4 January 2002

Copyright © 2002 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

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



International developments

After a five-year ban, female students are again allowed to register at Kabul University, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Martha Overland. Female students had been barred from going to college by the Taliban regime, which came to power in 1996. Most of the females who appeared for interviews still wore the all-encompassing burqa and were escorted by their fathers or other male relatives. While there is great symbolic value in the fact that women are being allowed back into the university, the campus itself is in shambles resulting from battles there in the 1990’s. See:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) plans to set up an international quality assurance effort for higher education, according to an article in the Chronicle by Jen Lin-Liu. The Global Forum on Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education will keep a watch on private and transnational higher-education providers. A panel that will include intergovernmental partners like the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the European Commission, and national accrediting bodies will meet in the spring to organize the start of an annual forum. The global effort may set up a general code of conduct for institutions of higher learning, both public and private, to follow. See

Science departments at 33 Chinese universities will set up computer software institutes to train students to become software programmers, according to an article by Jen Lin-Liu in the Chronicle. The institutes are expected to graduate some 10,000 students each year. The institutes will be encouraged to jointly set up schools with foreign counterparts, recruit more foreign teachers, and work with multinational computer companies. See

Microsoft is opening a new $20-million lab next to Cambridge University’s computer department, according to an article by Tim Burnhill in the 30 November 2001 issue of Science. The new building will house 65 researchers, comprising a branch of the Microsoft Research operation based in Redmond, Washington. Started four years ago, the Cambridge operation bills itself as a scientific fantasy, where curiosity and enthusiasm – not corporate strategy – give the marching orders. It interacts heavily with Cambridge faculty and students, providing support for graduate students and exchanging seminars. See

Russian Universities have enjoyed a decade of more freedom, but less money, according to an article in the Chronicle by Bryon MacWilliams. Financial support from the government has dropped severely over the decade, but the 2002 draft budget allocates more resources for education that for the military – a first in the nation’s history. Many changes have swept through Russian Universities since the fall of Communism: curriculums have been purged of their former ideological mandate; universities no longer offer courses in Marxism-Leninism or Scientific Communism; the humanities have progressed rapidly; international exchange and cooperation has flourished; the sciences have remained exceptionally strong; and the spread of private universities has given public universities healthy competition. See

The number of black students graduating from college or technical institutes each year in South Africa has doubled over the past decade, according to an article in the Chronicle by Henk Rossouw. The number of black students graduating increased to 40,333 in 1998 from 14,798 in 1991. There also has been a shift in enrollments away from historically black universities to historically white universities since the end of apartheid in 1994. Too few of the black graduates are in professional fields such as engineering, architecture, and medicine, however. See

A new web site aims to bridge the North-South digital divide, according to an article in Science by Ben Shouse. The site, launched in London last month, aims to bridge the gap with scientific news and information relevant to developing nations. The plans for SciDev.Net ( were drawn up three years ago, and major funding has been obtained from international bodies. A staff of six journalists and several foreign correspondents will provide daily news, in-depth features by scientists and officials, and a selection of articles from Science and Nature. The site’s success will depend on access, which is still severely lacking in some developing countries. See

Sylvan Learning Systems is extending its reach in international higher education to India, according to a note in the Chronicle by Goldie Blumenstyk. The company has made a down payment on a 250 acre site near Hyderabad, in south-central India, where it hopes to develop a university that would eventually enroll about 10,000 students in career-oriented programs. Sylvan currently has international campuses in Latin America and Europe. See

Taiwan is planning major reforms in higher education, according to a note in the Chronicle by Jiang Xueqin. A recent conference of influential government officials and educators developed a rough plan for governing universities for the next decade. Three major changes are included: the faculty reward system will be based on merit and evaluation rather than seniority; Taiwan will allocate more power to university presidents; and the current 143 universities will be consolidated through mergers, particularly of smaller universities with fewer that 3000 students. See

British researchers have won praise for their talent in a major review, according to an article by Andrew Watson in the 21 December 2001 issue of Science. The review by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, conducted every 5 years to allocate funding for research infrastructure, said that the UK’s researchers are “performing better than any [country’s] in the world at the present time. Unfortunately, these hard working researchers have raised the level of their activity so high that they have stripped bare the government fund designed to support them. The HEFCE Board has decided that with less than sufficient funds to meet all needs, it will skew resource allocation toward top-rated institutions – angering middle-ranking institutions which were counting on improved performance to justify funding for their efforts. See

China’s top two universities are striving for ‘world class’ status, according to an article in the Chronicle by Jiang Xueqin. Peking and Tsinghua Universities have received special support from the Ministry of Education, as well as private donations, in an effort to catch up with the world’s top universities. They have embarked on a spending spree to spruce up their campuses, improve faculty salaries and benefits, and attract new blood – often from abroad. See


