3 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

Asiaweek magazine has abandoned its controversial rankings of universities in Asia and the Pacific, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by David Cohen. The annual survey, which attempted to rank the ‘best’ multidisciplinary institutions from across the region, has been highly controversial as educators questioned the objectivity of its methodology. Similar regional surveys and rankings conducted by US News and World Report, The Financial Times, and Maclean’s have been similarly controversial in their respective areas. In last year’s Asiaweek rankings, 77 multidisciplinary institutions were surveyed, along with 39 science and technology institutions, spread out over 14 countries. The survey had many gaps in its coverage, with whole countries and territories missing. A number of institutions of higher learning declined to participate in last year’s survey, including the University of Tokyo which ranked No. 1 in two earlier surveys. See

Laboratory chiefs in Japan have criticized government policy which pushes for strategic research, according to an article by Dennis Normile in the 20 July 2001 issue of Science. Fourteen current and four former heads of major government laboratories have sent an open letter to the Prime Minister pleading for greater recognition of the value of basic research and a larger role for active researchers in shaping the nation’s research policies. The letter is in response to a July report from the Council for Science and Technology Policy which recommends that the government realign its research priorities “to strengthen industrial competitiveness, invigorate the economy, and promote a high quality of life in a vigorous society”. The laboratory heads argue that the report is shortsighted in promoting “the short term goal of strengthening industrial competitiveness”. Their letter goes on to argue that “advanced science and technology must be supported by the cultivation of basic research in a wide range of fields”. See

Australia has imposed new visa restrictions on foreign students from China, India and Pakistan, according to an article by Geoffrey Maslen in the Chronicle. University leaders have reacted angrily, saying that their institutions will lose valuable revenue – especially from Chinese students. The new regulations are intended to reduce the likelihood that students from certain countries will become illegal immigrants. Of the 96,000 foreign student enrolled in Australian universities last year, 6000 were from mainland China and another 13,000 were from Hong Kong. Foreign students pay universities about $500-million in fees annually. The Australian immigration department noted that while universities saw this substantial income, they did not realize how much the government was spending in tracking down illegal immigrants and deporting them. See

In turning former President Slobodan Milosevic over for trial in the Hague, Yugoslavia has unleashed a flood of Western aid to rebuild its shattered country. Some $1.28-billion has been pledged, according to an article by Richard Stone in the 20 July 2001 issue of Science. But hopes that major funding would be allocated to nourish scientific research have been dashed, as several Yugoslav science initiatives failed to win funding from this pool of funds. Most of the funding is being allocated to such reforms as overhauling the banking industry and tightening the social safety net. Only one of a dozen proposed scientific projects is being funded – upgrading Internet connections. Research has been struggling for support in Serbia and Montenegro, and it is estimated that half of the county’s top scientists have left the country for greener pastures. Although funding is scarce, new contacts are being established with European researchers, and the Yugoslav government is making available funds go further by funneling money to the best labs. See

Two Chinese scholars with US ties have been given 10-year prison sentences for alleged espionage, according to an article in the Chronicle by Beth McMurtrie. Another scholar with US ties has been deported. US supporters of these individuals maintain that they were conducting legitimate scholarly research, and that the Chinese government’s actions could threaten scholarly exchanges between American and Chinese universities because they indicate no respect for academic freedom. See

The Spanish government has cut off aid to some promising Ph.D. students from developing countries, according to an article by Xavier Bosch in the 13 July 2001 issue of Science. Breaking a commitment for three-year support packages to hundreds of students from around the world, the government has shifted the funds to target links with Latin America. The government has decided that the foreign student grant program is too expensive, and that too many of the students found ways of staying in Spain rather than returning to their own countries. Some 900 such students are likely to be sent home without the opportunity of completing their studies in Spain. The funds transferred to Latin American projects will be used to support cultural and educational programs. See

South Korea has announced steps to attract more foreign students, according to a note by Michael Chan in the Chronicle. Measures aimed at making Korean universities more attractive to foreign students – especially those from English-speaking countries – include easing entry and job regulations for such students, so that they can work up to 10 hours a week in paid jobs. The government is also providing funds for expanding the number of classes conducted in English. Some 150,000 Korean students go abroad to study each year, but only 6160 foreign students studied in Korea last year. The government hopes to double the number to 12,000 with its new initiatives. See

