3 May 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

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany has proposed that foreign students be granted the right to stay in Germany and work there after completion of their studies. According to an article by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the proposal is aimed at solving Germany’s severe shortage of technical specialists, particularly in information technology. German universities would like to increase the number of foreign students, both to maintain the size of their student population in the light of falling numbers of domestic students and to develop a more international environment for their educational programs. The technical workforce problem is exacerbated by an outflow of qualified graduates to other countries – 14% of the PhD graduates going to the US each year, for example. See

As exchanges between South and North Korea increase, academics in South Korea are pondering how some sort of reunification or confederation might impact them. According to an article by David Cohen in the Chronicle, both countries put a high priority on education, but the South Korean system is much more advanced. For example, South Korea is one of the world’s most wired societies, with information technologies well integrated into college learning; but North Korean colleges have not been keyed to understanding the modern world, with an emphasis instead on maintaining revolutionary fervor within the country. As a first step, academics from the North and the South are discussing exchange programs in such areas as agriculture and information technology. The longer range problem, however, will be how the South could manage an inflow of large numbers of students from the North, and how such students will cope with being inundated with ideas, facts and references that are totally alien to their existence thus far. See

The University of Tokyo will begin using international English tests in its admissions process, according to Alan Brender writing in the Chronicle. Students will be required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) as part of entrance requirements. The University has previously used a locally produced English test. This move by Japan’s premier university may stimulate other Japanese universities to follow. See

The move towards a common European higher education system is happening faster than many people realize, delegates to the Conference of European Higher Education Institutions were told in Salamanca last month.  An article by Francoise Come in the Spring 2001 SEFI News describes how Salamanca 2001, attended by some 600 rectors, students, government and union officials, built upon similar meetings in Bologna in 1999 and Sorbonne in 1998. Recommendations from this series of conferences will be presented to a meeting of European education ministers in Prague, 18-19 May 2001. Output recommendations from Salamanca 2001 are in six areas: freedom with responsibility, empowering universities; employability on the European labour market; mobility in the higher education area; comparability, a common but flexible qualifications framework; quality assurance and certification (accreditation); and competitiveness at home and in the world. For an engineering perspective on these deliberations, see the ‘SEFI Position Paper on the Bologna Declaration’ at  Details of the conference are at

The European Commission has adopted s $ 13.3-billion plan to promote online education by European universities. According to an article in the Chronicle by Karen Birchard, the “eLearning Action Plan” is a three-year effort aimed at broadening digital literacy in Europe and at reducing the continent’s shortage of trained information technology workers. The plan envisions a larger role for communications technologies such as digital television and satellite delivery systems, in both higher education and in continuing education. Universities in economically deprived areas will be given financial and practical help to develop the infrastructure they need to use modern technologies. For universities already well equipped with information technology, the plan is to provide research funds to their computer and education departments. The plan follows a recent declaration by the European Commission, intended to challenge the US: “Improving basic skills, Particularly IT and digital skills, is a top priority to make the European Union the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”. See

The US Department of State has warned scholars and others of the threat of detention on trips to China. According to a note in the Chronicle, the State Department said that it “cautions Americans, especially Americans originally from China, that there may be a risk of being detained upon returning to China if they have at any time engaged in activities or published writings critical of Chinese government policies”. Several US citizens, some of them scholars, have recently been detained on visits to China. See

Critics in Australia are complaining that Australian universities, desperate for funding for research, are compromising their public-service missions by taking corporate money with little thought to the conditions that are attached. Writing in the Chronicle, Geoffrey Maslen describes how recent government pressure on universities to become more self-sufficient has driven them to seek industrial funding for research and endowed chairs. Half of all government funds for research in Australia now require an industry or government partner. Some see such support as partnerships for mutual benefit, while others see them as alliances of exploitation. Supporters of such external support note that it provides better research opportunities for young, bright academics who would otherwise go overseas. See

