6 May 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.


1)       Commonwealth nations plan virtual university

2)       United Arab Emirates develops e-store

3)       France moves to support young researchers

4)       African Virtual University scales back

5)       Britain faces shortage of researchers

6)       Electronic waste to be recycled in Europe

7)       United Arab Emirates plans petroleum virtual university

8)       Pacific-rim countries consider virtual university

9)       Britain develops model for corporate continuing education

10)    Russian Universities suffer from bribery and corruption

11)    Hong Kong advised to consolidate university programs

12)    Arab grantmaking foundation started

13)    New rules on student visas

14)    Universities asked to work on computer security

15)    Science results used for political aims

16)    International studies and research constrained by security concerns

17)    State budget problems impact their public colleges

18)    Office of Technology Assessment could return

19)    Faculty salaries rose in 2001-02

20)    President Bush outlines AmeriCorps expansion

21)    Slovakian universities barred from fees for distance education

22)    Chinese universities working with overseas institutions

23)    Cost issues in online learning

24)    Ford and General Motors offer distance education to employees

25)    Nebraska researchers quantify “link rot”

26)    Cybersecurity needs basic research

27)    9/11 events lead to curriculum changes

28)    Early admission decision mechanism being dropped by some

29)    Engineering graduates not well prepared for 21st century practice

30)    Challenges in internationalizing undergraduate education

31)    NSF survey shows fewer foreign students

32)    Hispanic – serving colleges seek more federal funding

33)    IJEE special issue on assessment

34)    EJEE special issue on ICT in engineering education



International developments

1) The 54 Commonwealth Nations are planning to create a virtual university designed to benefit the organization’s smaller states, according to a note in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Daniel del Castillo. The Commonwealth comprises some 1.7 billion people who share a common heritage from formerly being part of Great Britain’s colonial empire. The planned virtual university would serve about 30 of the member states, those with populations less than 1.5 million people. It would address the ‘digital divide’ between nations in the group, and would aid challenged countries to deliver the caliber of higher education that is available throughout much of the developed world. It is hoped that the virtual university could start delivering courses as early as 2004. See

2) A new electronic store has been launched in the United Arab Emirates, aimed at providing computers to students in that country, and eventually throughout the Middle East. According to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo, the e-store is to provide a large array of computer hardware, software, textbooks, and educational materials to students from one virtual location. It addresses the need for easier access to educational tools in the region. See

3) Several new programs are helping young scientists to achieve unprecedented levels of independence in France, although major changes in the ‘mandarin system’ of powerful lab heads may be a long way off. Writing in the 26 April 2002 issue of Science, Michael Balter describes a ‘mandarinate’ – a quasi-feudal hierarchy that has concentrated funds and vested power in a relatively few lab and institute chiefs. But now French officials have launched a series of initiatives that give promising young researchers their own funds and lab space. The driving force for such change appears to be better treatment of young researchers in other countries, resulting in a brain drain for France. See

4) The African Virtual University, short on money, has made major changes in its operations according to articles in the Chronicle by Dan Carnevale and Wachira Kigotho. It has closed its Washington headquarters, and shifted management operations to its office in Nairobi, Kenya. And it has dropped plans to offer its own degree programs in a variety of disciplines, and will instead concentrate on delivering computer-science and business programs from established institutions. The effort is being funded by major international agencies, which have committed $16.2-million to date. It is delivering courses to 31 learning centers currently, in sub-Saharan Africa. See and

5) Britain is facing a serious shortage of top-quality researchers in the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics, according to a comprehensive report issued by its government. As reported by Kate Galbraith in the Chronicle, the report states that poor academic conditions and insufficiently attractive career opportunities are causing students to shun these disciplines. While enrollments have increased in information technology and biological sciences in Britain in recent years, other scientific disciplines have seen decreases. These decreases have occurred even as the demand for talented researchers has surged. The report cites specific barriers: outdated labs and equipment, student debt, lack of coordination between high schools and colleges, paltry stipends for graduate students and postdocs, and too few women in the pipeline. It recommends ways to address these issues, including funding for laboratory upgrading and increased student stipends. See

