28 April 2003

Copyright © 2003 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, PhD., P.E., with Bethany S. Oberst, Ph.D.


International developments

1.        SARS affects the academic world

2.        Study abroad programs impacted by war, disease

3.        Cuban government represses libraries

4.        International student enrollments in US universities studied

5.        Indian universities act against US and UK over Iraq war

6.        Iraqi National Museum looted

7.        Iraqi universities down but optimistic

8.        University president to aid Iraq rebuilding

9.        German publishers pitted against universities over new copyright law

10.     China to welcome foreign universities

U.S. developments

11.     Study recommends income-based rather than race-based admissions

12.     US Supreme Court hears arguments in affirmative action cases

13.     US government steps up recruitment of engineers and scientists

14.     Biometric data suggested for foreign student system

15.     Virginia Tech reverses controversial decisions

16.     New science chief at Department of Homeland Security

17.     US faculty salaries up 3%

18.     Public universities seek ‘privatization’

19.     NSF criticized for asking too little

20.     New head of engineering directorate at NSF

21.     New president-elect at ASEE

Distance education, technology

22.     Distance education undergraduate engineering degrees examined

23.     WI-FI catching on rapidly

24.     Blackboard pursues hackers

25.     New government web site offers technology information

Students, faculty, education

26.     Systematic engineering education reform recommended

27.     Digital divide gone among college bound?

28.     Relevance to society makes engineering attractive to women

29.     High schools told how to better prepare students for college

30.     National Academy of Science panel proposes student learning initiative

31.     Engineers Without Borders movement growing


32.     European Journal of Engineering Education

33.     Issues in Science and Technology

34.     TechKnowLogia


35.   URI Colloquium on International engineering education

36.     Mudd Design Workshop

37.     ECI Conference on Global Perspective for Students held in Portugal


NOTE: An electronic conference sponsored by ASEE and WFEO is currently open at    It contains papers written as input to the June international colloquium in Nashville , and the authors would welcome broad discussion. Click on the paper title in the left frame to read the paper, and click on the paper title or forum category in the right frame to enter discussion.


International developments

1) SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) continues to affect the academic world.  Colleges in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia remained closed, and the American Association for Cancer Research cancelled its annual meeting in Toronto .  Countering these closings and cancellations, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, and the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University both remained open.  In Canada , where SARS deaths have occurred, students in health related programs have found their studies disrupted, as hospitals attempted to ensure the safety of patients and staff.  Reporters Karen Birchard and Jen Lin-Liu wrote this story for the Chronicle of Higher Education. See  A follow-up article by Jen Lin-Liu can be found at

2) Parents of students planning study abroad trips this summer are worried about the dangers of war related disruptions and potential illness, according to an article in the April 9th New York Times by Tamar Lewin. Programs in the Middle East have had months to prepare for the impact of the war, and many schools have cancelled spring and summer offerings. But programs in Asia are scrambling to deal with the SARS epidemic. Several schools have called their students home from spring semester programs in Hong Kong and mainland China , and Semester at Sea has canceled its visits to Hong Kong and Vietnam . More schools are canceling programs in the area that were scheduled for this summer. In addition to the direct safety concerns, students are wondering how they will be received overseas, in the aftermath of the Iraq war. It is too early to gauge how such worries will affect the numbers going abroad during the next academic year. See

3) The Cuban government recently engaged in actions designed to suppress the dissemination of ideas.  Marion Lloyd writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about twelve independent librarians jailed for collaborating with a foreign power, probably US diplomats.  Independent libraries in Cuba , frequently no more than a small collection of books stored in a private home, are a source of information not found in public libraries, where materials considered by the government as politically sensitive are not available. Cuban government officials claim that the people were arrested for political activities, not for their role in running these independent libraries, but the leaders of this movement claim otherwise. See

4) The Institute for International Education has released the results of a survey conducted in February which provides an update on international student enrollments on US campuses for the academic year 2002-03. In looking at overall international student enrollments, 70% of survey respondents reported that the total number of such students for the current year is steady or growing. Only 4% reported a substantial drop in international student enrollments at their campuses. While 79% of respondents said that some of their students had been delayed in arriving for Fall 2002 classes, most of those students did arrive in time for Spring 2003 classes. For some countries and some US campuses which used to enroll large numbers of students from those countries, the impact has been much more significant. The declining number of students from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asian countries that started years ago is continuing, and in some cases accelerating. Students from those countries are being hit with factors such as visa approval delays, financial problems, political concerns, and attractive opportunities to study elsewhere. For complete survey results, see  

