8 July 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

1.       Germany works at attracting scholars

2.       Russia and US reduce cost of student visas

3.       Arab societies are falling behind

4.       Myanmar universities open again

5.       Swiss government notes stagnation in science

6.       China’s space program promotes basic science

7.       G-8 countries promise aid to Africa

8.       Russia may save the Kyoto protocol

9.       Smaller Japanese universities compete for research funds

10.  Kuwait opens first private university

11.    Global Environment Fund struggles for budget

U.S. developments

12.    Declining engineering enrollments blamed on curricula, job market

13.    NRC reports on anti-terrorism needs

14.    Non-traditional students dominate undergraduate enrollments

15.    Foreign visitors to be photographed, fingerprinted

16.    MIT faculty outline policy to protect academic openness

17.    Study reports on financing of graduate assistantships

18.    “Why the Towers Fell” video available

19.    SAT test to get major overhaul

Distance education, technology

20.    Tailor made programs for specific industries

21.    Syria opens first electronic university

22.    Computer-discipline offices spring up

23.    Universities expanding anti-cyberterrorism research

24.    Libraries and museums slow to digitize

25.    New reference librarian service available


26.    Gender gap in higher education – men missing

27.    Urban league report urges college educations on welfare

28.    Female engineering students completion needs

29.    Women underrepresented in Canadian chairs awards


30.    Report from ASEE annual meeting

31.    Upcoming international engineering education conference


32.    International Journal of Engineering Education

33.    Change magazine

34.    Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice

35.    TechKnowLogia



International developments

1) Germany is trying to market itself as an attractive home for the world’s finest scholars, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Rick Perera. While the country has a rich academic tradition, top-flight research, and lavish financial support for academia, it faces handicaps in attracting the best academic talent from abroad. Along with the language barrier, Germany has an opaque system of diplomas and degrees and a reluctance to recognize foreign academic credentials. Regulations governing visas and residency permits are confusing, and racist violence and a rightward slant in politics mar the country’s image. But a new glossy, marketing campaign, Guide to Academic Training and Education (GATE) is aimed  at bolstering Germany’s academic profile abroad. The marketing program includes slick Web sites and road shows at college fairs outside Germany. Financial support is also increased, with a 30% increase in stipends to support scientists. The number of foreign students is up 17% since the GATE program started. See

2) Russia and the United States have drastically lowered the cost of visas for students who wish to study in the other’s countries, according to a note in the Chronicle by Beth McMurtrie. Students exchanging between the two countries will now be charged $65 instead of $500, and the time for processing of visas has also been cut. The changes are part of a larger effort to improve relations between the two nations. The US embassy in Moscow issues some 1500 visas each year to Russian students enrolling in degree programs in the US, and another 10,500 students, scholars, and professionals are issued visas for exchange programs and vocational training. See

3) A blunt new report commissioned by the United Nations warns that Arab societies are being crippled by a lack of political freedom, the repression of women, and an isolation from the world of ideas that stifles creativity. According to an article in the 2 July 2002 New York Times by Barbara Crossette, the Arab Human Development Report 2002 was prepared by Arab intellectuals, and released recently in Cairo. The report noted that while oil income has transformed the landscapes of some Arab countries, the region remains ‘richer than it is developed’. Research and development are weak or nonexistent. Science and technology are dormant. Productivity is declining. Intellectuals flee a stultifying, if not repressive, political and social environment. Arab women are almost universally denied advancement. There are 280-million people in the 22 Arab countries covered by the report. The team preparing the report consisted of nearly 30 authorities in various fields. The study was cosponsored by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and by members of the Arab League. See

4) Universities are open again in Myanmar, but learning is hard to come by under a repressive military regime. According to an article by Jen Lin-Liu in the Chronicle, the military junta has been wary of students since a round of student pro-democracy protests in 1996. Most colleges were closed indefinitely at that time, and academic calendars have been regularly disrupted since then. With close control by the military government, most students have little faith in the public higher education system. Many students go to religious colleges left untouched by the regime, visit embassy libraries, and take private courses. While the government has plans for increased information technology learning, it neglects the fact that the Internet is still banned on campuses. Many campuses do not have libraries, and those that do keep books behind counters with access only through a librarian. See

5) The Swiss government’s science advisory body has said that a decade of stagnation has sent Swiss science into a downward spiral that only broad reforms and a massive infusion of funds can reverse. According to an article by Giselle Weiss in the 7 June 2002 issue of Science, the Swiss Science and Technology Council proposes corrective measures including unifying Switzerland’s fragmented higher education system, installing a modern tenure-track system, shoring up support for long-term basic research, and increasing the science and technology budget 10% per year from 2004 to 2007. Part of the problem is money – Federal R&D budgets have remained essentially unchanged over the past 10 years. But structural issues are also a problem – such as the fact that most universities have few stable positions below the level of full professor. See