6) Electronic waste in Europe is growing so fast that it will double between 1998 and 2010, according to European Union projections. As reported in the May 2002 issue of IEEE Spectrum by Alec Applebaum and Tekla Perry, regulators are scrambling to steer old computer components out of landfills in order to control pollution of water supplies. The European Union is preparing a directive to address this issue, which will require that manufacturers take used machines back for free and recycle 65% of their average weight. It is expected that this directive, expected to be fully implemented by 2008, will lead manufacturers to produce more efficient designs – easier to disassemble and break down. The article in IEEE Spectrum also describes in detail how recycling works, and includes status reports on recycling trends in the US and in Japan. See

7) The United Arab Emirates is planning a virtual university focusing on petroleum, according to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel del Castillo. Abu Dhabi Petroleum University will open in August 2002 with some 25 masters degree students. It will operate entirely online, primarily serving professionals who are already working in the petroleum industry. Faculty members will be largely Americans and Britons, with interactions conducted via the Internet. Expected to draw students from throughout the Gulf region, the program will take three semesters to complete. See

8) Pacific-rim colleges in 15 countries are considering the formation of an international virtual university, according to an article in the Chronicle by David Cohen. The  geographic reach of the proposed ‘international cyberuniversity’, throughout Asia and the Pacific region, would require resolution of technological issues and linguistic roadblocks. Institutions in Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam are among those meeting to develop plans. See

9) Engineering companies tend to provide more training than other sectors, motivated by rapid changes in technology and business. As reported by Toby Shelley in the April 11 issue of the Financial Times, the Engineering Employees Foundation in Britain has developed a ‘people skills scoreboard’ to assist companies in determining how much they should invest in such training. The scoreboard allows companies to compare themselves with their peers, thus providing a point of reference. According to the scoreboard the average annual amount spent for off-site training by engineering companies is 224 pounds per employee, with electronic firms higher at 366 pounds and aerospace firms even higher at 620 pounds. See

10) Reports of bribe-taking and other corruption at Russian Universities have increased dramatically over the past year, according to that country’s interior ministry. As reported by Bryon MacWilliams in the Chronicle, more than 100 incidents of such abuses were confirmed last year, an increase of 32% over 2000 levels. The ministry says that reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg, however, and that corruption is so prevalent that it costs many students $10,000 to $15,000 just to get admitted to well-regarded universities. The overall amount paid by students and their parents in such ‘unofficial’ educational costs is estimated at $2- to $5-billion annually. See

11) Hong Kong should focus its spending on a select few universities, according to a semiautonomous governmental body. As reported in the Chronicle by Jen Lin-Liu, the University Grants Committee recommends concentrating the limited funds available on building up a select few of its eight public universities in order to allow those few to compete effectively internationally. Such a policy would hopefully make institutions decide what their strengths are, and have them focus their resources in those areas. It has been proposed that rather than duplicating courses at each institution, students should be allowed to move more freely between institutions – transferring credits readily. See

12) A unique grantmaking foundation for Arab scientists, modeled after the US National Science Foundation, hopes to award its first research grants next year. As reported in the April 5 issue of Science by Jeffrey Mervis, the private Arab Science and Technology Foundation is expecting a contribution of almost $20-million from a private donor in the next few months. Initial grants are expected to be in the areas of water and energy, biotechnology, new materials, and information technology. Proposals will be evaluated similar to NSF procedures, and researchers held accountable for how the money is spent – a new approach for Arab scientists, who are used to getting allocated government money and just spending it. See

U.S. developments

13) U.S. immigration officials have announced new rules on student visas, according to an article by Sara Hebel in the Chronicle. Foreign visitors who are visiting the U.S. and want to study at an American university now will have to wait to begin their course work until they obtain a student visa, effective immediately. Previously such visitors could start studies while awaiting the processing of a request to change a tourist visa to a student visa. The change has been made due to concerns that potential terrorists could enter the country on a tourist or business visa and be able to extend their stay without strict scrutiny.  Higher education officials see no problem with the change as long as the INS follows through on a promised 30-day turn around on such requests. See In a related action, the U.S. Senate has approved legislation that calls for new background checks on student visa applicants from countries that the State Department considers to be sponsors of terrorism. The  House has passed similar legislation, and the President is expected to sign the measure. The bill, which college lobbyists endorse, would improve the training and pay of INS employees charged with making the checks. See