5) More Indian universities have taken action to protest the US coalition at war in Iraq . While some earlier forms of protest were unofficial, recently fourteen vice chancellors declared an official boycott of US or UK sponsored programs.  This has led to the cancellation of an electronic conference sponsored by the US National Science Foundation and the Indian Science Foundation.  In Calcutta , faculty members signed a statement that they will even refuse to accept scholarships or exchange opportunities if they are US sponsored.  The report for the Chronicle of Higher Education was written by Martha Ann Overland. See

6) Despite the presence of coalition forces in Baghdad , the National Museum was looted of both catalogued and uncatalogued treasures.  As Daniel Del Castillo points out in his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the bitter irony is that many pieces from regional collections were brought to Baghdad for safekeeping in anticipation of the war.  What was lost was priceless in terms of understanding the roots of human civilization in the land where cities first took root, where writing was invented, where religion and literature were elaborated.  In a dig at the decision made for US forces to heavily defend the oil resources of Iraq, while leaving the National Museum largely unprotected, a petition signed by 260 scholars and sent to the United Nations declared that Iraq’s cultural heritage is as important to the country’s economic future as is its oil. See

7) Saddam Hussein stripped Iraqi universities of intellectual freedom and scared away their best professors, the oil embargo deprived them of resources, and the recent bombing and looting have resulted in further destruction. As reported by Daniel del Castillo in the Chronicle, a handful of international education organizations, Iraqi expatriates and the US government are deciding how to rebuild the nation’s higher education. Some are interested in securing multimillion dollar contracts, while others are interested in establishing an intellectual footprint in an Arab state with a rich cultural heritage. The US government is controlling plans to rehabilitate the Iraqi educational infrastructure. Contracts for the reconstruction of elementary and secondary schools are already being awarded, but planning for higher education is still underway. See  A related article in the April 27th Washington Post by Peter Slevin describes the situation at Basra University in detail. Already having fallen behind developments in other parts of the world, it now has lost its computers to looters, its laboratories are a shambles, and mobs set the library on fire gutting the building and destroying the books. But faculty members there are optimistic about the future – they are now free to select their own leaders, rather than suffer under those imposed by the Baath Party, and to end the intellectual isolation imposed by the Hussein regime by rebuilding links to colleagues in other parts of the world. See

8) Former director of the US Agency for International Development and current president of Michigan State University M. Peter McPherson has reportedly been chosen by President Bush to manage the Iraqi treasury department and oil resources during the post-war transition. According to Daniel Del Castillo in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the assignment is not expected to be permanent. See

9) Academic publishers are pitted against universities, research institutions and other nonprofit organizations over a new copyright law passed by Germany ’s Parliament. The law permits certain institutions to distribute digitally portions of copyrighted works without paying for them.  Lawmakers crafted the legislation to limit the portions to “small” pieces, and the distribution to specific people, to students in a class, for example, but the publishers have mounted an intense challenge, claiming that they will be forced out of business.  According to Burton Bollag, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the new law puts Germany in the camp with other countries, including the US , which take a relatively liberal stance about the use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes,

while France and Spain , within the European Union, are more conservative in their approach. See  Similar coverage of this story can also be found in an article by Sonja Lorenz in the 28 March issue of Science. See

10) Effective September 1, 2003, it will be easier for foreign universities to open programs in China .  Although foreign institutions will still be required to collaborate with a Chinese partner institution, they will be permitted to offer diplomas and certificates in their name alone.  The new legislation, according to Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Jen Lin-Liu, alludes to certain incentives which may be forthcoming for foreign universities which open programs in China .  But the legislation also prohibits foreign universities from teaching subjects related to the military, the police and politics. See


U.S. developments

11) A report prepared by the liberal, non-partisan, New York based Century Foundation recommends that US colleges and universities include income based standards, in addition to race-conscious standards, in their admissions policies.  Wading into the highly charged question which is now before the US Supreme Count, the authors of the study say that this approach would keep the levels of participation among black and Hispanic students at about the same levels as currently achieved, and be more defensible in the courts.  Accusing the most selective institutions of a record of socio-economic diversity that is worse than their record of racial diversity, the report says that both the public and college admissions officers believe that merit should be defined in terms of obstacles overcome.  As part of the study, the researchers conducted a phone survey and discovered that the public preferred income based preferences to race-based preferences and associated disadvantage more with economic status than with race.  While the public also supports plans that admit a fixed percentage of high school graduates from each school, the authors note that this permits many unqualified students to gain admission.  The American Association of State Colleges and Universities has stated that overlaying economic preferences on top of race and ethnicity preferences would not be supported by the public. This report was written by Peter Schmidt for the Chronicle of Higher Education. See