U.S. developments

Many of the foreign students who left the United States shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks plan to return to college there next semester, according to an article by Beth McMurtrie in the Chronicle. Mostly from the Middle East, such students were pressured to go home by their families. Most withdrew only for the fall semester, so returning to studies in the US will not be difficult to arrange. Many US universities stayed in close contact with these students, encouraging their early return. See

President Bush has named an advisory council on science and technology, according to an article by Jeffrey Brainard in the Chronicle. Most of the 24 members come from information technology businesses, with only seven from academe – a shift from previous councils, where academics were better represented. In past administrations the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has had only a modest impact, but university officials see it as an important conduit for academe to have some influence on federal policy. Most of the council’s academic representatives are administrators. See

U.S. spending on bioterrorism studies and computer security is set to soar, according to an article in the Chronicle by Ron Southwick. While the U.S. has plenty of experts on infectious diseases, federal agencies have only recently financed bioterrorism research. Cyberattacks have received less attention than bioterrorism in recent months, but could also pose serious problems. Hackers or terrorists could disrupt computer networks that run the country’s electric-power grid, telecommunications systems, and financial institutions. No agency has yet devoted much money to long-term basic research on computer security. See  

The National Research Council has issued a 340 page report on gender differences in the careers of U.S. scientists and engineers, according to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the 7 December 2001 issue of Science. The report concludes that men retain an edge that cannot be explained by any objective criteria, indicating that there is clear evidence that women have been treated unfairly. Among the findings: tenure is becoming more elusive for women than for men; male graduate students are more likely than women to get jobs as research assistants; and the salary gender gap is widening among more senior academics. The report calls on top research universities to revise graduate school admissions to attract and retain more women. See

The U.S. Congress is seeking to raise spending for information technology research and for Defense Department research, according to articles in the Chronicle by Andrea Foster and Ron Southwick.  The thrust of efforts to increase IT research is guarding the nation’s computer infrastructure from terrorist attacks. Increased funding for the Defense Department would go for basic research, and for civilian research efforts related to bioterrorism. See and

An article by Greg Brouwer in the January 2002 issue of Civil Engineering asks “What is the future of the skyscraper?” Findings that are emerging as to how and why the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed suggest that while there are lessons to be learned and absorbed from this catastrophe, the skyscraper will remain viable well into the foreseeable future. This article reviews the history of skyscraper development, and reports on recent discussions analyzing the technical aspects of such construction. See


Distance education

Researchers at the Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center are studying ways of using small-dish satellite technology to provide cheap and fast Internet connections for distance education, according to an article by Florence Olsen in the Chronicle. Many poor and remote areas in the U.S. that might benefit from distance education either have no Internet access or have access that is both costly and slow. Among the technical challenges facing the researchers will be trying to make broadband Internet2 technologies such as multicast videoconferencing work within the bandwidth constraints and signal delays of small-dish satellite technology. If successful, the use of such technology would expand distance education opportunities for students attending colleges in rural and remote areas, as well as tribal, historically black, and Hispanic colleges, and the communities those institutions serve. See

Stanford University has announced that it has begun a campuswide discussion to develop formal guidelines for distance education projects, according to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle. The university has a long history of providing distance education programs, and has already joined at least six different online education projects. Some faculty are concerned, however, that distance education projects can distract professors and administrators from their primary commitment to colleagues and students at Stanford. The university feels that this is a good time to step back and review its overall distance education strategy. See

The U.S. Army’s distance education endeavor is looking for more colleges to provide online courses and degrees to enlisted personnel, according to an article in the Chronicle by Michael Arnone. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm coordinating eArmyU, is accepting proposals from accredited institutions interested in providing academic content. Based on the first year of experience, some changes are being made – for example eArmyU will now require all institutions to offer online examinations. See

As American households turn more to the Internet for information, they may be turning away from television, according to an article in the Chronicle by Brock Read. A study done at UCLA indicates that the Internet is a medium whose impact and popularity are still on the upswing. More than 72% of Americans have some form of Internet access, and almost half of non-users expect to be online within a year. Internet users spend four-and-a-half fewer hours a week watching television than Americans who are not online, according to the study. See

The U.S. Navy is rewriting its course-writing software to enhance distance education, according to an article by Michael Arnone in the Chronicle. The Navy currently trains thousands of sailors and officers each year in courses designed through its Authoring Instructional Materials system. It is now moving to a new software platform, to be common across several government agencies, which will facilitate distance learning programs. See