Researchers and doctors in poorer nations will get free or low-priced electronic access to nearly 1000 biomedical journals, according to an article by David Malakoff in the 13 July 2001 issue of Science. The six largest commercial journal publishers have agreed to open their Internet editions to universities, laboratories, and health agencies in nearly 100 nations. The initiative was led by the World Health Organization. The six publishers involved publish 80% of the 1240 biomedical journals. See

A German court has upheld the right to charge tuition to ‘eternal students’, rather than allowing them to study indefinitely at taxpayer expense, according to a note in the Chronicle by Burton Bollag. Studies are generally free in Germany’s predominantly state-run higher-education system. Some 16 German state universities have adopted policies that charge tuition to students who extend their studies beyond a certain point, in order to reduce the burden on taxpayers. A typical pattern charges $450 for each semester beyond the official study time for a given academic program, plus two years. Germany’s education minister, while opposing calls to introduce tuition across the board, feels that these limited charges to encourage students to finish their studies in reasonable times are justified. See

Representatives of 178 countries have agreed to begin fighting global warming, according to an article by Richard Kerr in the 27 July 2001 issue of Science. Seventeen hundred diplomats established a complex but flexible method of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions and uptakes, which will allow countries to receive due credit for their efforts. Enough countries are expected to ratify the agreement to put the Kyoto protocol into effect next year, without the Unites States. See

A former president of Harvard University has created a stir in Britain with critical comments about the state of its higher education system, according to an article in the Chronicle by David Walker. Neil Rudenstine made the remarks about insufficient government support and Britain’s lagging research capability in a Harvard postgraduate seminar that the former president thought was confidential. Mr. Rudenstine’s remarks appear to have played into a British debate about the future of elite institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge. See

US developments

 When President Bush yanked US support for the Kyoto Protocol and called for more research to reduce the “uncertainties” about global warming, many policy makers and scientists worldwide groaned. According to an article by Richard Kerr in the 13 July 2001 issue of Science, they said it was just an excuse for inaction. But some scientists see this as an opportunity to focus climate science on key research, reining in the country’s sprawling research enterprise. A NASA official has said “we have lots of talent and capabilities in the US, but they aren’t as coordinated as they need to be”. One problem Is that agencies priorities have taken precedence over the coordinated needs of the program, with agencies protecting their own interests in tight budgetary times. Another problem is a loose interpretation of “global change”. To address such problems, President Bush will “establish the US Climate Change Research Initiative to study areas of uncertainty and identify priority areas where investments can make a difference”. See

President Bush has announced that NASA will receive $120-million over three years to study climate change, according to a note in the Chronicle by Jennifer Jacobsen. NASA will use $50-million to study how carbon cycles through the earth’s system, and $20-million to study the global cycle of water and energy. An additional $22-million will be spent to determine whether aerosols have a net warming or cooling effect and whether climate change will hinder the ozone layer’s ability to recover. NASA is currently investing heavily in computer systems and models to improve simulation of climate systems. President Bush plans to join with Japan, the European Union, and others to develop better climate models to predict the causes and consequences of climate change. See

The potential for abrupt, drastic climate changes on a regional scale is being underestimated by policymakers, according to a major article by Alexander MacDonald in the Summer 2001 issue of Issues in Science and Technology. Director of a Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the author states that while the debate on long term global warming goes on, there is a real threat that the greenhouse effect may trigger unexpected climate changes on a regional scale – and that such changes may happen fairly quickly, last for a long time, and bring devastating consequences. For example, summers may become much drier in the mid-continents of North America and Eurasia, with the potential to devastate some of the earth’s most productive agricultural areas. Or the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may collapse, leading to a rise in sea level around the world.  The author notes that current funding for climate change programs is skewed toward earth-observing satellites, and that a new global system based on in situ sensors is imperative for understanding regional climate change. See

Congressional earmarks are finding their way into NSF budget bills working their way through Congress, according to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 27 July 2001 issue of Science. As House and Senate panels approve increases in NSF funding beyond what the Administration has asked for, individual projects not recommended by NSF are creeping in – such as an underground laboratory in South Dakota, an expanded search for neutrinos at the South Pole, and a high altitude research plane. Delays in funding of major projects, caused by the Bush administration’s decision to delay any new starts, has led some researchers with projects stuck in the NSF pipeline to plead their cases directly to Congress. See