12) The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is the subject of two cases currently before the US Supreme Court.  Both cases challenge the legality of affirmative action applied to university admissions.  The Court heard arguments on April 1, and is expected to present its ruling in July.  Peter Schmidt, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, concludes that the justices’ cautious questioning in the session signals that a cautious ruling will be forthcoming, perhaps along the lines suggested by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Kirk O. Kolho, who assured the justices that it would be possible to overturn the University of Michigan’s policies without overturning the entire principle of affirmative action in higher education.  The justices’ questions probed whether race could be one of many considerations in admissions decisions, whether governments have an interest in promoting enrollment of black and Hispanic students in law schools, whether the service academies should consider race, whether racial diversity ensures diversity of viewpoints, and the meaning of “critical mass.”  See

13) The US federal government is stepping up its campaign to recruit scientists and engineers, according to an article by David Phinney in the March 3rd issue of Federal Times. The government is facing an impending crisis as large numbers of currently employed engineers and scientists approach retirement age. Federal recruiters are making aggressive approaches to younger professionals, emphasizing that government projects are often more innovative and of higher profile than those in the private sector. Prospective job candidates are often concerned, however, that government projects are often under funded, burdened by bureaucracies, and lacking in sufficient resources. In one agency with large engineering and science staffs, NASA, 25% of them are slated to retire in the near future. See

14) In yet another chapter in the long-running saga of SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information Service), the US Congress has suggested that biometric data be integrated into the system by encoding it onto a card. While supporting the idea in principle, the American Council on Education pointed out the difficulties that this would entail for a system already plagued by problems.  Michael Arnone was writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education. See

15) After earlier passing controversial legislation barring affirmative action and protection for gay students and faculty, the board of Virginia Tech reversed itself.  Board members admitted that the original decisions were hasty and ill advised, but vowed to move forward.  As a result of this controversy, according to Thomas Bartlett of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the board passed a resolution guaranteeing that all changes to board agendas must be made at least three days in advance, thus avoiding acting on proposals which have not received sufficient consideration and debate. See

16) The US government’s newest research funding agency, the Department of Homeland Security, has installed its new science chief, according to an article in the April 18th Science by David Malakoff. Charles McQueary, a former defense industry executive, will oversee a proposed $800-million budget. As described in Congressional meetings, his immediate priorities include evaluating off-the-shelf antiterror technologies, deploying the most promising ones quickly, and recruiting his team – which will include 100 technical people. The most immediate impact of the new agency for universities will be $10-million for a fellowship program and at least one academic center dedicated to homeland security research. See

17) Faculty salaries in the United States advanced 3% despite the recession, said Piper Fogg in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The average pay in 2002-2003 was $65,048, according to AAUP (American Association of University Professors) data. Professors at public institutions received lower increases than colleagues in private institutions.  Women faculty continued to receive less money than their male colleagues.  Salary compression remains an important problem. See

18) State aid to public universities has been falling, prompting them to ask for more independence from state governments, according to an article by June Kronholz in the April 18th Wall Street Journal. State support accounts for just 25% of the budget at the University of Wisconsin , 13% at the University of Virginia , and 10% at the University of Michigan . State governments generally justify control of tuition and staff salaries due to such financial inputs. Although a complete break from state funding is not what the state schools have in mind, there is widespread talk of “privatizing” public colleges. State aid to public universities was $56-billion nationally in 2000. It often makes a major difference in the ability of public colleges to recruit the best students, keep class sizes small, and raise salaries to attract the best teachers. Most public universities also depend on their states to pay for buildings and other infrastructure. See

19) The prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) of the US was criticized for failing to be sufficiently aggressive in their budget request, according to Anne Marie Borrego in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Members of a Senate appropriations committee expressed their disappointment that the fiscal year 2004 proposed budget was only 3.2% more than the 2003 budget.  Rita Caldwell, director of the NSF, defended her request, saying that since Congress had not yet concluded appropriations for FY 2003, it was impossible to use that budget as a base line.  She indicated that additional funds would go toward achieving goals for increasing the “size and duration” of average grants.  Caldwell did, however, warn against increasing the NSF budget too much too soon.  NSF’s inspector general testified that the Foundation still needs to improve its record of managing large infrastructure projects, to increase its grants oversight, and to deal with a rapidly aging staff.  See

