27 March 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

Denmark and Sweden have recently been linked with a massive bridge-tunnel project, and universities on both sides of the newly bridged straight are creating a cross-border learning region. According to an article by Colin Woodard in the Chronicle of Higher Education, eleven higher education institutions in the area have come together to create Oresund University, a coordinating body to help forge a single economically competitive metropolitan region across the national border. The institutions hope to create joint programs, share classes, libraries and technical resources, and foster closer connections with private companies and public sector institutions on either side of the Oresund. Key institutions involved are Lund University, the University of Copenhagen, and the Technical University of Copenhagen. See

Under a new Japanese government plan, scientists at national universities would receive greater financial incentives to work on projects that lead to patents, according to an article by Michael Chan in the Chronicle. Under current Japanese law, faculty members at national universities must transfer their intellectual property rights to the government. They can be compensated up to a ceiling of $60,000 for work leading to a patent, but that amount has not been sufficient to stimulate large numbers of patents – some 190 in 1999. The new plan would lift that ceiling, but the government has not yet indicated how high the revised patent payments would go, nor how they would be set. Cabinet ministers are expected to approve the plan, which would take effect in 2002. See

The British government has pledged to move to what it calls “light touch” accreditation, according to an article in the Chronicle by David Walker. Under a new system, higher education institutions that receive high marks from accreditors in key areas will be exempt from further inspection for up to five years. The key areas identified by the Quality and Assurance Agency are curriculum, student support, learning, and assessments. The change is expected to save some $30-million a year. See

The German research minister, concerned about a brain drain of expatriate scientists and talented young researchers, has announced an $82-million program of incentives to stem that flow. According to an article by Robert Koenig in the 9 March 2001 Science, young German scientists have complained about rigid university hierarchies and a dearth of jobs. A recent study found that about 14% of German science students land graduate or postdoc positions in the US, and up to a third of them do not return. New programs include funds to attract professors and graduate students in science to Germany from abroad, and efforts to give young researchers more independence within German universities. See

The Australian government is inviting top academics from around the world to apply for new “Federation Fellowships”, according to an article by Geoffrey Maslen in the Chronicle. Some 125 fellowships will be awarded over the next five years for scholars to perform research at Australian institutions. Each recipient will receive a salary of $112,000 a year for five years, in addition to a matching sum from the host institution. The fellowships are intended to attract and retain top researchers to Australia, where they are expected to contribute to research efforts at the interface with industry. See

The University of Delhi, one of India’s premier universities, has decided to set aside a significant number of teaching positions for members of that country’s lower-caste groups. According to an article in the Chronicle by Martha Overland, the decision was made to comply with India’s constitution which requires that 22.5% of all government jobs be set aside for low-caste and aboriginal candidates. The university has had a hard time attracting people from lower-caste groups to fill positions, however – only 150 of the 7000 faculty members are currently from such groups. The university’s teachers union is fighting the target, saying that it will discourage other students from considering academic careers since job openings for them would be severely reduced. See

A pair of young tycoons in Russia have endowed a new foundation to support that country’s impoverished scientists. According to an article in the 9 March 2001 issue of Science, the $1-million pledged will provide salary supplements of up to $10,000 this year to more than 200 researchers – as much as 10 times their annual salaries. In announcing the foundation, the tycoons said that they were moved to act by the perilous state of Russian science. The selection process for awardees has been conducted in secrecy, leading to some complaints. It is not clear whether the foundation will be able to raise money to continue beyond 2001. See

The University of Tokyo plans to impose fixed term contracts on both tenured and nontenured faculty members in agriculture, engineering, and medicine who are 55 or older. According to an article on the Chronicle by Alan Brender, the move is seen as a means of preventing many professors from continuing in their present positions past age 60 – even though the mandatory retirement age is being raised from 60 to 65. Under the new regulations, professors will need approval from the faculty council to have their contracts renewed after age 60. See