The National Science Foundation has named Judith Ramaley, former  President of the University of Vermont, as the head of its education division. According to an article by Dana Mulhauser in the Chronicle, Dr. Ramaley has a strong interest in elementary and secondary schools – which may match with President Bush’s push to involve universities more in mathematics and science education in public schools. NSF’s education and human resources division has an $800-million budget to support research in science education and teaching methods at all levels, with a focus on troubled school systems and minority youth. See

Liberal arts colleges and small universities in the US that focus on undergraduate education have been hiring science faculty at record rates in the past few years, according to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 13 July 2001 issue of Science. Educators see this trend as one of many signs of research vitality at these schools, which educate a disproportionate share of the nation’s scientific workforce compared with the big research universities. The data come from a new study of the research environment at 136 predominantly undergraduate schools, funded by five foundations. See

Postdocs and junior faculty members generally have a tough time convincing courts that they have been denied a share in the financial rewards from discoveries they may have participated in. But, according to an article in the 20 July 2001 issue of Science by Eliot Marshall, a US court has removed a major roadblock facing one such claim. Patent attorneys say the ruling sets a strong precedent for similar cases. The court admonished universities and senior faculty members to keep their junior colleagues fully informed of intellectual property claims they file. See 

Distance education

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has signed a deal to bring online courses to its 35 million members, at a discount, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. AARP members will get a 5% discount from Fathom, a for-profit online-education provider owned by Columbia University and a dozen other institutions. In addition to providing courses, Fathom will help AARP develop a section of its web site dedicated to online learning. The web site will include courses from a number of different providers besides Fathom. People over 50 are seen as a growing Web audience, and AARP says that its members are interested in finding new ways to increase their knowledge on various subjects. See

An Internet “portal” where soldiers can enroll in online courses has been declared fully operational by the Army and its contractor, PricewaterhouseCoopers. According to an article by Florence Olsen in the Chronicle,  the portal will quickly be put to the test as the infrastructure expands to serve 80,000 soldier-learners within five years. It is anticipated that this project may be a model for serving targeted large communities of learners in the future, such as teachers, bankers, electrical engineers, etc. PricewaterhouseCoopers worked with 60 subcontractors to build the portal, including more than 20 accredited institutions that deliver courses online. See

Temple University has quietly shut down its fledgling for-profit spinoff company that it created in late 1999 with the hope of making money from distance education, according to articles in the Chronicle by Goldie Blumenstyk. The feasibility of the venture, known as Virtual Temple, had been questioned from the start by many faculty members who felt that the university’s profit expectations were unrealistic. Temple’s current President, who inherited the venture from his predecessor, has said that the university would continue to pursue distance education. See

Other universities have started similar ventures over the past two years, including Columbia, Cornell, and New York Universities and the University of Maryland University College. Since their founding, most of them have found the need to revamp their business models – but executives in such spinoffs maintain that their companies have sound financial plans and the potential to make money. See

An Open University online course in Britain, “You, Your Computer and the Net”, has drawn more than 12,000 students both times that it has been offered, according to an article by Sarah Carr in the Chronicle. The course is divided into three parts focusing on the history of the computer, the past and future of the Internet, and e-commerce. Each student has a personal tutor, who works with approximately 20 students throughout the 30-week program. The course is offered for credit, at a tuition cost of $280.The course is geared toward students with relatively little computer experience, who may feel disenfranchised by their ignorance. See

Telecourses – television courses with telephone links to distant classrooms – are still a major form of distance education, according to an article in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale and Jeffrey Young. Enrollment in televised courses continues to grow, though at a much slower rate than in new online courses. Some experts estimate that more people take courses each year delivered by television – whether via interactive video networks, videocassettes, or cable or broadcast television – than take courses on the Internet. Many telecourse producers are rapidly incorporating new technologies, including high-speed data networks, online discussions, and digital videodisks, and are using the Internet to allow interactions between students and instructors. Colleges producing high-end online courses are also exploring ways to add more video segments to their courses. See

Students, education

Some professors are using the Web to publish portfolios of teaching techniques, according to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle. In an effort to analyze and improve their teaching, they are creating multimedia portfolios that try to capture the complex interactions that occur in the classroom. A collection of such portfolios can be found in the new Knowledge Media Laboratory, a virtual resource center created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The Foundation supports about 40 faculty members each year to think about and hone their teaching skills, then publishes their work at the online laboratory. The Foundation hopes that their portfolios will inspire others to review their own teaching. So far the laboratory’s gallery contains nine multimedia portfolios – which feature video clips of classroom interactions, audio clips of commentary by professors, syllabi and other teaching materials, examples of student assignments, and textual descriptions of what worked and what did not. See

