Secretariat, ABET will be responsible for facilitating and recording exchanges of information between the signatories, as well as advising signatories and others of the policies and procedures of the Accord. New policies and procedures addressed during the June 2001 meeting of the Accord in South Africa included: procedures for application to gain provisional signatory status; guidelines for scheduling for systematic monitoring and verification of signatories; and principles of good practice for accrediting agencies working internationally. For more information e-mail

Distance education

A consortium that promotes overseas study is planning to use distance education to reduce the culture shock felt by American students who study abroad, according to an article in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Young. Beginning this fall, the Institute for International Education of Students will offer an introductory course that students can take online before they leave for the consortium’s study abroad program in Dublin. The course will provide an introduction to Irish culture, and will explore student’s preconceptions about Ireland. If the experiment goes well, the Institute hopes to offer similar online courses for other countries. See

Britain is getting into the online-education business with National e-University, according to an article in the Chronicle by Sarah Carr. The e-University project will bring together an assortment of distance learning programs and courses to be sold to students all over the world. Only a few universities will offer courses in the first year, but government plans call for all higher education institutions in Britain to be members of the holding company that owns and administers the project. Few details have yet been released about the venture, which is one of the world’s few government sponsored attempts to create a national university. See

A longtime US professor is helping to guide Greece’s new distance learning institution, according to an article in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo. After spending 25 years teaching at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, Spyros Amourgis returned to his native Greece to help establish the Hellenic Open University, of which he is now vice president. The new distance learning university is taking a radically new approach to learning in a country with an archaic approach to higher education. Now in its second year of operation, the university has proved to be widely popular with adult students, many of who have been locked out of highly competitive state universities. Last year more than 50,000 people applied for the university’s first 5000 slots. See

Distance education administrators are realizing that putting programs on line does not necessarily bring riches, according to an article by Sarah Carr in the Chronicle. They are learning that the costs of expanding online courses are, in some cases, considerably greater than had been anticipated. Some are slowing or stopping their expansion into online learning until they get a better sense of costs and profitability. The twin issues of cost of online education and its potential profitability have been analyzed in detail by studies commissioned by the Sloan Foundation, a six universities that have received grants from the foundation’s Asynchronous Learning Network. Two broad conclusions were drawn from the studies: The universities are not losing a lot of money on distance learning, but they are not making much either – at least yet. And how well the programs appear to be doing depends, in part, on how their costs and revenues are defined. See

Tunisia is planning a national online university, according to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo. The Tunisian Virtual University is one element of a larger plan to provide life-long learning opportunities for Tunisians, while at the same time employing and promoting new technologies in the country’s educational sector. The government has invested heavily in computer training, technology, and online services, making Tunisia one of the most wired countries in North Africa. The country also has one of the highest per-capita Internet access rates in the Arab world. Projections call for the virtual university to account for 20% of the total number of university students in Tunisia by 2006. See

The Australian government plans to spend more than $100-million over the next five years on bringing education and skills training to developing countries, according to a note in the Chronicle by Geoffrey Maslen. The plan pursues an idea proposed by the president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, an Australian expatriate, during a visit last year. Tens of thousands of teachers, students, and officials in developing countries will receive training in specific skills over the Internet, becoming ‘virtual students’ in Australian Universities. The new program represents Australia’s most ambitious foreign-aid effort in decades. See

Students, education

Engineering students are still finding good jobs, although it takes a little longer and they are fielding fewer offers than last year, according to an article by David Bindley in the September 2001 issue of Prism. Over the past year, US manufacturers have laid off 675,000 employees, and dying dot-coms alone have put an estimated 100,000 people out of work. High tech has suffered the most, but the effects of a slowing economy are rippling through every sector – making it a little tougher for new engineering grads. The slowing economy has impacted students in computer science and electrical engineering fields significantly, but most of the other fields have not been much affected. The optimistic view is that the economy is only going through a mild slowdown, and that it will pick up by the end of the year. See

For the fifth straight year the national average ACT score remained stable, even as record numbers of students took the exam, according to a report in the Chronicle by Eric Hoover. The average stayed at 21 out of a possible 36, for the nearly 1.1 million students in the graduating class of 2001 who took the exam. Given the growing and increasingly diverse pool of students taking the test each year, ACT officials said this year’s scores are good news. The tests, which many colleges use in the admissions process, measure performance in four areas: English, reading, mathematics, and science. See

College enrollment continues its seven-year increase, according to a report from the Department of Education noted in the Chronicle by Dana Mulhauser.  A record 15.3 million students are expected to enter colleges and universities in the US this year, a 2% increase over last year. The report forecasts an increasing majority for women in higher education, currently just under 57%. Over the next ten years, private colleges are projected to grow by 17%, with public ones at 15%. Graduate enrollment is projected to increase by 12% over that decade, with undergraduate enrollment increasing by 16%. The projections are based on a number of economic and demographic factors, the most significant of which is the projected increase in the population of 18- to 24-year-olds from 27.3 to 30.5-million. See

Skipping live classes and catching up later via video has become popular at Harvard University, as described in an article by Leila Jason in the 22 August 2001 Wall Street Journal. Playing hooky at Harvard has never been easier, thanks to a new university service that downloads videotaped lectures and serves them up on a private Web site. The Instructional Computing Group videotapes about 30 classes per semester and makes them available over the University’s internal Web site within hours of class. ‘Hits’ for the service are up, with about 2000 undergraduates accessing lectures during the 1999-2000 academic year. It was intended to allow students to fill in any portions of a class that they missed or did not understand, but anecdotal evidence is that absenteeism is on the rise as students sleep in or do other activities at class time and catch up later via video. See