6) China’s ambitious space program is allowing science to emerge from the shadows, according to an article by Dennis Normile and Ding Yimin in the 7 June 2002 issue of Science. Its ambitious program to develop its own astronaut corps is giving Chinese scientists a chance to push back the frontiers of science and to collaborate globally. The goal is to launch a person into space within the next year or two – becoming only the third country to do so. The rocket and satellite capabilities that underpin the piloted space effort are being coupled with a growing budget for space science. And the program is moving toward more basic research, including international collaborations with European scientific bodies. See

7) The G-8 countries have adopted a financial aid package for African nations at the conclusion of their Calgary summit, according to an article in the 28 June 2002 issue of the New York Times by David Sanger. Billions of dollars in aid were committed for African nations that successfully reform their economies and governments. But the prosperous countries offered only the vaguest assurances that they would dismantle the huge subsidies for their own farmers, which African leaders bitterly complain have undercut the ability of the poorest nations to compete in world markets. The aid to Africa would be part of a broader commitment of $12-billion in new international aid per year by 2006 that many nations made at a United Nations conference in March in Monterrey, Mexico. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development, drawn up in large part by African leaders, is intended to ease a crushing debt burden by relying more on grants than loans and by attracting foreign investment through economic liberalization. But the plan is very controversial in Africa, where many view it as just a new way to impose Western-style economic theories on their countries. See

8) Russia has emerged as a possible savior of the Kyoto protocol, which was dealt a heavy blow when the United States withdrew from negotiations over carbon emissions last year, according to an article in the 21 June 2002 issue of Science by Paul Webster. To come into force, the treaty must be ratified by enough industrialized nations to account for 55% of carbon emissions in 1990, Kyoto’s baseline year. The US withdrawal puts its leading 36% share off limits, making participation by the other major players even more important. Russia holds second place, with 17% of the 1990 emissions. After the Russian government deliberated for more than a year, President Putin announced in April “We’ll do it”. The incentive seems to be financial – with Russia able to sell pollution credits to other countries due to its greatly reduced emissions due to an economic downturn which has shuttered factories and shrunk agriculture. See

9) Smaller universities in Japan will benefit from a new government research grant program, according to an article by Dennis Normile in the 21 June 2002 issue of Science. The ministry of education has launched a new $160-million-a-year program which will concentrate grants in specific areas at the university level, as opposed to Japan’s traditional approach of scattering small grants across the academic research enterprise. The ministry plans to fund 20 or so centers in each of five areas: life sciences, chemistry and materials sciences, electronic and information sciences, humanities, and interdisciplinary studies. Grants will range from $800,000 to $4-million per year for five years. The funding levels may not be so attractive to large universities, so smaller ones are expected to benefit more from the new program. See

10) Kuwait has opened its first private university, according to a note by Daniel Del Castillo in the Chronicle. The Gulf University for Science and Technology is accepting students for its September opening, when it will offer undergraduate degrees in science related fields and in business administration. About 1500 students are expected to enroll this year, paying tuition of $13,000 per year. The language of instruction will be English, with curriculum development assistance coming from the University of Missouri at St. Louis. The country of 2-million people currently has only one university, Kuwait University, and the expatriates who make up half of that population are not eligible to attend it. The new university will be open to students of all nationalities. See

11) The Global Environment Facility (GEF), an international agency aimed at getting environmentally sound initiatives off the ground, is struggling to keep its scientific programs funded as donor nations have failed to agree on its future budget. According to an article in the 31 May 2002 issue of Science by Adam Bostanci, GEF has requested an increase in funding from $2.2-billion to $3.2-billion for the next four-year period. One key holdout is the United States, where the Treasury Department has raised concerns about whether grant money is spent wisely and whether monitoring of how funds are spent is adequate. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the GEF has stated that the fund’s most pressing issue is weak scientific underpinnings of many projects. Since its establishment a decade ago to fund the United Nations Conventions on Biological Diversity and Climate Change, the GEF has spent $4.2-billion on more than 1200 projects, and catalyzed an additional $12.7-billion in matching funds from governments and private investors. See