Iran has adopted legislation allowing unmarried women to study abroad on state scholarships, according to an article in the Chronicle by Burton Bollag. The decision is a victory for supporters of women’s rights, although it does require that the women obtain permission from their fathers. Married women have been eligible for scholarships for foreign study, but need written permission from their husbands. Supporters of the measure argued that it was needed to allow young female scholars to pursue advanced degrees in specialties not offered inside the country. See

A remote-sensing expert who has been in charge of promoting high-tech enterprises has been chosen to head China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, according to an article by Ding Yimin in the 9 March 2001 issue of Science. Xu Guanhua will direct a rapidly growing science and technology budget that reached $6.5-billion in 1999. His agency oversees state run scientific institutes including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as funding for key basic research projects, high technology development, scientific infrastructure, and international collaborations. See

South Korea’s Ministry of Information and Communication will provide scholarships for more South Koreans to earn graduate degrees in information technology in the United States, according to an article by Michael Chan in the Chronicle. The ministry is increasing the number of scholarships to 200, up from 50 last year – with 120 master’s candidates and 80 doctoral candidates receiving $20,000 a year. Priority will be given to students in information security, digital broadcasting and content, semiconductor design, and electronic commerce. Applicants must gain admission to one of the top 35 US universities. See

As Japanese universities reduce their enrollments in the face of shrinking enrollments, foreign instructors are being given their walking papers. According to an article by Alan Brendler in the Chronicle, the jobs of foreign lecturers have been in jeopardy since 1992, when the Education Ministry made foreigners the first target of cuts due to tightening budgets. Usually foreign lecturers in Japan work under contract, and numerous foreign lecturers have had contracts terminated as the number of 18 year olds has decreased due to a declining birthrate. To some, the firings of foreign faculty members are emblematic of the country’s 19th century posture when Japan was closed to outsiders. Many Japanese people currently feel, however, that if the country is to compete internationally it needs to interact more smoothly with the citizens of other countries. See

The Russian MIR space station has been brought down in the Pacific after 15 years as a research platform. According to an article in the 9 March 2001 issue of Science, MIR served as both a test-bed for space hardware and as a platform for scientific research. More than 100 cosmonauts and astronauts from a dozen countries conducted some 23,000 experiments. Of prime research importance were studies of the effects of microgravity on living things, from wheat to people. Space flights as long as 438 days provide data for possible human flights to Mars. See

  U.S. developments

Scholars in the US are urging publications to make articles accessible online free, soon after publication. In a viewpoint in the 23 March 2001 issue of Science, several prominent scholars are urging a boycott of scientific and scholarly journals that do not agree to post their content in independent repositories on the Web six months after the journal issue has appeared in print. They go even further in suggesting that a major public archive be created so that publications are conveniently accessible in readily searchable formats. The editors of Science, in a response, warn that such a proposal would put nonprofit, scholarly publishers at financial risk – diverting online traffic away from their web sites, where journal papers and other products are offered for sale. See

Proposed new legislation which would ease copyright restrictions on online instruction is working its way through the US Congress. According to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle, the ‘Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act’ would put distance education on the same legal footing as traditional instruction. Under current law, the same copyrighted material that can be used in face-to-face instruction often cannot be used in an online course. The bill is based on the recommendations of a recent Congressional Web-based Education Commission. University representatives have praised the bill in testimony, but a publisher’s organization has voiced opposition – saying that the legislation does not protect publishers against misuse of copyrighted works. See

Governments and other policy making bodies are facing an increasing number of issues that require extensive knowledge of science and technology for effective decision making, according to an article by Jon Peha in the March 2001 issue of IEEE Spectrum. Issues such as health care, environment, energy, agriculture, national defense, communications, and transportation are among those where technical judgment is needed in the public policy making process. But there is a great distance between forward looking scientists and engineers and elected officials and their staffs at local, state, and Federal levels. Technologists tend to measure success by what is produced, while policy makers are more focused on the process used to arrive at a political decision. To bridge the divide effectively, technologists need to recognize that timing is critical, and that it is important to address appropriate issues at the right time in the legislative process. They also need to learn to couch their inputs in terms of general principles, leaving the policy makers to develop specifics. See