14) White House officials have asked universities to help create a national computer-security strategy, according to an article by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. A special advisor to the President on cyberspace security has asked institutions to coordinate their research efforts and to develop guidelines for protecting technology systems from outside attacks. Institutions and their umbrella organizations have already begun to coordinate their efforts in cybersecutity research. See Several organizations concerned with university computer technologies have agreed to make security a more visible priority on campuses, ensuring that this infrastructure remains secure and reliable. See

15) President Bush’s administration and its critics are increasingly using ‘science’ to bolster their policy proposals, according to an article in the Washington Post by Eric Planin. Examples are the President’s pulling out of the global warming treaty, saying that he was not convinced by scientific research that the problem was all that serious; postponing the adoption of tough new standards for arsenic in drinking water, citing conflicting scientific studies; opposing increased fuel efficiency standards for autos; and relaxing a proposed ban on snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park. The Bush administration’s approach to science policy has become increasingly controversial, as the White House seems to use studies selectively to fit its policy agenda and to justify industry-friendly changes in environmental regulations. Other controversial decisions have been the designation of Yucca Mountain as the site for nuclear waste disposal, and efforts to allow drilling for oil in Alaska and for natural gas in Wyoming. See

16) The Bush administration may bar some international students from ‘sensitive’ academic fields, according to a note in the Chronicle by Stephen Burd. Areas that have a direct application to the development and use of weapons of mass destruction are being targeted for such exclusions. University officials are pressing to be involved in discussions going on in the Bush administration in this area. An interagency working group has been charged with identifying sensitive areas of study. See  In a related area, the government has issued new regulations governing satellite-based research between American and foreign researchers. University researchers are frustrated that they need State Department approval to share information – even on published research – with colleagues in most other countries. State Department officials say there is not a real problem, in that most requests are approved, within a couple of months. The penalty for violating the State Department rules is $ 1-million. See

17) States with the biggest budget deficits are taking aim at higher education to achieve balance, according to an article in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Selingo. Campuses in California, Tennessee and Wisconsin are cutting programs, freezing hiring, or raising tuition due to state support cuts. While there are signs that the nation is coming out of the recession, it could be this fall before many states see the effects of any upturn – so state decision makers are being conservative in their budgeting. With cuts in their budgets, university administrators in state supported schools are concluding that they cannot continue to ‘do it all’, so programs are being cut. See

18) The Office of Technology Assessment could return, according to an article in the April 2002 issue of Mechanical Engineering by Francis Dietz. Legislation has been introduced in the House to bring about the return of OTA, which Congress eliminated in a 1995 budget-cutting move. Congress originally established OTA in 1972, to provide objective, nonpartisan technical information to its committees. During its years of existence, OTA studied such areas as the strategic defense initiative, sustainable development in agriculture, urban transportation policy, and the viability of generic drugs. If the bill is approved by Congress and signed by the President, finding the money to support a revived OTA will still be a problem. See

19) The American Association of University Professors has reported that faculty salaries rose 3.8% in 2001-02, the largest increase in 11 years, according to an article in the Chronicle by Robin Wilson. But AAUP warns that the events of September 11 and the recession it propelled will almost certainly lead to a decline in faculty pay increases for the coming year. University budgets for next year are being set now, at a time when most states are seeing constant declining tax revenues. See 

20) President Bush has unveiled a detailed blueprint for his plan to expand AmeriCorps and other national service plans, according to an article by Sara Hebel in the Chronicle. To implement his announcement in the State of the Union speech, where he proposed to expand AmeriCorps by 50% to 75,000 individuals, the President has called for increasing funding by 56.4% to $638-million. His proposal also calls for raising the value of the $4725 education awards that participants receive, allowing more flexibility in using them, and requiring colleges to increase the percentage of work-study positions that involve community service. Congress appears to be generally supportive of the basic request for such program increases. See