US developments

12) In a pair of articles in the Wall Street Journal, Sharon Begley has critically raised the issue of declining engineering enrollments, and what that trend means to the future of technology in the US. In a 7 June 2002 article entitled “As we lose engineers, who will take us into the future”, the author notes that many engineering students drop out because of the heavily math and science oriented curriculum – particularly the earlier years, where engineering content is often sparse. Women in particular are turned off by the ‘boot camp’ mentality that pervades traditional engineering programs. Some universities have responded by inserting more real engineering content into the early courses, but many have not. In a follow-up article on 5 July 2002, entitled “Angry engineers blame shortages on low pay, layoffs, and age bias”, Ms. Begley cites another major problem – brought to her attention by a flood of letters from working engineers. Hundreds of letters griped about salary stagnation, age discrimination, and the boom-and-bust cycle in the field. Engineers complained that if corporate CEOs were worried about an adequate supply of engineers for the future, they had only themselves to blame. See

13) A team of leading US scientists has called for a comprehensive rethinking of the nation’s anti-terrorism infrastructure, according to an article by Guy Gugliotta in the 25 June 2002 edition of the Washington Post. A report by the National Research Council underscores the need to quickly bring existing technologies into use, to accelerate new research, and to create a Homeland Security Institute to evaluate counterterrorism strategies. The report points out that the federal government is structured with a distinction between national security and domestic policy, and that that compartmentalization does not allow it to carry out a science and technology agenda for countering catastrophic terrorism. The report gives a long list of shortcomings in scientific preparedness, including lack of coordination in research on nuclear or ‘dirty bomb’ threats and enormous vulnerabilities in the ability of the public health system to defend against biological warfare. The report noted that many government agencies with responsibility in this area, such as the new Transportation Security Administration, have little experience interacting with the scientific community. It states that such non-science agencies have to develop the ability to identify technological needs and develop relationships with the technologists who can fulfill them. See

14) Nontraditional students dominate undergraduate enrollment in the US, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics of the US Department of Education. As reported in the Chronicle by Jamilah Evelyn, almost 75% of today’s undergraduates are considered ‘nontraditional’ because of their age, financial status, or when they entered college. The remaining 27% are ‘traditional’ students who have a high-school diploma, enroll full time right after high school, and depend on parents for financial support. The most common nontraditional characteristic was financial independence, at 51%, followed by part-time attendance at 48%, then delayed enrollment at 46%. See

15) The US Justice Department is proposing a rule that would require the government to begin fingerprinting, photographing, and keeping detailed background information on some foreigners – including student visa holders – who visit the US. According to an article in the Chronicle by Richard Morgan, the plan – which some critics call ‘ethnic profiling’ – could affect 20,000 foreign students living in the US. The plan would enforce WW-II era laws that are already on the books, and expand a 1998 federal rule that requires visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria to be photographed and fingerprinted upon arrival. The Congress has stipulated that all foreign visitors to the US be tracked by 2005. A pilot fingerprinting program conducted at border entry points has resulted in 1400 arrests in the past five months, according to Attorney General Ashcroft. The new program will also require periodic registration for foreigners ‘of elevated national security concern’. See

16) The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has become the first major academic research institution to outline a policy designed to protect intellectual openness on campus amid growing pressure to limit access to sensitive information and materials as part of the war on terrorism. According to an article by Michael Fletcher in the 14 June 2002 edition of the Washington Post, recommendations developed by a faculty committee include confining classified research to separate off-campus locations, refusing contracts that require government pre-screening of research results, and assembling a standing faculty committee to monitor and respond to legal restrictions on the disclosure of scientific information. Congress has passed two measures since October that, among other things, restrict the handling of biological agents commonly used by university researchers. Also, the Department of Defense recently proposed to make it illegal for scientists to publish certain basic research without prior government approval — a measure that was pulled back in the face of vehement opposition from scientific organizations. See

17) A new government report provides details on financing of graduate student assistantships, according to a note in the Chronicle by Scott Smallwood. Data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study indicate that more than 60% of doctoral students receive paid assistantships, and that students in engineering and the sciences get larger awards. On average, full time PhD. students with assistantships received $12,837, but those in the sciences received $14,994. About half of the teaching and research assistants in doctoral programs reported getting some type of insurance benefit, and more that three-quarters of them said they were given a tuition waiver or discount. See

18) “Why the Towers Fell”, a Public Broadcasting Service documentary program which recently took viewers through the process of how an ASCE led investigative team came to understand the how’s and why’s of one of America’s greatest tragedies, is now available on video tape. From a detailed examination of the building’s original design to the relentless process of combing scrap steel yards and Ground Zero itself for evidence, this was one of the most extensive and difficult disaster investigations ever undertaken. In the judgment of the editor of this Digest, every engineering school should obtain a copy of this video tape and show it to all current and future engineering students – along with the classic film on the failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Copies may be ordered from ASCE at