The National Governor’s Association has begun a four year bipartisan project to put higher education near the top of the agendas of state and national policy makers, according to an article in the Chronicle by Jennifer Yachnin. Goals included in the governor’s effort include increasing access to higher education, creating additional opportunities for lifelong learning, developing better learning assessment tools, and aligning academic programs with the economic needs of states. Plans for the project call for the publication of white papers, assistance to governors making policy changes, and visits to states with innovative approaches. See

While praising the Bush administration budget proposal for another major boost for the National Institutes of Health, scientists are expressing concern about the proposed funding levels for the physical sciences. According to an article by David Malakoff in the 9 March 2001 Science, science lobbyists are gearing up to convince Congress to rewrite the budgets of the National Science Foundation and other losers in the President’s budget priorities. Previous interagency priorities such as nanotechnology and information technology have disappeared, NSF and NASA are proposed for increases below the rate of inflation, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey are slated for cuts, and the Advanced Technology program of the Department of Commerce would be abolished. See

Study abroad programs sponsored by US universities are being re-examined in light of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe. According to an article in the Chronicle by Alex Kellogg, agriculture schools in particular are canceling study programs that would have involved visits to agricultural sites in countries where the disease is present. Some schools also are barring visitors from European countries from visiting agricultural facilities on US campuses, to ensure that potentially contaminated visitors do not get near their animals which are used in research. See

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has reported that the number of approved H1-B visa petitions has dropped 30% compared with last year at this time, according to an article by Carrie Johnson in the 21 March 2001 Wall Street Journal. The visas for trained foreign-born workers have declined in number due to the slowdown in technology spending and the resulting cutbacks by producers of high tech products and services. Some 72,000 visa applications have been approved by the INS since October 2000, compared with more than 100,000 in the same period last year. Due to cutbacks at some US high tech firms, there are more qualified technical people in the marketplace at this time. See


A new study of college admissions tests has indicated that students who receive coaching perform only marginally better – about 20 points higher on the 1600 point SAT – than those who get no coaching. According to an article in the Chronicle by Carolyn Mooney, the study was conducted by a doctoral student with no connection to testing or coaching companies. Critics of the study, including representatives of coaching companies, emphasized its limitations – such as the fact that it did not distinguish between the various types of commercial coaching programs available. See

The Olin College of Engineering, first freestanding undergraduate engineering college to be established in the US in nearly a century, aims to shake up engineering education. According to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 9 March 2001 issue of Science, the goal of the new college, which is scheduled to open in 2002, is to produce graduates with the ability to predict, create, and manage the technology which will shape the future. Olin’s president says that current engineering education programs are crammed with traditional courses, with little room for burgeoning areas such as computer and bioengineering, communications and business skills. He also cites the poor record of current engineering schools in attracting women and minorities, even as these groups comprise an increasing share of the college age population. The new school is funded by a $500-million grant from the Franklin W. Olin Foundation. See

A study at Cornell University indicates that wireless technology for students can be a double-edged sword -- enhancing the learning environment, but potentially harming grades. According to an article in the Chronicle by Scott Carlson, the researchers recorded the amount of time each student in the study spent surfing the Web, then compared that with the student’s grade at the end of the semester. The study indicated that students who visited more Web sites during class got better grades than others, but those who spent more time online at home performed less well than those who spent little time online at home. The researchers concluded that computers are an effective classroom tool as long as students stay focused on class activity. Apparently electronic distractions can be detrimental to academic performance, however. See

A shortage of engineering graduates going into the construction industry has led companies to try new methods to attract potential employees. According to an article by David Rosenbaum in the 19 March 2001 Engineering News Record, some construction firms are resorting to large signing bonuses, billboards in college classrooms, and recruiting through professor contacts rather than traditional recruiting fairs at schools. Some firms have found that internships prior to graduation are an effective mechanism for attracting and retaining appropriate engineering employees. See