Distance education, technology

21) Slovakian universities are denouncing a new law that bars public universities from charging fees for popular distance education programs, saying that it is counterproductive. As reported by Burton Bollag in the Chronicle, about 40,000 ‘external students’ are enrolled in Slovakia’s public higher education institutions – paying from $250 to $650 per year. The country’s 92,000 normal day students study free of charge. In recent years, external study programs have helped meet a need for increased demand for higher education, and have become an important source of income for the schools. The education minister, in defending the new law, says that every citizen must have equal access to university education – and that fees make it hard for poor people to study. Universities say that they will be forced to cut back on the external programs without the fees, so that it will be impossible for thousands of students to study at all. See

22) Chinese universities have begun working with overseas institutions on distance education programs, according to a note in the Chronicle by Jen Lin-Liu. Chinese officials have for a decade been aggressively developing distance education as a way to deliver courses to students throughout the country. Now courses from Australia and the United States are being offered through local universities, in English. A Shanghai newspaper has reported that local institutions were cooperating with overseas universities in hopes of joining the global school elite. See

23) Cost issues in online learning are addressed in a major article in the May/June issue of Change by Jane Sjogren and James Fay. Noting that most universities are feeling pressure to offer distance education to fulfill their missions, the authors indicate that many find it difficult to know how to do it within their resources. This article proposes a model that is different than ‘continuing education’, where online learning is treated as an operation outside the core operations of the university and thus expected to pay for itself. Instead, the authors propose a model where online learning is integrated into the core mission of the university, using carefully selected partners to assist with advice and selected services. The article also identifies the cost components of internet-based learning, including course design, course delivery and support, faculty development, and student support. See

24) Ford Motor Company and General Motors are sponsoring programs that will let employees earn degrees through distance education, according to an article in the Chronicle by Michael Arnone. Ford plans to offer employees at dealerships nationwide the opportunity to earn online bachelor’s degrees in business administration, specializing in automotive marketing and management. GM will offer online master’s degrees in business administration to its employees. Employees at auto dealerships typically have a high turnover rate, and Ford hopes that its program will give it a competitive edge in attracting and retaining good people. Ford will provide the offerings, but local dealers and their employees will pay for them. The GM program is aimed at its direct employees, not those at dealerships, and the company will pay the tuition costs. See

25) Nebraska researchers are measuring the extent of ‘link rot’ in distance education, according to an article by Vincent Kiernan in the Chronicle. The phenomenon is caused when courses have embedded hyperlinks to Web pages that have moved or ceased to exist. In three graduate level courses examined at their university, 515 hyperlinks contained in online materials had expired since their creation in August 2000. The authors postulate that ‘link rot’ is similar to the rate of decay of radioactive substances, where links have a half-life of 55 months. These results indicate a practical problem for online courses; courses need to be rechecked periodically to remove or update any expired links. See

26) Cybersecurity must become a priority in basic research on computer systems, according to an article in The Bridge by William Wulf and Anita Jones. The authors note that the present ‘perimeter defense’ model is fragile, and that patching software each time a new attack is successful does not address the fundamental problem of cyberterrorism. National defense systems are a juicy target for sophisticated state-sponsored intruders, as are our financial cybersystems. No one knows how vulnerable we really are, since costly attacks made to date have not been made public. The authors address four critical needs: the need for a new model to replace the perimeter defense model; the need for a new definition of cybersecurity; the need for an active defense; and the need for coordinated activities by cyber-communities, the legal system, and regulatory systems. See


Students, faculty, education

27) The September 11 attacks could alter the course of engineering education as schools redesign their classes and reorder their research priorities in response to the crisis, according to an article by Alvin Sanoff in the April 2002 issue of Prism. Courses are being changed to address the design of safer high-rise buildings, issues such as security and surveillance, the history of biological and chemical warfare, and even Islam in the modern era. The author states that the more future engineers study the collapse of the Twin Towers, the more likely they are to build skyscrapers and other facilities capable of withstanding threats which they could not have imagined only a short time ago. See Similar arguments are put forth in an article in the Spring 2002 issue of The Bridge, by Robert Prieto. He argues that the three R’s for the 21st century are resistance, response, and recovery. See

