9 July 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

The British newspaper The Guardian has ranked the research quality of universities and other institutions around the world, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Susannah Dainow. A study conducted by the paper ranked universities according to how many papers their faculty publish, and how often such papers are cited in other publications. The study focused on countries that are the top producers of research papers: Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States. American universities fared the best in the physical sciences, with the top five institutions being: Scripps Research Institute, University of California at Santa Cruz, Rockefeller University, Harvard University, and Brandeis University. See

Canada and Qatar have announced a 10-year joint project to set up a new college of technology in Qatar, according to a note in the Chronicle .The new college, funded by a $326-million grant from a foundation in Qatar, will have 3000 students taking courses in 30 undergraduate subjects. The College of the North Atlantic, an 18-campus institution in Newfoundland and Labrador, is providing course development, personnel, and degrees for the new college. The first students are to start in September 2002. See

Chinese students seeking visas to study in the US are being rejected by the US Embassy in Beijing in much greater numbers than they were at this time last year, according to an article in the Chronicle by Beth McMurtrie. US State Department officials say that applicants are being turned down for legitimate reasons, and that they expect denials to decrease as the summer progresses. More students come to the US from China than from any other country – with 54,466 enrolled in the US during the 1999-2000 academic year. US universities which have admitted Chinese students are complaining about the increased rate of visa denials. See

The research commissioner of the European Union, Phillipe Busquin, is trying to develop the “European Research Area”, a broad effort to better coordinate the continent’s rich but scattered scientific strongholds. According to an article by Robert Koenig in the 29 June 2001 issue of Science, the central instrument of the ERA is the next 4-year EU research program, Framework 6. This program will nurture big-ticket collaborations, and double the funding for researchers to country-hop. Additional initiatives are aimed at coordinating cancer and aerospace research; solidifying the Continent’s genomics research; and helping to set up a forum to bring together leaders of seven major research labs. See

Chinese officials have barred Taiwanese and non-Chinese academics from a July conference in Beijing in a new indication of suspicion of researchers with overseas connections. According to an article in the Chronicle, the International Conference on the Chinese Economy was to have had speakers from Australia and the United States as well as overseas Chinese – but the foreign registrants have been advised not to attend, and overseas Chinese will be screened by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The move comes during a crackdown that has bewildered and frightened overseas Chinese academics. See

Indian academic leaders are protesting a new government rule that requires many foreign scholars to obtain official permission before they can be invited to participate in conferences in India. According to an article by Martha Overland in the Chronicle, the government directive prohibits invitations to foreigners if a conference relates to politics, human rights, communalism, or religion – with any exceptions to be pre-approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs. In addition, academics visiting from certain countries must get permission to attend any conference, regardless of subject matter. Indian academics have complained about the rules, and expressed fear that conference organizers might decide not to invite scholars with unorthodox opinions, fearing repercussions. See

US Congress members have asked the US State Department to intensify its pressure on China to release American scholars who have been detained. According to an article by Dan Curry in the Chronicle, China has detained at least five scholars of Chinese ancestry – two US citizens and three permanent residents. Four of them have been formally charged with spying by the Chinese government, but the Chinese will not discuss the allegations of espionage. Congressmen suggested that pressure be applied on China, such as denying visas to Chinese diplomats, canceling President Bush’s planned visit to China, or withholding US support for China’s entry to the World Trade Organization. See

In the UK, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency is stepping out from under the Ministry of Defence to become the country’s largest independent science and technology company. According to an article by Andrew Watson in the 22 June 2001 issue of Science, the new $1.05-billion entity, called QinetiQ, will be owned by the UK government but directed by an independent board. Its mandate will be to develop and market ideas and technology for customers around the world. The company comprises three-fourths of the current DERA, with a scientific staff of 6500. The privatization is intended to unfetter DERA’s scientific workforce from its military masters, who have cut research spending in half over the last decade. See