The French Minister for Education has presented a plan for new orientations in that country’s higher education system, according to a note in the April 2001 SEFI News. The main change will be reorganization of the system into modules, in accordance with guidelines from the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). This move is expected to facilitate student mobility, to broaden and diversify education, to keep training periods to reasonable lengths, and to develop skills for lifelong learning.  Students will be able to apply to a university at any time during the year, and will more readily be able to follow multidisciplinary programs. The reform, endorsed by the Conference of University Presidents, requires that faculty members in each discipline develop new modules. See

Japan’s Education Ministry has announced plans to spend $ 12-billion over the next five years to construct new buildings and renovate current space at state-run universities. According to a note by Michael Chan in the Chronicle, much of the current space (some 20 million square meters) has not been renovated for decades. Buildings that were built more that 30 years ago will get top priority, with upgrades to include meeting current earthquake safety standards. See

The University of Oxford and Princeton University have announced that they are significantly expanding their academic and research collaboration, according to an article by Karen Birchard in the Chronicle. The program will include the fields of humanities, social sciences, engineering, mathematics, and science. It will result in an increased number of faculty and students crossing the Atlantic in both directions, as well as more joint research projects and the sharing of expensive resources. The collaboration is expected to enhance research by bringing together scholars with various perspectives and approaches, and to improve teaching by increasing interaction among students from different cultures. See

  US developments

Foreign technical workers who have entered the US under the H-1B visa program face an uncertain future, according to an article by Leslie Wayne in the 29 April 2001 New York Times. The visa program has been supported by high tech companies that cannot find enough high-level employees with computer skills, due to the cooling of interest in computer science and engineering education by US students. Late last year these employers convinced Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas granted annually to 195,000. Currently about 20% of high tech workers in the US are foreign born, with about half of those coming from the H-1B visa program. Some 47% of recent entrants under this program have been from India, with the next largest group, 9%, coming from China. The program admits foreign workers for a six-year period, during which they may apply for permanent resident status – ‘Green Card’. But waiting periods for Green Cards  are long, and many H-1B visa entrants are bumping up against the six-year limits. In addition, with the slowing of the US high tech economy, visa holders are concerned that if they lose their jobs they will be deported. See

In the wake of the presidential election vote counting fiasco in Florida last November, computer scientists and political scientists at Caltech and MIT have offered their services to help repair the voting process. In an article by Florence Olsen if the Chronicle, efforts by a team of political science and engineering professors at the two institutions are described. To date they have found that the problem is not a well-defined engineering problem, but is the sum of many administrative shortcomings in precinct polling, absentee balloting, and voter registration. They are also analyzing voting system technologies used in the last four presidential elections – punch cards, optical scan, and direct electronic recording. Problem ballots range from 2% to 3% in current systems. The teams are exploring possible new technological voting systems as well as possible improvements in currently utilized systems. See

College graduates are facing a softer market this spring, according to a note in the 24 April 2001 Wall Street Journal. College placement officials say that this year’s graduating class will not have as many opportunities as last year’s, and that students will have to put a little more effort into their job searches. Apparently, though, even big employers who are cutting jobs are still seeking talent. Dot-coms may have trouble attracting such new talent, however, as layoff headlines have students spooked. See

A group of Senators has offered a bill to spur technology training in the US, with tax credits and scholarships. Writing in the Chronicle, Andrea Foster describes the Technology Education and Training Act. It would provide businesses with up to a $1500 tax credit per employee for information-technology training, and make people enrolled in non-degree information-technology training programs eligible for scholarships and tax credits. A similar bill was introduced in Congress last year, and failed to make it to the floor of either the House or the Senate. Supporters say that this year the prospects are better, due to bipartisan support and industry group lobbying. Cost would be $ 700-million over five years. See

Nuclear power may be poised for a revival in the US, as certain parts of the country grow short on electric power. The Bush administration’s energy plan is expected to include support for new nuclear reactor construction, according to an article by Matthew Wald in the 24 April New York Times. It is likely that new plants would be built around existing plants, where neighbors are used to a nuclear presence. Newer plants would differ significantly in size and design from older plants, with 60% fewer moving parts. Supporters contend that new reactors would be less expensive that other energy sources. See . A similar article by Rebecca Smith in the 2 May Wall Street Journal states that three new nuclear designs that represent evolutionary improvements over existing reactors have been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and that a completely different design (the pebble-bed modular reactor) is under review. But there are concerns about whether the public is ready for more nuclear plants, given huge cost overruns in the previous generation which were passed on to consumers, and lingering concerns about safety after Three Mile Island. There is also the lingering problem of disposal of nuclear wastes. See