19) The College Board has undertaken a major overhaul of the SAT test, one that will include a handwritten essay and take an extra half-hour to complete. According to an article by Tamar Lewin in the 28 June 2002 edition of the New York Times, the revised test will be made up of three sections, each scored on a 200- to 800-scale, and each differing at least somewhat from the current verbal and math sections. The math test will cover an additional year of high school math, and the format of the questions will be new. The verbal test, renamed the critical reading test, will also have different types of questions, eliminating verbal analogies and quantitative comparisons. The most striking change is the addition of a new writing test, including both an essay and multiple-choice grammar and copy-editing questions. The essays, designed to assess basic writing skills, not creativity, will be scored by two readers – high school or college English teachers – based on criteria like sentence structure and grammar errors. The revised test will be ready for March 2005. See


Distance education, technology

20) Some colleges and universities are reaching niche markets by creating tailor-made distance education programs for employees in specific industries, according to a note by Dan Carnevale in the Chronicle. For example, industry specific programs for the telecommunications industry have been around for at least three years, and electricity and health care industries have been getting more attention within the past year. A group called the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning has helped some companies form industry coalitions to decide what skills should be taught in online programs. The Council says that companies benefit from getting a trained workforce, but that students get even more out of the program. Many companies want more than just training, and have courses cover basic math and theory as well as hands-on work. See

21) Over the past eight months, the government of Syria has built and opened the country’s first electronic university, according to a note in the Chronicle by Daniel Del Castro. The Syrian Virtual University has begun accepting students and plans to be operational for the fall semester with an enrollment of 600. The university will be entirely online. It continues a gradual move from a Soviet-style closed society to a more open Western-oriented model. The virtual university will concentrate on science, engineering and information technology. Instruction will be in English and European languages at first, with the hope of eventually offering courses throughout the Middle East in languages like Arabic, Armenian and Farsi. To aid students who lack computers or Internet access, the university is building ten ‘telecenters’ in Syria’s most populous regions. See

22) A handful of universities have set up computer-discipline offices to handle crimes and near-crimes, human errors, and assorted foibles on their increasingly Internet connected campuses. According to an article by Scott Carlson in the Chronicle, such offices respond to complaints that computer-savvy students are doing something they shouldn’t – like hacking into a company’s computer system, or downloading MP3s illegally, or using computer lab machines to look at pornography – and deliver stern warnings, or in the worst cases contact the police. In addition to providing a central office from which the university can dispense clear and consistent information about computer use policies on campus, such offices provide students and others with people trained to deal with human issues as well as technical ones. See

23) Universities are expanding their anti-cyberterrorism research, according to a note in the Chronicle by Florence Olsen. Seeing that there is a void that they may fill, universities are establishing programs to meet demands for research on information security – hoping to attract funding from sources such as the US government, banks, and insurance companies. Such programs will also educate a new generation of students for jobs in the computer-security area. Schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Dartmouth, and Johns Hopkins have recently established such programs. See

24) Most libraries and museums are not digitizing their collections, according to a recent survey by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. As reported in the Chronicle by Scott Carlson, a minority of libraries and museums are involved in projects that make traditional materials available to users in a digital format, such as a CD-ROM or online. In the first of its kind survey of 700 museum and library organizations, only a third of museums and academic libraries, and only a quarter of public libraries, are involved in digitization efforts. Museums and libraries that do have digitization projects often use the technology to preserve and provide easier access to photographs and fragile historical documents. Among other recommendations, the Institute suggests that libraries and museums set up policies on the standards, preservation, and selection of digitized materials. See

25) A new library service allows the public to pose reference questions without visiting a library, according to a note by Scott Carlson in the Chronicle. The service, called QuestionPoint, has been developed by the Library of Congress and the Online Computer Library Center. It operates through a Web browser, and may make some visits to a library unnecessary. A patron will gain access to QuestionPoint  through his or her local library’s web site. Questions will be routed to local libraries first. If the user’s local library is not open, the question will be sent to an open library elsewhere – one that has the strengths in disciplines to match the nature of the question. QuestionPoint offers a reduced subscription price for libraries that agree to help answer its inquiries. See