Professors are often given little or no training before teaching their first online course, so 23 Maryland colleges have banded together to train them to teach online. According to an article in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Young, the Faculty Online Technology Training Consortium offered its first intensive training program last summer, putting 40 professors through nine days of training on how to teach in a virtual classroom. In addition to the training, members of the consortium have developed a library of teaching materials on its Web site. The consortium is also building a series of online courses for faculty members, which are expected to be ready this fall. The materials and online courses are free, and colleges outside the consortium are encouraged to use them as well. See

Online technology is pushing pedagogy to the forefront at universities, according to a major article in the Chronicle by Frank Newman and Jamie Scurry. The authors state that digital technology and software that directly engages students in more-effective learning is having impacts in the classroom well beyond the efficient handling of communication tasks. For some time evidence has shown that when students are involved in a self-driven learning project, they learn more and remember it longer than when they are passively sitting and listening.  Digital technology is giving professors the means to use such teaching methods without a lot of extra time and effort. It can provide practical ways to engage students in active learning, connect learning with real life, offer easy access to massive amounts of information, allow faculty members to tailor teaching styles to each student’s needs, shift the faculty member’s role to coach of the learning process, allow students to review previously covered material, and provide preliminary experience in a safe setting. See

Student math scores on a widely watched national exam inched up from a decade ago, but the vast majority of US children still have a limited grasp of mathematics and fell below the test’s definition of being competent in the subject. According to an article by June Kronholz in the August 3rd issue of the Wall Street Journal, the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress highlighted woeful student performance and the persistent gap between the scores of white and minority youngsters. Students improved the most in states with strong testing programs, adding fuel to President Bush’s call for yearly student tests and for a system of rewards and punishments for schools where test scores do not improve. Administered by the US Education Department to a statistical sample of 50,000 students in a dozen subjects on a rotating schedule, the tests are important to policy makers. Nationally the NAEP math score for fourth-graders rose to 228 on a scale of 500, up four points from 1996 and 15 points from 1990. Similar small increases or decreases were seen in eighth- and twelfth-graders. The Senate and House have passed education bills that include yearly testing, but the legislation has run into stiff opposition from the governors, teachers unions, and other education lobbies who fear that the exams will identify and sanction too many schools for low performance. See

A recent study has found that student aid has risen sharply over the past four years, according to an article in the Chronicle by Dana Mulhauser. The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study conducted by the US Department of Education indicates that 55% of undergraduates received some form of financial assistance in 1999-2000, up from 50% in 1995-96. Among undergraduates receiving aid the average award was $6256, an inflation adjusted increase of 17% over 1995-96. Half of the increased financial aid simply covered the rising cost of college education, which increased 9% over the same four year period. Increases in government aid were largely due to the expansion of Pell grants. See

State higher education leaders want to see improvements in job training, according to an article in the Chronicle by Peter Schmidt. At a recent meeting of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, the leaders focused on the work-force needs of local businesses, and on the failure of public schools to produce enough graduates who are ready for college and work. Discussions indicated that public colleges are largely responsible for the inadequacies of today’s workforce, and must be pressured to improve education and job training at all levels. Many officials said that they were already working to prod colleges into paying more attention to the needs of local employers. See


The first class of Gates Scholars, some 4050 minority student recipients, recently completed their first year in the major scholarship program, according to an article by Eric Hoover in the Chronicle. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by Bill Gates two years ago to deliver grants to 20,000 students over the next 20 years, is being administered by the United Negro College Fund. The program selects successful college-bound minority students on the basis of nontraditional criteria – a pattern of community service, leadership skills, and the ability to cope with racism – rather than heavy reliance on the traditional standardized tests, grade-point averages, and class rank. Critics of affirmative action criticize the program, while it has won rave reviews from academics, politicians, and civil-rights leaders. See

The American Council on Education has announced that its “College is Possible” campaign, aimed at low-income minority students, is entering its second phase. According to a note in the Chronicle by Stephen Burd, the Council in 1998 put together a coalition of 1300 colleges and 30 academic groups to better inform the public about the availability of college financial aid. As that effort nears an end, the Council is beginning a more focused project to find effective ways to motivate and prepare low-income minority students to go to college and graduate from it.  See