For public colleges, a decade of generous support is over – according to an article in the Chronicle by Sara Hebel and Jeffrey Selingo. Many institutions are planning to enact hiring freezes, cut travel budgets, and delay equipment purchases and building maintenance. Some higher education officials fear that a cycle of bad budget times will weaken higher education, as did a similar downturn in the early 1990’s which widened the quality gap between selective private universities and top-notch public institutions. Some analysts believe that states and colleges missed opportunities during the good times to adopt policies that would reduce the pain of tight budget years. So far about 20 states have cut the budgets they enacted last summer by from 1% to 5%, primarily due to falling tax revenues and increased costs in areas such as energy. See

‘The Future of Engineering’ is featured a  special issue of EE Times. In predicting ‘what’s next?’, the publication states that the biochips era, the nanotechnology age, and quantum computing will cross-fertilize with the life sciences for a new age of imagination. Technologies covered as coming rapidly include gigabit fabrics, beamed circuits, online collaboration, display integration, cellular computing, wireless confluence, and extrapolated teams. See

The average pay of faculty members in the US grew by 3.5% in 2000-01, just edging out the 3.4% inflation rate, according to Scott Smallwood writing in the Chronicle. The data, from a study by the American Association of University Professors, indicates that the average pay for a full-time faculty member grew from $58,350 per year to just over $60,000. It is the seventh time in the past eight years that faculty salary increases have outpaced inflation. The average numbers reveal less than statistics that differentiate between types of institutions: for example full professors earned an average of $78,900 this year, but that ranged from $89,800 at all doctoral institutions, to $57,800 at two-year colleges, to $107,600 at private doctoral institutions. The survey omits the salaries of medical school professors and those of part time instructors. See

The US National Academy of Engineering has announced a new education award, the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education. The award was created to honor those who are advancing the fields of engineering and engineering technology by creating novel teaching methods to motivate and encourage the next generation of practicing engineers. The Prize will carry a $500,000 cash award, and will be awarded biennially – with the first prize presented in February 2002. Nominations are due by 15 June 2001. For more information see

The percentage of part-time faculty in colleges held steady in recent years after several years of large increases, according to an article in the Chronicle by Robin Wilson. A report released by the US Department of Education covering statistics through 1998 indicates that 43% of the 1,074,000 faculty members and instructors in colleges and universities worked part time, compared with 42% in 1992. This leveling off is in contrast to large increases in prior years – the part time portion in 1987 was only 33%. The report also indicates that more of those employed full-time are working off the tenure track, some 18% in 1998 (up from 8% in 1987). The report is available at  and the article at


NASA is developing more sophisticated software for its own use, and plans to attract companies and universities to join it is making software more dependable and smart enough to heal itself. According to an article by David Wessel in the 26 April Wall Street Journal, NASA is motivated by losses such as the Mars Polar Lander, which got confused and crashed in December 1999 when two sensors gave conflicting data and the software was unable to straighten the problem out. The computer programs that NASA uses are so large and complex that they cannot be thoroughly tested before use, and the current software is unable to cope with the adversity that errors produce. Certain that other users of large computer systems have similar problems, NASA is inviting companies to join in development efforts at its Ames Research Center in California to produce a new generation of self-correcting software. Part of the motivation for seeking partners is the funding crunch that NASA is in. See

“Enter Internet Two”, an article by Warren Cohen in the April 2001 issue of ASEE Prism, states that this powerful new network will be able to move mountains of data at dazzlingly fast speeds. The new initiative, a university-government-corporate collaboration, will be 100 to 1000 times faster than the current Internet. This will enable users to do such things as transmitting 3-D and high-definition images, and entire digital libraries of rich audio and video files, in the blink of an eye. Two test cases are already up and running – at North Carolina State University at Raleigh construction equipment is being operated remotely, and at Stanford University faculty are working with colleagues in other countries to share visually detailed building plans.  See for the article, and for more on Internet2.