Drexel’s voluntary, penalty free program of post tenure ‘renewal’ is popular with faculty there, according to an article in the Chronicle by Ana Marie Cox. The system was crafted by faculty themselves rather than imposed from above. It is a three-year process tailored to individual faculty needs, and gives the professors the tools – such as personal attention and travel to conferences – to meet professional goals. At the end of the three-year process, successfully participating faculty are given a raise in base pay. But critics point out that the system is not post-tenure review, in that nonvolunteers and laggards are not challenged, and the students may be the ultimate losers. See

Running an engineering department can be one of the toughest jobs around, according to an article by Linda Creighton in the September 2001 issue of Prism. Most people who become department heads do not know what they are stepping into, and there is typically no training for faculty who take on administrative roles. The post of department head is the key link between a university administration and its faculty and students in developing a vision and direction for a department, but trying to implement that vision by building consensus among those constituencies can be very difficult. Department heads must resolve faculty and staff disputes, deal with personnel problems, and handle denied promotions and tenure situations. See

A Harvard professor, Richard J. Light, has become a guru on helping students, according to an article by Alex Kellogg in the Chronicle. Colleges nationwide are turning to his new book, “Making the Most of College; Students Speak Their Minds”, to stimulate their own faculty members to be more student sensitive. The book is based on 1600 interviews with Harvard students conducted by Mr. Light and his team of researchers. The basic recommendations in the book are: Encourage collegial work. Urge students to get involved in extracurricular activities. Foster and promote diversity. Get students to form study groups. See


The University of Florida expects its Black freshman enrollment to decrease by almost half this fall, according to a note in the Chronicle by Susannah Dainow. The drop from 12% Black in last years class to an estimated 7% this fall appears to be due to Governor Jeb Bush’s One Florida Plan, which bars affirmative action in public university admissions. To help compensate for the loss of affirmative action, One Florida instituted the Talented 20 plan, which guarantees the top 20% of each high school’s graduating class a place in Florida’s public university system. The theory is that if the top 20% of graduates of mostly minority high schools is guaranteed admission, then institutions will maintain diverse student populations without affirmative action. Governor Bush’s supporters point out that minority admissions at Florida’s 10 other public universities have increased. 36.85% of students admitted in the Florida system were minorities in 2000, and that number increased to 37.85% in 2001. See 

The National Academy of Engineering has launched a web site to spark interest in engineering among girls. It covers a wide range of topics, including ‘why be an engineer’, ‘great achievements’, ‘ask an engineer’, and guidance on education and careers. Featured examples include space, medicine, environment, and communications. Links are provided to other relevant sites. See

The US Department of Education will award a total of $27.2-million in grants to improve academic programs at 102 colleges that serve disadvantaged or minority students, according to a report in the Chronicle by Michael Blasenstein. The grants are being made under two programs: the Strengthening Institutions Program which awards funds for higher-education development and planning, and the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program which aims to increase the number of ethnic minorities in the fields of science and technology by supporting department level improvements. See for a list of awards.


The July 2001 issue of the ASEE Journal of Engineering Education contains 16 major papers and 4 educational briefs, as well as several book reviews. Several of the papers focus on engineering design, cooperative learning, and capstone courses. There are also interesting papers on faculty participation in industrial outreach, and on mentoring engineering students. See

The September/October 2001 issue of Foreign Affairs includes a very interesting article entitled “Toward Universal education”, written by Gene B. Sperling of the Brookings Institution. The author cites the goal that resulted from the World Education Forum in April 2000, with 180 countries including the US participating: providing quality education for all the world’s children by 2015. He points out that a similar declaration was made in 1990, and that its decade long goal was not achieved. He asks how the world can make such a promise, and keep it. The author does cite some bright spots. UNICEF recently launched a Girl’s Education Initiative, spurred on by a growing body of research showing that investments in education – particularly for girls – in the world’s poorest countries produces impressive health benefits and high economic returns. The 2000 declaration called for recipient countries to devise plans showing how they might actually meet the stated educational goals. But there is no mechanism to assess such national plans, nor any assurance that the country will actually receive aid to help implement the plan. The author suggests directions to resolve these shortcomings. See

Positions of possible interest

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Queens University, Canada, Dupont Canada Chair in Engineering Education, 7/27/01

Ø      Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Head, Department of Chemical Engineering, 7/27/01

Ø      University of Missouri at Kansas City, Dean, School of Interdisciplinary Computing, 8/10/01

Ø      University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Dean, College of Engineering and Technology, 8/10/01

Ø      University of Rhode Island, Dean, College of Engineering, 7/27/01

Ø      Southeastern Louisiana University, President, 7/27/01

Ø      University of South Carolina at Columbia, President, 7/27/01

Ø      University of Vermont, President, 8/10/01

Ø      Colorado State University, Provost/Academic VP, 8/9/01

Ø      University of Toledo, Provost, 8/10/01

Ø      Clemson University, VPAA/Provost, 8/3/01

Ø      University of Maine System, Chancellor, 8/10/01

Ø      University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse, Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, 8/3/01


From the September 2001 Prism:

Ø      Cleveland State University, Dean of Engineering

Ø      North Carolina State University, Department Head, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ø      University of Texas at Tyler, Chair, Electrical Engineering

Ø      University of Alabama, Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ø      University of Colorado at Denver, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Science

Ø      Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Chair, Department of Civil Engineering; also Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Ø      Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Ø      Santa Clara University, Dean, School of Engineering

Ø      University of Arkansas, Head, Chemical Engineering




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