Little access to financial aid hampers very part-time students in progressing with college programs, according to an article by Paula Wolff in the Chronicle. More than a third of all college students are part time, and half of those take less than six credit hours each term. The typical very part-time student is a 30 year-old unmarried female with dependents who holds a full time job with low pay, who is struggling to get a degree to escape the ‘working poor’ status. Colleges often provide flexible class schedules and other academic support to such students, but financial aid is hard to come by. A 1995 study indicates that only 7% of part-time students receive financial aid. The author, former president of a nontraditional school, argues that federal and state governments need to make financial aid available to such students as part of dismantling the old welfare system. See


Assessment of student performance needs to be tailored to their learning styles, according to an article by James Anderson in the March 2001 issue of the AAHE Bulletin. The author notes that ‘learning styles’ refers to the preferred way in which an individual or group assimilates, organizes, and uses information to make sense of the world. He notes that learning styles differ in diverse populations, and that current methodologies of assessment of student learning and performance do not take such differences into account. The author suggests directions to be taken to improve this situation. See

One challenge facing the new Bush administration, one that affects higher education, is the issue of the widespread use of racial and ethnic preferences. According to an article in the Chronicle by Roger Clegg, affirmative action in college admissions is much more extensive than usually acknowledged, and a war against it is being fought on many fronts, primarily at the state level. Political leaders at the Federal level are talking very little about this issue, but affirmative action lawsuits are likely to force the new administration to take positions. It has inherited a large body of laws and regulations on this topic from the previous pro-preference administration, and will soon be forced to state the new administration’s position before the courts. See

The National Science Foundation has unveiled plans for a new $20-million a year program aimed at improving career prospects for women scientists and engineers in academia. According to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 16 March 2001 issue of Science, the ADVANCE program will address issues that have hampered its predecessor, Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education: removing institutional barriers, and being vulnerable to attack by foes of affirmative action. The new program will target the place where academic women work, encouraging universities to reform their attitudes toward such issues as dual career couples and those needing time off the tenure track. NSF hopes to support the new program at planned levels for at least five years. See

Distance education

Accreditation groups have issued recommendations for distance learning programs, according to an article in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale. The recommendations cover five general categories: institutional context and commitment, curriculum and instruction, faculty support, student support, and evaluation and assessment. The recommendations are not yet accreditation standards – each regional accreditation body will determine how to utilize them. But since distance education often crosses regional boundaries, a need for consistency is apparent. See

For the original documents on the recommendations see

The potential for expanding online education in Asia has led interested institutions to make presentation on possibilities to audiences there. Representatives from such organizations as the University of Maryland, the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong have made presentations at sessions sponsored by the US State Department and several Japanese organizations. Speakers have observed that the greatest barrier to online education in Asia is that it changes the relationship between teachers and students – moving professors from being lecturers, the centers of knowledge, to being coaches. See

The United Nations Development Program and Yale University are using the Internet to help students around the globe share knowledge about ways to improve the conditions of the urban poor. According to an article by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle, a one semester course which will be incorporated in degree programs at 19 institutions leads student to examine the use of public-private partnerships to provide urban services like clean drinking water, sewage treatment, solid waste management, and clean energy. Some course materials have been distributed in hard copy, due to poor Internet connections in some developing countries. But lecture notes and graphics are posted on the Web each week, and electronic mail is being used to allow students to share information. See

A special section of the Wall Street Journal recently covered how the Web is transforming education, and asked whether what business opportunities this offered. Major articles included: ‘Old colleges, new ideas’, ‘The college of the future – today’, ‘A personal education’, ‘Low marks for Web-based education’, ‘Corporate training goes online’, and ‘Reynolds Price talks technology’. A second section in that 12 March 2001 publication focused on the Classroom, with articles on ‘A campus connected’, ‘Tales out of school’, ‘Tools of the future’, ‘The leisure class’, ‘No substitute’, ‘On the job’, and ‘Writing a new chapter’. An online version of the report is available at

