27 June 2000


Copyright © 2000 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved


A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, PhD., P.E.





ASEE Annual Meeting held – The annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education was held in St. Louis MO from June 18-21. At the opening session, Executive Director Frank Huband reported that society membership was growing, and that the percentage of members who were women was growing very rapidly – particularly younger women. He also reported that due to the Web centered approach being taken by ASEE, the Society now offers a Global Online Membership for $39 annually. The papers presented at the annual meeting are available on the ASEE Web site, a searchable database including all proceedings papers for the recent conference and back to 1996. See


Drops in enrollment threaten economy – A new report from the National Science Board warns that continuing declines in admissions to graduate programs in engineering and science may lead to a shortage of skilled workers in technology fields – a shortage that could hurt the US economy. Following four decades of annual increases, enrollment in graduate school science programs fell each year from 1993 to 1997 (the last year for which data are available). The declines were blamed on a drop in the number of foreign students, the surging economy, lack of faculty openings, and other factors. The chairman of the science board, Eaman M. Kelly, stated, “…there’s a very large national problem with the potential inadequacy of the science-and-engineering work force as it relates to the needs of the country”. See


Workshop on continuing engineering education – During the annual meeting of SEFI in Paris (September 6-8, 2000), the Working Group on Continuing Engineering Education will hold a Workshop – on September 8th. Title of the workshop is “From face-to-face continuing engineering education to education via the Internet”. Topics include a summary of the status of virtual continuing education for engineers in Europe, and a case study featuring the FACILE Project. For SEFI annual meeting information in general, see


Ranking of colleges – In an opinion article in the June 16th Chronicle of Higher Education, Milton Greenberg asks why universities allow U.S. News and World Report to be the major source of information on how the public evaluates how their institution stacks up against their peers. He attributes much of the problem to the secretive nature of the accreditation process, and the lack of public understanding of such processes. He proposes that America’s colleges should rank themselves, by making public use of the official peer review process – accreditation. He points out that this could answer the challenge of the imperfect U.S. News rankings, and meet higher education’s responsibility for public accountability. See


Internet courses draw professors – In the medical field, commercial sites are outbidding medical schools for instructors in continuing education. In an information technology article in the June 16th Chronicle, Katherine Mangan notes that prominent medical professors are being showered with offers to share their expertise online with national audiences – not by campus-based programs, but by commercial ventures. While medical schools typically offer $200 to $400 per appearance, for-profit groups are typically offering $1000 – with real high-fliers getting $3000 to $5000. Demand is high, as 36 states now require physicians to get continuing education each year. Rather than feeling threatened by such commercial ventures, some medical schools are considering partnerships. See


Lifelong learning for alumni – Colleges are now eyeing a large, untapped market for distance education – their own alumni – according to an opinion article in the Chronicle. According to the authors, Glenn Altschuler and Ralph Janis, initiatives are announced almost every day: an Internet MBA from Duke, engineering courses from Stanford, for-profit distance education courses from NYU and Columbia, etc. This follows the more traditional approach colleges have pursed in the past, encouraging alumni to return to campus for summer courses and joining tours led by faculty members. Faculty member are being encouraged to use new technologies to serve the lifelong educational needs of the alumni of their institutions, to generate a new revenue stream and to supplement faculty salaries. See


Free education to boost sales – An ‘online university’ has been created by Barnes & as the latest in a series of efforts by businesses to attract and retain customers by offering free education. Sarah Carr reports in the Chronicle that while the companies involved say that such projects are unrelated to traditional higher education, they use the terminology of academe. Barnes and Noble says that their offerings are intended to build brand loyalty, and to help sell more goods and services. A typical course might have from six to twelve lessons of about 30 minutes each, with the opportunity to communicate with instructors during scheduled office hours. See


Letters of recommendation suspect – Writing in the June 30th Chronicle, Alison Schneider says that institutions of higher education can no longer trust letters of recommendation to be objective. He says that puffery is rampant, evasion abounds, and deliberate obfuscation is the rule of the day. Thus peer review, one of academe’s central mechanisms, may be flawed. In letters supporting job candidates who have been their students, for example, faculty members may be overcome by the desire to see their students succeed. In other situations, everyone fears lawsuits, reprisals, and frayed relations with colleagues. But even people who acknowledge the problems with recommendations have not stopped using them – they don’t know how else to do business. See


Growth of for-profit university – A national for-profit chain in the US, the University of Phoenix, has reported that its degree programs rose by 22 % over the past year, to 75.057 students. Most rapid growth was in online enrollment, where the increase was 44.7 %. The university has locations in 15 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. It has been closely watched by traditional higher education institutions as a growing competitor. See


Comparison of degrees in UK – In an article in the July 2000 issue of Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, A.R.J.Dainty et al report on a study comparing the careers of men and women in the construction industry in the UK. The study examined the career of professionals at different stages of their careers. Results showed a disparity between men’s and women’s career progression, finding that problems existed for women at every career stage – including demanding work environments, inflexible working arrangements, and ingrained attitudes. The authors argue that addressing the equity issue is essential if the construction industry is to develop a sufficient skilled workforce for coming years. See


New directions for Max Planck – According to a report in the June 9th issue of Science, Germany’s premier basic research institution has developed a new blueprint for 2000 Plus. The plan stresses more intensive collaboration between researchers across borders and among institutions, and an influx of young minds, to spur a new era of creativity. Priorities for coming years include molecular level biology, the brain, the individual and the environment, structure of the world and the universe, new materials and technologies, and complex processes and systems. See


Advances in fuel cells – In the June 16th issue of Science, Robert Service reports that a spurt of findings suggest that fuel cells may be almost ready for major commercial development. He notes that researchers have made critical strides in developing commercially viable cells that extract electricity directly from natural gas, ethane, and other fossil fuels. Conventional ceramic cells, necessitated by the high temperatures of reactions, convert the hydrocarbons to hydrogen inside the cells. A recent demonstration of a system large enough to light up more than 200 homes showed that it is the most efficient large-scale electrical generator ever designed. Hopes are that such fuel cells will power everything from individual homes to municipal power grids. See


IJEE Lab issue – A current issue of the International Journal of Engineering Education, v.16 no.3, is on the application of National Instruments LabVIEW software to engineering education. In papers from Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, and the USA, applications of this commercial software package are illustrated. The software is an interactive, computer driven simulation, control and scientific visualization aid for enhancing student learning. The eleven papers in the journal issue describe highlights of the software, its application in various engineering learning situations, and future directions.  CD-ROM with an evaluation version of the software is provided with the hard copy of the journal. See


Engineering sans frontiers – In an article in the Spring 2000 issue of SEFI News, Arvid Anderson states that the engineers of tomorrow will need more than technical skills to work in international teams and across borders. He outlines needed skills: international awareness, professional competencies, awareness of international competition, etc. He also indicates that education and industry must work together to fully develop practicing engineers to work across national borders. He writes with an EU perspective, arguing that national boundaries need to recede in order to make that area a world center of technical excellence. See


Positions of possible interest – The June 23rd issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education lists the following opportunities:

Ø      President, Anglo American College, Czech Republic

Ø      Vice President for Research/Associate Provost, University of Georgia


And the following positions are listed in the June 30th Chronicle:

Ø      Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science, SUNY Binghamton, NY

Ø      President, Utah State University

Ø      Vice President, American Council on Education, DC

Ø      Vice President Research, University of Central Florida






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