Meeting fundamental human needs while preserving the life support systems of planet Earth is the essence of sustainable development. According to an article by Robert Kates, et al, in the 27 April 2001 issue of Science, a new field of sustainability science is emerging to seek to understand the fundamental interactions between nature and society. Core questions posed for researchers in this new field are listed in the article. They include: ‘How are long term trends in environment and development reshaping nature-society interactions’, and ‘What systems of incentives can most effectively improve society toward sustainable trajectories’. This discussion is being fueled as scientists prepare for the “Rio + 10” conference to be held in South Africa in 2002. See

A group of universities has begun designing a course-management system that will be free, and whose source code will be made publicly available, according to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle. The ‘Open Knowledge Initiative’ is born partly because of frustrations with commercial course-development software, but its developers hope to supplement rather than replace commercial products already installed on many campuses. The effort is being led by MIT and Stanford, and other universities are signing on. The aim is to develop software modules that will function together to help professors teach online courses or enhance their classroom teaching. See

In the May-June 2001 issue of Foreign Affairs, James Adams addresses ‘Virtual Defense’ – how the information age is revolutionizing warfare for the 21st century. The author points out that the US, with its overwhelming military superiority and leading edge information technology, is the country most vulnerable to cyber-attack. And the US military is going even further in applying digital information technology in both operational and strategic areas. Adams states that information attacks are the new terrorism of the 21st century, and that computer hackers can currently attack US computer networks with impunity. He believes that US taxpayers are paying billions of dollars for a cyber-defense program that leaves the country largely unprotected. See

  Distance education

As distance education evolves, the cultures of institutions shape their programs. Dan Carnevale, writing in the Chronicle, describes the approach taken at two particular  institutions. At Mercy College in New York, every general-education course that students can take online is also available in traditional face-to-face format. But at Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, none of the online courses offered have face-to-face counterparts; students take them online or not at all. Officials at the two institutions say that their patterns serve the needs of their particular students and faculty. One reason that colleges limit online offerings is the concern about retaining students – they are more likely to drop out of online courses than out of traditional ones. Online courses are seen as assisting students in developing the skills to use the Internet – where they also should be organizing team projects and conducting research. See

Word that researchers for Peterson’s Guide to Distance Learning Programs are now collecting information from unaccredited colleges has administrators at mainstream institutions worried that unaccredited colleges may be listed in future editions of the guidebook. According to an article by Sarah Carr in the Chronicle, Peterson’s officials say that the guidebook set to come out this fall will list only accredited institutions – but that the information on distance learning programs of unaccredited institutions could be the basis for a second book. See

The National Education Association, the country’s largest teacher’s union, has issued a manual asserting that online instruction is almost always more expensive that traditional, in-person instruction. According to an article by Sarah Carr in the Chronicle, officials at the association hope that faculty members will use the manual in bargaining over distance-learning issues – taking a tough line as universities expand into online learning. The manual states that for a course that can be offered in only one section “the in-person class will be less costly than the IT course of comparable enrollment because both preparation time will be less for the in-person course, and delivery of instruction will also take less time in-person than interacting individually with 200 students each week via e-mail”. Critics of the NEA posture say that the manual has the smell of Ludditism, and that their defense of teachers is actually a defense against change. See

  Students, education

In a brief note in the Chronicle, Scott Carlson reports that the job outlook remains strong for new graduates. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, plans by employers call for hiring 18.8% more new college graduates this year than they did last year. Despite this overall increase, however, almost half of the companies surveyed said they had lowered their predictions since last August. Employers in the Northeast, South and Midwest were most stable in their projections; businesses in the West, hit harder by the flagging economy, said they would hire fewer graduates this year. The survey indicated that the job market remains competitive for employers, and that more than 68% of the respondents said they would be offering signing bonuses this year. See