Thousands of disadvantaged Irish students will be receiving retroactive payments to cover a shortfall in their grants for last year’s college expenses, according to a note by Karen Birchard in the Chronicle. The payments are part of a new blueprint for improving access to higher education in Ireland, which includes increasing grants to some disadvantaged students. A report containing some 77 recommendation for improving access resulted in the payments from the ministry of education. About 40% of the country’s students currently receive financial aid which does not have to be repaid, and the report calls for the government to double the levels of such aid. See

Educators need to work harder to improve the representation of women in mathematics, science and engineering, according to a new report reported on in the Chronicle by Alex Kellogg. The report, “Balancing the Equation: Where Are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering and Technology” was released by the National Council for Research on Women. It urges policy makers and educators alike to help remove the lingering barriers for the advancement of women in these fields, and also recommends that they increase women’s interests in those fields by diversifying the curriculum. Among other suggestions is one that colleges design curricula that take an interdisciplinary approach to learning and demonstrate the real-world relevance of coursework, since both approaches have been shown to boost female enrollment and retention. See

About 200 female faculty members in the University of Maine System are getting pay raises after a statistical analysis turned up salary inequities between male and female professors, according to an article in the Chronicle by Scott Smallwood. A joint committee of administrators and faculty union members determined that there was a problem after taking into account relevant differences such as longevity, rank, discipline, and academic degree. Of the 451 female professors in the seven campus system, 199 were found to be underpaid. The underpaid women will get immediate raises that average $2000 a year, although some are as high as $6000. See


Many colleges will have to pay more for Microsoft products, according to an article in the Chronicle by Goldie Blumenstyk. Microsoft is making changes to its three academic-pricing plans that will result in many colleges paying more for the software that they use to run their computer networks and operate their desktop PC’s. The changes, which could go into effect in August for some institutions, raise prices from 10 to 60 percent for some software packages. Microsoft officials say they are making the changes in response to feedback from colleges indicating that campus customers want greater flexibility in how they acquire software. Under the new Campus Agreement, the number of products automatically included in the base subscription in smaller, theoretically giving colleges greater flexibility to reduce costs by eliminating products they do not want. But because Microsoft is also increasing prices, many institutions will not realize any net savings. See

Eight Midwestern colleges say they have avoided millions of dollars in hardware and software expenses since 1995 when they formed a non-profit corporation to maintain their student records, financial accounting, payroll, and other administrative systems. As reported in the Chronicle by Florence Olsen, the cooperation among Iowa and Illinois colleges is unusual because they are separated by state lines and are as far apart as 700 miles. The largest cost savings have come from sharing the 11 computer programmers and 4 computer operators who operate the consortium’s information systems, all of which are located on one campus. See

The Harvard University Library and three major publishers of scholarly journals have joined forces to design an experimental archive for electronic journals, according to an article by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle. One issue the group will examine is how to design long-term digital archives. Because digital technologies are developing so fast that they soon become obsolete, archiving may require a different technology than that used for current access to digital materials. While finding long term solutions for archiving text presents more modest problems, archiving materials such as sound and video files, computer simulations and computer data sets present a much greater challenge. The project will extend for the current calendar year, with the outcome expected to be a detailed proposal for an experimental archive of electronic journals at Harvard. See

Writing in the August 2001 issue of Civil Engineering, John Voller has identified 25 technologies to watch in the near future. The author observes that the engineering field’s high level of interest in electronic commerce may be diverting attention and resources from other valuable opportunities inherent in information and computing technologies. He observes that changes in what engineers specify and install in facilities and infrastructure will be fast and furious, and that engineering firms unable to keep pace will lose out to specialty firms that stay on top of new technologies. He cites examples such as a system of data storage and retrieval currently under development that is based not just on two-dimensional digital methods, but on methods that use holographic techniques to store millions of bytes in a piece of crystalline material no bigger than a pinhead. See

Positions of possible interest

From the 27 July 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Head, Department of Chemical Engineering, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Ø      Dean, College of Engineering, University of Rhode Island

Ø      Dupont Chair in Engineering Education, Queens University, Canada

Ø      President, Koc University, Turkey

Ø      President, University of South Carolina at Columbia



  To unsubscribe from this newsletter service, please respond to with the word UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

To contribute information to this electronic newsletter, please send it by e-mail to

This Digest provides summaries of published articles, both printed and electronic. World Expertise does not endorse or corroborate the information in these articles.

Back issues of this International Engineering Education Digest can be read on the Web at