20) The National Science Foundation has named John A. Brighton, provost of the National-Louis University , to be the new leader of its Directorate for Engineering. Brighton served from 1991 to 1999 as provost at the Pennsylvania State University , where he had previously served as Dean of Engineering. He earned Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering at Purdue University . He has held faculty positions at Georgia Tech, Michigan State , Carnegie-Mellon, and Purdue. His new position at NSF, starting in May 2003, will have him managing a budget of $540-million per year. He replaces Esin Gulari, who has been serving as Acting Assistant Director. See

21) Sherra Kerns is the new 2003-2004 President Elect of the American Society for Engineering Education, according to a note in the April 14th ASEE Action by Marian Tatu. Currently vice president for innovation and research at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Kerns is also the F.W.Olin Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Previously she served on the faculties of Vanderbilt , North Carolina State, and Auburn . Kerns has been active in ASEE, including serving on its Board of Directors as first vice president from 2000-2002.


Distance education, technology

22) The cover story of the April 2003 issue of ASEE Prism, by Thomas Grose, addresses the issue of undergraduates earning engineering degrees online. The author notes that only a handful of schools offer undergraduate engineering degrees online, and that there are good reasons why more schools have not pursued such programs. Clearly the biggest hurdle to offering distance education engineering degrees to undergraduates is the amount of lab work required. But Internet technology is making it possible to replicate laboratory experiences online with either virtual labs or remote-controlled robotics. Another big hurdle to offering distance degree programs to undergraduate engineering students is the time it takes to earn an engineering degree. Even for dedicated students, it takes many years to complete the degree requirements. The only publicly-available, accredited distance degree program that can currently be called thriving, according to the author, is at North Dakota – where there are 20 students enrolled. See

23) The cover story of the April 28th issue of Business Week explores how Wi-Fi wireless computer networks are catching on in corporate America . Boeing is outfitting more than 100 jets as flying cybercafes, where for $25 or so per flight laptop users will be able to log onto the Internet while in flight. Corporate America is putting Wi-Fi on an explosive growth path, since its super fast connections cost only a quarter as much as the gaggle of wires companies currently use. Wi-Fi is growing rapidly – 18 million users currently, up from 2.5 million in 2000. Wi-Fi is being built into current computers and digital recording devices, and over 90% of laptops are expected to be Wi-Fi ready by 2005, up from 35% at yearend 2003. The price of equipment is dropping, opening the market to a broader group of users – a laptop antenna now costs $46, down from $189 in 1999. See

24) Blackboard, a company that sells a ‘smart card’ network to more than 200 college campuses, has blocked two students from publicly describing how to override the system to circumvent building security, obtain free merchandise, and avoid paying for services. According to an article by Anitha Reddy in the April 18th Washington Post, Blackboard obtained a court order to keep students at Georgia Tech and the University of Alabama from discussing vulnerabilities of the card system at a hacker convention in Atlanta. The case has generated much interest because it touches on a federal law that forbids people from picking virtual locks protecting electronic content. The company says that to its knowledge no one has ever hacked into its card system. But it has gone after the two students, who it accuses of “promoting methods to dismantle secure hardware installations by vandalizing and gaining access to wiring”. See

25) A new web site offers the public access to a wealth of US government science, engineering, and technology information, according to a note in the April 2003 Engineering Times. The site,,gov, was launched in December. It offers access to “selected authoritative science Web sites and databases of technical reports, journal articles, conference proceedings, and other published materials. The site links users to data bases that are not searched by popular engines, such as Google. The site allows users to open up multiple data bases in one search. The Web site currently showcases more than 1700 sites, and is updated on a six-week cycle. See

Students, faculty, education  

26) The Spring 2003 issue of The Bent of Tau Beta Pi contains a major article by Frank Splitt:  “Systematic Engineering Education Reform – A Grand Challenge”. The author states that a new paradigm is needed for engineering education, one that yields renaissance-engineer graduates equipped with the tools to face an unpredictable future with confidence. Splitt lists several barriers to changes needed in engineering education, including academic resistance to change and to ABET oversight, lack of recognition for educators, and lack of forceful industry input. He describes how several key organizations – ABET, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Science Foundation, can lead to implementation of the new paradigm that he describes for engineering education. See 