26) A gender gap among college graduates has educators wondering where the men are, according to an article by Michael Fletcher in the 25 June 2002 edition of the Washington Post. At colleges and universities across the US, the proportion of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women reached a post-war high estimated at 57%. The gender gap is even wider among Hispanics, with only 40% of college graduates male, and African Americans where two women earn bachelor’s degrees for every man. The trend began in the mid-1980s – and while business leaders and demographers applaud the growing academic success of women, they fear that the lopsided graduation rate may foretell significant problems. Business groups are beginning to worry about a possible dwindling share of men to fill top corporate jobs. Researchers say that the growing disparity reflects the educational problems of men, who account for 51% of the college age population. High school graduation rates for men are slightly lower than those of women, and male students make up the vast majority of those enrolled in special education classes. Some researchers believe that the imbalance will cause problems in the nation’s social norms, with college-educated women having growing problems finding mates of equal educational footing. See

27) A report from the Urban League says that US welfare policy undervalues education, according to a note in the Chronicle by Richard Morgan. The report states that federal welfare policy encourages a massive underinvestment in the skills of welfare recipients that will permanently lower their lifetime earnings. The report, “Negative Effects of TANF on College Enrollments” targets the Temporary Assistance to Needy Family program of 1996 for failing to consider the importance of educational attainment in promoting the economic well-being of low-income families. Proponents of change argue that people on public assistance can successfully complete college, and that people with a degree will not likely have to rely on future assistance. See

28) Female engineering students are more likely to complete a degree when they have strong social support networks within the engineering field, according to the recent report “Women’s Experiences in College Engineering”. Such mechanisms as mentoring programs and opportunities to network with practicing women engineers increase the likelihood that they will continue their engineering studies. These findings are based on a study involving some 20,000 female undergraduates, plus faculty members and administrators at 53 colleges and universities. Engineering schools currently have an average female population of about 20%, at a time when other historically male-dominated fields such as law and medicine have reached gender parity. See

29) Women are seriously underrepresented in a fledgling program to help Canada retain its best academic talent, according to an article by Wayne Kondro in the 28 June 2002 issue of  Science. In 1999, the Canadian government committed $585-million to create 2000 new posts under the Canadian Research Chairs program. The program provides funds to free up established researchers from teaching, and to help universities to hire rising stars to replace aging faculty. A report looking at the first four classes shows that women, who make up 25% of the total academic pool, have received just under 15% of the 532 chairs. Critics say that this imbalance is due to the old boy’s network of deans and academic vice presidents. It is hoped that publication of the statistics of results to date will encourage universities to appoint more women for the roughly 1400 chairs yet to be awarded. See



30) At the annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education in Montreal in late June, the opening keynote plenary session featured two outstanding speakers: John Slaughter, President of the National Action Council for Minorities in Education, and William Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Slaughter outlined the work of NACME, which has provided scholarships to some 17,000 promising minority students in its 28 year history. He observed that there is much yet to do -- while minorities make up some 30% of the overall college age populations, only 11% of engineering students are minorities. He noted the need to provide support structures for minorities in engineering education and in the pre-college pipeline, the need to increase the numbers of minority faculty in engineering schools, and the need to make curricula more user friendly. Dr. Wulf focused on the need for reform in engineering education – saying that engineering practice is changing rapidly, and that engineering education is not keeping up. He cited the following changes needed: prepare students to deal with new complexities and constraints in design; update the curriculum and pedagogy of engineering programs; increase diversity in the engineering student population; improve the retention rate of engineering students; move beyond the BS as the first professional degree; change the faculty reward structure to promote practical experience; and develop programs to build technological literacy in the broader public.

31) The International Engineering Program at the University of Rhode Island has announced its Fifth Annual Colloquium on International Engineering Education, to be held in Warwick RI on 24-27 October 2002. This interdisciplinary meeting will bring engineering faculty, language faculty, and international education administrators together with leaders from the private and public sectors to discuss best practices and strategies to internationalize American engineering education. See for details.



32) The International Journal of Engineering Education has published Volume 18 Number 3, 2002, with some 15 papers on education policy and research and on several engineering education technical areas. The papers deal with design practice, quality assurance and assessment, and with specific course approaches in technical fields. See

33) The July/August issue of Change features a series of articles on “Enhancing Educational Capital – Challenges and Benefits”. One article examines major demographic changes in higher education, with an eye toward shaping policy as Congress prepares to take up the Higher Education Act of 2004. Another major article examines the state of America’s educational capital – the reservoir of knowledge and skills that is the nation’s greatest asset. Noting that college level education has become increasingly important to the economic prospects of states and nation, the authors urge a long-term effort to take stock of this important aspect of the nation’s educational capital. See

34) The July 2002 issue of the Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice contains some ten articles on engineering education and practice. But its highlight may be a lengthy editorial on “Engineering Faculty Reward Systems” by Jose Roesset and James Yao. See

35) The July-September issue of the online journal TechKnowLogia has been posted on the web at  The thematic focus of this issue is “Technologies for all – issues of equity”.


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