People who work abroad, whatever their field, almost invariably describe the experience as life defining. Some say it helped them define career goals, while others say that living elsewhere offered a fresh perspective on their own culture. The web site ‘Monster Work Abroad’ describes five top reasons to work abroad: adventure; global perspective; career growth; self-understanding; and foreign language skills. See

Assessment has taken center stage in online learning, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. Distance educators are currently in the process of proving that they can accurately assess anything, and few distance education programs are actually participating in the development of new testing strategies. One complicating factor is that distance education courses are often geared toward students already in the workforce, which often involves learning by doing. In many such cases students complete projects to show that they not only understand but can also apply what they have learned. Standardized tests are also a key part of assessments in distance learning – typically administered online in proctored environments. All of higher education is moving towards outcomes-based assessment, with online education leading the way. Institutions have found that assessment is particularly popular with private companies whose employees take university courses. Regional accreditation agencies are working on a list of ‘best practices’ to serve as guidelines for institutions building online programs. See

The May/June 2001 issue of Change has three feature articles on assessment. One by George Kuh cites a survey of students which provides evidence about the nature and degree of the impact of college on students. A second article, by Ernest Pascarella, describes research that shows that within-college experiences tend to count much more than the between-college characteristics (such as resources and selective admissions) that are featured in national magazines that rank institutional excellence. The third article, by Scott Evenbeck and Susan Kahn, reports on how two national level projects involving urban public universities demonstrate that inter-institutional “communities of practice” focused on student learning can help universities create environments and develop practices to enhance learning. See

A study reported at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association suggests that group assignments often leave college level students dissatisfied. As reported in the Chronicle by Peter Monaghan, researchers at the University of  Missouri at Columbia and Concordia University in Canada are examining how group activities should be designed at the graduate level, as opposed to earlier school levels. Activities that encourage students to define and solve problems through group interactions have long been thought to have cognitive and social benefits in elementary and secondary schools, but the researchers say that the benefits are unclear at undergraduate and graduate levels. They have found that factors like student’s personal schedules, responsibilities and motivation play a much larger role in the success of group activities for college students – particularly at the graduate level. Students often thought that group learning assignments was a laborsaving strategy by professors, and deprived them of their professor’s expertise. See

The lead article in the May 2001 issue of Engineering Times, by Jennie Ganz, describes how engineering college curricula are becoming broader at some institutions. Engineering students can be found taking courses in art, speech, organizational behavior, English composition, and a myriad of other subjects. Some of this broadening is attributed to the new ABET criteria which promote communication skills, ethics, teamwork, hand’s on design, and other components of a modern engineering education. But many engineering school programs are still relatively rigid, due to the traditional four-year constraint and the perceived need to cover large amounts of technical material. See

A study financed by the College Board has bolstered the reliability of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), according to an article in the Chronicle by Jennifer Jacobsen. The study done by the University of Minnesota, billed as the largest ever analysis of the SAT exam, states that the exam reliably predicts student’s academic performance not only as freshmen but also throughout college. Critics say, however, that the fact that the study was financed by the College Board (which owns the SAT) raises doubts about its validity. The SAT has come under attack in recent years from critics who say that it is biased against some minority groups and women, and that colleges weigh SAT scores too heavily in admissions processes. The new study is a ‘meta analysis’ of more than 1700 studies on the subject, and represents more than a million students. See

Business leaders have urged colleges to give less weight to standardized tests in admissions, according to an article in the Chronicle by Eric Hoover. In a strongly worded letter to college presidents, corporate leaders urged academic officials to place less emphasis on the SAT and other standardized tests when evaluating applicants. Executives from companies like Shell Oil and Verizon Communications, joined by members of the National Urban League, stated in their letter that entrance exams do not measure the qualities most crucial for success in the business world. The letter did not recommend abandoning the SAT altogether, but urged colleges to develop tools that measure applicant’s creativity, leadership skills, and commitment to their communities. See