27) A market-research firm that surveyed 500 college-bound high-school students of different races contends that the digital divide no longer exists among them, according to an article in the Chronicle by Scott Carlson. The students who were polled, including 100 African-American students and another 100 students of color from other backgrounds, all had earned scores of at least 800 on the SAT. The researchers found only marginal differences in the degree of computer use between white and black students. White and black students in the pool also used computers similarly. The researchers state, however, that it is likely that the digital divide still exists among students who are not planning to go to four year colleges, as students in this survey were. See 

28) A byproduct of the movement of making engineering education more relevant to society is that it is making the field more attractive to women, according to an article by Margaret Loftus in the April 2003 ASEE Prism. The article “A New Era” describes how the new engineering program at Smith College is applying ABET’s Criteria 2000 list of outcomes to shape its courses to be attractive to its clientele of young women. See

29) A group of research universities and the Pew Charitable Trusts have spent three years assessing what college freshmen need to know to succeed academically, according to an article in the Chronicle by Will Potter. They are now sending the information to every high school in the country to try to better align the curricula of high schools and colleges. Their booklet, “Understanding University Success”, gives detailed information on each area of study. Each high school will receive a CD-ROM with sample syllabi, assignments, and work samples submitted by university faculty members – so that teachers and students in high school can see what level they have to aim for. See  Information about the booklet and CD-ROM, or downloading a copy of the report, is available at the project’s web site,

30) The National Academy of Sciences wants the nation to invest $500-million in research on how to improve student learning, according to an article in the April 11th Science by Jeffrey Mervis. In a recent report, an academy panel proposes a novel, state based structure to funnel new research findings into the classroom, by making them available to educators all over the country. The report envisions a network of a half dozen or more centers distributed around the country tackling the most important issues shaping student achievement, from new curricula to improved teacher training, and then helping to implement what works best. See

31) Engineers Without Borders – USA , a student oriented effort started at the University of Colorado in 2000, is giving engineering students and their mentors opportunities to bring their expertise to bear in helping communities in the developing world. As described in an article in the April 2003 issue of ASCE News, the mix of hands-on learning and social awareness is very good for the engineering students and their practitioner mentors. Students earn academic credit for their projects in developing countries, and get assistance with travel costs. Some of the practicing engineers who advise and accompany them pay their own way, sometimes aided by their employers. Thus far most of the field projects have involved water. The organization has spread from Colorado to some 28 other campuses currently. A second, similar program – Engineers Without Frontiers USA – has been started at Cornell University . It is an offshoot of a Canadian organization, and is also expanding to other US campuses. See



32) The June 2003 issue of the European Journal of Engineering Education is now available at the publisher’s web site. The theme of the issue, introduced by Claudio Borri of the University of Florence , is ‘Reshaping the engineer for the 3rd millennium’. Papers on the theme of the renaissance engineer are based on presentations at the SEFI 2002 annual meeting at Florence . See

33) The Spring 2003 Issues in Science and Technology contains a block of papers on “Limiting the Tools of War”. Papers include discussions of control of biological and chemical weapons, the case against new nuclear weapons, cybersecurity, and the mine ban treaty. The issue also contains papers on genetically modified crops, cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses, scientific advice for government, and computers as an engine for economic development in Africa . See

34) The electronic journal TechKnowLogia has suspended publication of new issues due to lack of funding. The web site will continue to be active as an archive of past issues however. See



35) The Sixth Annual Colloquium on International Engineering Education, hosted by the University of Rhode Island , will be held at Warwick , RI from October 23-26, 2003 . This year’s theme will be ‘Educating the Global Engineer; Progress Through Partnerships’. See

36) The Mudd Design Workshop IV, “Designing Engineering Education”, will be held July 10-12, 2003 at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont , CA. Keynote speaker will be William Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering. See

37) Engineering Conferences International, in collaboration with several European engineering education organizations, held a conference on “Enhancement of the Global Perspective for Engineering Students by Providing an International Experience” in Tomar, Portugal in April. Topics discussed included driving forces for an international perspective by engineering graduates, opportunities for international study, issues in international study for engineering students, and quality assurance and accreditation. A broad cross section of engineering educators from North America and Europe participated, and differences in goals and approaches became apparent. North American educators want their students to have global experiences, while European educators are more focused on intra-European experiences. But European programs for international experiences are much more extensive that are those for North American students. See for details of the program and its organizers.


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