Professors at the U.S. Naval Academy are modifying an ethics course required for all midshipman to make it the institution’s first online course, according to an article in the Chronicle by Michael Arnone. The course, taken by more than 1000 second year midshipmen each year, already has made the first steps toward distance education with a web site from which students can download a syllabus, class notes and readings, and video clips illustrating ethical quandaries that students might face. The challenge is to create online discussions as rich as those that occur in the classroom. See


Students, faculty, education

Several companies have created “electronic whiteboards” that bring computing power to one of the oldest teaching tools, the classroom chalkboard, according to an article in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Young. Electronic whiteboards typically offer display spaces about five feet wide that function like oversize touch-screen computer monitors. Every mark made on the board can be saved on a computer, then easily uploaded to a web site or broadcast to students at a distance. Professors can for example call up PowerPoint slides on the board, then scribble notes over them as they lecture.  One obstacle has been high cost – about $20,000 per unit. See

Paper mail is being eliminated at the University of Colorado at Boulder, giving way to e-mail as the official form of communication on campus, according to a note by Scott Carlson in the Chronicle. Students will be responsible for checking the mail that comes to their university accounts. The policy will also streamline communications between faculty and students. Legally sensitive material, such as grades, personal identification numbers, and Social Security numbers, will still be sent via paper mail. See

Despite the dot-com bust and the tragic events of September 11, entrepreneurship programs are alive and well at engineering schools across the country. Writing in the January 2002 issue of ASEE Prism, Bruce Auster  points out that the bottom line for the economy seems to be that innovative companies – such as those that emerge from the business plans of entrepreneurial engineering students – create jobs. The author describes such programs at several universities, and analyzes the type of students attracted to them. See

A new generation of course management systems is on the horizon, according to an article in the Chronicle by Florence Olsen. Course management systems are web-based software programs that provide online versions of class rosters, course outlines, assignments, discussions, quizzes and grade books. The systems spare faculty members from having to photocopy and distribute course packs. Systems now being developed will make the software more flexible, more capable of handling multimedia materials for online learning and research. See



The December 2001 issue of the European Journal of Engineering Education has two themes with several papers in each, plus several miscellaneous papers. The section on ‘Staff Development in Higher Engineering Education’ has papers on strategies for staff development, teacher training, and the impact of ICT on staff development. The section on ‘Information and Communications Technologies in Engineering Education’ has papers on software for teaching telecommunications, project based learning, and virtual enterprises. See http://www/

The October 2001 ASEE Journal of Engineering Education contains several of the top papers from the 2000 Frontiers in Education Conference. Topics covered include gender and ethnicity differences in student attitudes, strategies for improving the classroom environment, a virtual laboratory, technology enhanced learning environment, virtual reality in design, and interactive multimedia intelligent tutoring system. Also contained in the same issue are several papers from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance meeting in 2001. These papers deal with teaching entrepreneurship, and with cross-disciplinary education. See

The January/February 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs focuses on ‘Long War in the Making’, with major papers on understanding the enemy, reforming the Middle East, fixing intelligence, protecting the homeland, preserving Pakistan, and managing the emergency. It also has two papers on globalization and its discontents, covering the inequality myth and the antiglobalists. See


Positions of possible interest

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Dean, Engineering and Applied Science, 12/7/01

Ø      Western Kentucky University, Dean, Science and Engineering, 11/30/01

Ø      University of Bath, UK, Dean of Engineering and Design

Ø      University of California at Riverside, Chancellor, 12/7/01

Ø      University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Chancellor, 12/4/01

Ø      University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Chancellor and Vice President, 12/4/01

Ø      University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, 12/11/01

Ø      The State University of New York Institute of Technology, President, 12/7/01

Ø      University of Nevada at Reno, Executive Vice President and Provost, 12/26/01

Ø      Gannon University, Provost and VPAA, 12/4/01


From the January 2002 issue of ASEE Prism:

Ø      Utah State University, Dean, College of Engineering

Ø      University of Kansas, Dean, School of Engineering

Ø      University of Texas at Tyler, Chair, Electrical Engineering

Ø      University of South Florida, Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ø      California State University at Long Beach, Dean, College of Engineering

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

Ø      Virginia Tech, Head, Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

Ø      Northern Illinois University, Chair, Electrical Engineering

Ø      SUNY Maritime College, Chair, Electrical Engineering

Ø      Oregon State University, Head, Mechanical Engineering

Ø      Morgan State University, Chair, Industrial, Manufacturing and information Engineering

Ø      Milwaukee School of Engineering, Vice President of Academics

Ø      Petroleum Institute of Abu Dhabi, Program Heads in Chemical Engineering, Petroleum/Geosciences Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Petroleum Engineering

Ø      Wayne State University, Dean, College of Engineering

Ø      North Carolina A&T, Chair, Chemical Engineering, and Chair, Mechanical Engineering



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