South Africa’s Universities are moving beyond educational apartheid, according to an article by Linda Vergnani in the Chronicle. Seven years after apartheid ended in South Africa, the proportion of black students has increased by 18 percentage points to 71% of the nation’s student population – but 80% of the academic staff members are white. The government’s recently released National Plan for Higher Education aims to forge a unified, racially integrated higher education system out of the old pattern of institutions that were deliberately fractured and duplicated by apartheid. It is hoped that the resulting system will reflect the racial mix of the 43 million people who live in South Africa: 77% indigenous African, 10% white, 9% mixed race, and 3% Asian. Since apartheid ended, black students have voted with their feet, with thousands moving away from the once strictly segregated, financially strapped, rural black universities and into the wealthier, academically more selective urban universities. See

The National Science Foundation has funded a major new effort aimed at workforce diversity in the science and engineering fields, according to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 20 April 2001 issue of Science. The project, funded by $ 2.3-million from eight federal agencies, is  to create a new entity called Building Engineering and Scientific Talent (BEST). BEST hopes to become a national clearinghouse on diversity in science and engineering, studying what works and publicizing its findings. The Council of Competitiveness, which will house the project, has pledged to raise an additional $ 7-million or more from corporations and foundations to get BEST off the ground. See

Writing in the April 2001 issue of ASEE Prism, Alvin Sanoff addresses closing the digital divide between technology haves and have-nots – where the have-nots are likely to be black and Hispanic. The author states that although digital access is growing among all racial and ethnic groups in the US, black and Hispanic households are far less likely to have access to the Internet than white and Asian-American households. Only three of the historically black colleges and universities are on Yahoo’s list of the 100 most wired campuses, and only 25% of students at those colleges personally own computers, compared with 49% at all institutions of higher education. Initiatives that are underway to correct this imbalance are described in the article, but the author concludes that the gap between technology haves and have-nots will confront engineering schools and the nation for years to come. See

A study recently reported at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association suggests approaches to keeping women in engineering programs. According to a Chronicle article by Peter Monaghan, female engineering students place a high value on out-of-the-classroom support activities like field trips, guest speakers, tutoring services, study groups, and career programs. The research, conducted at the private Goodman Research Group, indicates that female engineering students’ perceptions of how supportive their departments are have a marked effect on whether they remain in the programs. The research is part of a larger, national longitudinal study – supported by NSF and the Sloan Foundation – of women’s participation in engineering education. The researchers have administered extensive surveys to 21,000 female students at 53 schools of engineering. See


The Spring 2001 issue of Issues in Science and Technology has several articles of interest, including major groupings of articles on “Energy Resurfaces an a Major Concern” and “ New Approaches to Environmental Regulation”. In the first article on energy policy, by John Holdren, the author states that answers will be found in improved technologies and incentives to use them, not in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. The second energy article, by Peter Fox-Penner and Greg Basheda, deals with the short honeymoon for utility deregulation – arguing that although the California crisis has shaken public faith in restructuring, it is still the best route to follow.  The three articles on environmental regulation explore the EPA agenda and private-sector environmental management. See

The May/June issue of the electronic journal TechKnowLogia has been posted on the web at . The thematic focus of this issue is Technology for e-Learning in the Workplace. Some 23 articles explore technologies at work, planning for technology, profiles in development, and technologies today and tomorrow.

  Positions of possible interest

From the 27 April 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth

From the 4 May 2001 Chronicle:

Ø      Dean, Engineering and Applied Science, Naval Postgraduate Academy, CA

Ø      Provost, University of San Diego, CA

Ø      Vice President for Research, University of North Dakota – Grand Forks


From the April 2001 ASEE Prism:

Ø      Chair, Mechanical Engineering, University of Vermont

Ø      Chair, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Ø      Chair, Chemical Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Ø      Chair, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Florida International University

Ø      VP Academics, Milwaukee School of Engineering, WI

Ø      Chair, Engineering Sciences and Mechanics, Penn State

Ø      Chair, Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan

Ø      Dean of Engineering, American University of Dubai

Ø      Dean, School of Engineering and Mines, University of North Dakota




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