Royalties are being used to entice professors to design web based courses at the University of North Texas. According to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle, the institution has policies that pay professors royalties when their online materials are used by other instructors, and shares some of the tuition from its online courses with the professors who create them. Administrators hope that sharing profits will spur widespread development of online course materials. North Texas is one of the first universities to develop a detailed mechanism to pay royalties for online courses, though other institutions are considering similar plans. See

Harvard University, following in the footsteps of other universities, will offer a set of free, online courses to the university’s alumni. The offerings are described as tastings or vignettes, not full blown courses, according to an article by Sarah Carr in the Chronicle. First courses posted on the web site are “Rediscovering Homer; Poetry and Performance”, and “Making Waves: Quantum Billiards to Concert Acoustics”. Last year Harvard opted out of a distance learning consortium with Princeton, Stanford, Yale and Oxford Universities – deciding to put its own institutional stamp on any such effort. At Princeton, some 500 alumni are already taking courses online. See


Brandeis University has announced a new undergraduate concentration in Internet studies, to start this fall. According to an article by Scott McLemee in the Chronicle, it is the first such undergraduate degree program in the country. It follows Georgetown University’s masters degree focused on the Internet, where enrollment has grown from 30 students in 1996 to 160 today. Individual courses devoted to the Internet have been developed at many universities. And an Association of Internet Researchers, started in 1998, has some 750 members. The Chronicle article includes a list of key works in Internet studies, and provides leads to key organizations in the field. See

University of California at San Diego researchers have built a wireless computer network that could become a model for bringing high-speed Internet access to remote areas. According to an article in the Chronicle by Florence Olsen, the network was developed to provide fast Internet links to several tribal reservations and research sites that are up to 35 miles away from the San Diego campus. The NSF supported $2.3-million project involves building a solar-powered, wireless radio network. See

A small, inexpensive six-legged robot, Stiquito, provides an opportunity to learn about the field of robotics. A recent book, “Stiquito For Beginners: An Introduction to Robotics” (Conrad and Mills, 2000), provides a learning environment for development of the skills and equipment needed to build this small robot and its related electronic controls. The book includes a curriculum, experiments, and projects – and is accompanied by a teacher’s manual with additional experiments, science benchmarks, and national standards. For more on this book go to

Ontario’s Lakehead University is planning a large network using Internet standards to carry voice calls. According to an article by Florence Olsen in the Chronicle, the advanced network will carry voice, data, and video over a common wiring infrastructure, replacing the university’s 15 year old phone system. The technology for carrying voice conversations over Internet-protocol networks is relatively new, and this 1900 Internet phone system will be the largest to date in North America. Using headsets and a computer program called Softphone, students and faculty will be able to use their computers as telephones. Each student will be assigned an electronic address to which both e-mail and voice-mail messages will be directed. The University’s partners in the project are Bell Canada and Nortel Networks. The network and phones are valued at $3.9-million. See


The SEFI Working Group on Continuing Education has posted the proceedings from its December 2000 Annual Conference at Helsinki on the Web at The focus of the conference was to treat continuing engineering education as a business, dealing with matter such as business models, marketing, client’s satisfaction, best practices, and industry input. The Web site includes slides summarizing the seminar, and copies of papers presented there.

CALIE’01, International Conference on Computer Aided Learning in Engineering Education, will be held in Tunis from 8-10 November 2001. The conference is dedicated to all essential aspects of the development of the global information and communication technologies and the computer impact on engineering education. Topics will include Infrastructure, Tools and Content-oriented Applications, and New Roles of the Instructor and Learner. For further information contact Professor Mohamed Ben Ahmed at or Professor Jean Michel at

Positions of possible interest

From the 23 March 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Vice President Research, University of Alaska System

Ø      Provost/ Academic VP, Colorado State University

Ø      VPAA, Morgan State University, MD

Ø      VP for Research, Michigan Technological University

Ø      Vice Provost/ Distance Education, New Mexico State University

Ø      VPAA, Oklahoma State University

And from the 30 March 2001 Chronicle:

Ø      Multiple positions, Tech of Monterey, State of Mexico Campus

Ø      Dean of Engineering, University of Qatar

Ø      President, Cleveland State University


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