28) Concluding that early admission decisions do not serve students well, several institutions are considering dropping the mechanism. Under early decision, selective universities allow some number of highly qualified students to get a quick response from their first-choice institution in exchange for a promise to attend if admitted. The mechanism has been criticized for putting too much pressure on high school students to speed up their decision-making, and for favoring wealthier students who do not need to shop around for financial aid packages. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has announced that it will drop the mechanism next year, according to an article in the Chronicle by Christopher Flores. See  Other colleges have been reluctant to take unilateral action in ending early decisions, fearing that they would lose out in the battle for top scholars. Yale University’s President has called for an end to the practice at Ivy League schools, but is worried that any joint action might bring government action due to antitrust concerns. Yale has asked for a letter from the Justice Department indicating that in this case no antitrust action would be brought, according to an article by Gary Putka and John Wilke in the May 3 issue of the Wall Street Journal. See  

29) Today’s engineering schools are not preparing their graduates as well as they might for useful practice in the 21st century, according to an article by William Wulf and George Fisher in the Spring 2002 Issues in Science and Technology. The authors note that the changing nature of international trade and the subsequent restructuring of industry, the shift from defense to civilian applications, the use of new materials and biological processes, and the explosion of information technology have dramatically changed the practice of engineering. But in their judgment, engineering education – the profession’s basic source of training and skill – is not able to keep up with the changing demands. The authors argue that curricula need to be changed to reflect new fundamentals such as discrete mathematics, biological sciences, and knowledge of global cultural and business contexts. They argue that the bachelor’s degree is no longer sufficient for engineering practice, and that the first professional degree must be longer. And they argue for formalized lifelong learning, greater diversity in the engineering workforce, and technological literacy in the general population. See

30) The challenge of internationalizing undergraduate education is discussed by Madeleine Green in the May/June 2002 issue of Change. Noting that American college graduates will live and work in a world where national borders are permeable, information and ideas flow at lightening speed, and communities and workplaces reflect a growing diversity, the author argues that an undergraduate education today must produce graduates who will be productive both locally and globally and who understand that the fates of nations, individuals  and the planet are inextricably linked. Internationalism is a change that is both broad – affecting departments, schools and activities across the institution – and deep, expressed in institutional culture, values, policies, and practices. According to the author, the gap between institutional rhetoric on internationalism and its realization in institutional behaviors is striking on many campuses. This article is based on a forthcoming publication by the American Council on Education, Promising Practices in Internationalization, scheduled for the Summer of 2002. See



31) Fewer foreign students are flowing into science and engineering graduate programs in the U.S., more women are earning doctoral degrees in the sciences, and the number of colleges winning federal funds for research is dropping, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation. As reported in the Chronicle by Ron Southwick, the drop in foreign graduate students is at least partially due to the ability of countries such as China and Korea to train their own students in scientific fields. The drop in number of institutions getting federal research funds ends a 20-year growth period; most institutions involved in that drop are community colleges and liberal arts colleges. The number of women earning Ph.D.’s in the sciences and engineering rose from 6932 in 1991 to 9396 in 2000, while the number of men earning doctorates in these fields dropped from 8585 to 7909 in the same period. See

32) An association of Hispanic college administrators has announced a legislative agenda aimed at increasing federal support to institutions that serve large numbers of Hispanic and Latino students, according to an article by Richard Morgan in the Chronicle. The group has called on Congress to provide 50% more funds for such colleges under the Higher Education Act, in 2003. The primary thrust of such increased funds would be to develop facilities, curricula, and endowments at Hispanic-serving colleges. In his budget request, President Bush proposed an increase of only about 3.6% for such institutions. See



33) The International Journal of Engineering Education has released a special issue on Assessment, edited by Gloria Rogers. Some 15 major papers address various aspects of assessment, including employer input, trust, outcomes, value engineering, accreditation considerations, student teamwork, capstone courses, and engineering portfolios. See volume 18, number 2, 2002 at

34) The European Journal of Engineering Education has released its March 2002 issue, with a heavy focus on Information and Communication Technologies in Engineering Education. Papers describe supporting student projects at a distance, evaluating the use of ICT, integration of ICT into project-based learning, distance teaching in a cross-Atlantic collaboration, laboratories in distance education, and implementing ICT faculty-wide. See


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