Venezuela’s top University is the scene of a clash over values and control, according to an article in the Chronicle by Michael Easterbrook. Students occupied the office of the Rector several weeks ago, and began blasting the administration for being anti-democratic and elitist. Protests at Central University, founded in 1721, are nothing new – but the unusual part in this protest is that it was backed by the government of President Hugo Chavez Frias. Mr. Chavez, who had already crushed opposition parties, rewritten the constitution, and dismantled Congress and the courts, appears to be sowing chaos within the university in the hope of controlling what many consider the last important center of state opposition. Teachers fear that Mr. Chavez wants to indoctrinate young people with his ideology, a hodgepodge of anti-elitist, anti-imperialist beliefs intended to imbue students with national pride. See

Japan’s Education ministry plans to place 700 “scouts” in its national universities over the next five years, with an aim of commercializing promising research projects. According to a note by Michael Chan in the Chronicle, the scouts will identify promising areas of research and help professors and other researchers apply for patents. They will also give advice to academics hoping to start companies. See

Media Lab Europe, an MIT spinoff, arrived in Ireland last year to considerable fanfare. But according to an article by David Armstrong in the 5 July 2001 Wall Street Journal, it has gotten off to a slow start, and the Irish government is being criticized for its substantial support of the startup. Irish academics accuse the lab of siphoning off national resources, while research has barely gotten off the ground. Only 6 research scientists, 8 research associates and 16 graduate students are now working – in space prepared for a staff of 250. One holdup is that MIT faculty members have been cool to leave the US to work in Ireland. These problems may have broader implications, in that a similar setup is being developed in India, and another is being considered for Latin America. See

Vietnamese officials have announced a plan to send more students overseas, according to a note in the Chronicle by Marc Lopatin. Ho Chi Minh City will send 300 students a year to study for advanced degrees at overseas universities, and will also attempt to place more foreign academics in teaching positions in the city. Of the city’s five million residents, only 7800 have graduate degrees and 230,000 have undergraduate degrees. See

Britain’s Open University will this fall become the first higher education institution in the UK to enroll high-school students in undergraduate courses, according to a note in the Chronicle by David Walker. The university will admit students from a selected group of high schools into undergraduate programs in foreign languages, mathematics, science, and technology. See

US developments

After a long vacancy, President Bush has nominated a Presidential Science Advisor. According to an article by Andrew Lawler in the 29 June 2001 issue of Science, Dr. John H. Marburger III has been designated to become Director of the Office of Science and Technology in the Bush White House. Marburger is a 60-year old physicist, a former university president, and currently head of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Marburger vows to bring scientific rigor to the Administration’s decisions, but warns that he will be only one of many voices offering advice on hot-button issues such as ballistic missile defense, stem cell research, and global warming issues. Marburger, who is a lifelong Democrat, served as President of the State University of New York at Stony Brook for 14 years prior to becoming a national laboratory head in 1998. Science policy officials greeted Bush’s choice with plaudits, and with relief. Many were pleased that the White House will now get a boost in technical competence, after worrying that the President has made some key R&D related decisions without adequate science advice. See

 US educators now seem less likely to lose their broadcast frequencies, according to an article by Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle. The Federal Communications Commission seems less inclined to reassign the portion of the radio spectrum used by schools and colleges since the 1960’s. A number of colleges use that part of the spectrum to broadcast distance education courses. The FCC is searching for bands of airwaves to serve new Third Generation wireless devices, such as cellular telephones and other small devices capable of surfing the web as fully as computers do today. See 

Academics, science lobbyists, and government officials met recently in Washington to discuss ideas for reviving Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment, a science advice agency that lawmakers killed in 1995. According to an article in the 22 June 2001 issue of Science by David Malakoff, however, the meeting did not develop a consensus on what might convince Congress to change its mind. Created in 1972, OTA was known for organizing diverse panels that reported on hot policy topics such as genetic engineering. But some lawmakers felt that OTA had become a bastion of Democratic bias, and that it took too long to complete expensive studies. When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, one of their first moves was to eliminate the $22-million office. Ever since, science community leaders have complained that lawmakers lack a trustworthy, neutral source of expertise on emerging issues such as stem cell research and nanotechnology. See

US carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels rose by 2.7 percent in 2000, according to preliminary estimates from the US Department of Energy. The 2000 growth rate was the highest since 1996, when it was 3.6 percent. The increase is attributed to a return to more normal weather, decreased hydroelectric power generation that was replaced by fossil-fuel power generation, and strong economic growth. Carbon dioxide emissions account for over 80 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions and are a good indictor of the changes that can be expected in total US greenhouse gas emission. The preliminary estimates are at the Energy Information Administration web site at

President Bush, recently returned from meetings with European leaders, is backing spending for a “global problem”, according to an article by Richard Kerr in the 15 June 2001 issue of Science. Playing up uncertainties about global warming causes noted by scientists in recent top-level reports, Bush called for new research and technology initiatives to combat what is clearly a “global problem”. Bush’s response is a 5-year US Climate Change Research Initiative, which appears to be a repackaged version of the existing US Global Change Research Program begun a decade ago by his father. See

Salaries for the highest paid bracket of information technology managers have fallen for the first time since 1985, according to a new survey. Benchmark salaries for chief information officers at large corporations are down 37 percent from last year, according to the survey recently released by management consulting firm Janco Associates. See

Reports from the Cheney energy task force and one from national laboratories present sharply different views of the US energy future, according to an analysis article by William Sweet and Elizabeth Bretz in the July 2001 IEEE Spectrum. The article contains excerpts from the Cheney report and from a report prepared by researchers at several national labs, which was released last November, so that readers can draw their own conclusions. While recommending more development of oil and gas resources, the Cheney report also recognizes that big gains in efficiency will continue to be achieved. The national lab’s report, “Scenario for a Clean Energy Future”, presents a very different picture than the Cheney report on what the country’s energy sector may look like in 20 years. Instead of an enormous and inexorable increase in reliance on fossil fuels, it believes that coal and oil consumption can be held close to current levels. See

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in a recent speech, said that in an increasingly technological society, the nation’s educational system must be flexible in order to help workers meet new challenges. The days when a high school or a college education would serve a person throughout his working life are gone, according to Greenspan, and “learning will increasingly need to be a lifelong activity”. He also said that it is important to maintain the lead American universities have as research centers where new innovations can be developed. “If we are to remain pre-eminent in transforming knowledge into economic value, the US system of higher education must remain the world leader in generating scientific and technological breakthroughs and in preparing workers to meet the evolving demands for skilled labor”, he said at a summit on the 21st century work force sponsored by the US Labor Department. See

US scientists anxious about next year’s federal research budget have been getting some good news. According to an article by David Malakoff in the 22 June 2001 issue of Science, several congressional panels have approved preliminary 2002 spending bills that restore research programs targeted for cuts by the Bush administration, while others are considering channeling part of larger budget allocations to science. Pentagon officials also signaled that they may request a significant boost for defense R&D. Congress still has a long way to go, however, before and numbers become final for the fiscal year that begins 1 October 2001. See

Distance education

African professors are learning online how to teach online, according to a report in the Chronicle by Sarah Carr. A course offered at the University of Namibia, “Teaching in the Online Environment”, teaches professors how to use technology and the Internet in teaching. It focuses on such issues as online grading and testing, in addition to surveying the different types of learning resources that are available online. It is delivered online with one live session at the beginning, when students and professors can communicate through a high-speed video connection. See

Merrill Lynch and MIT are claiming success in their distance-learning program, according to an article in the 18 June 2001 Financial Times. Twenty-eight top officials from Merrill-Lynch took a graduate level course taught by an MIT professor. Taking a fresh approach, the course did not include real time interaction and flashy media; students often signed on during off hours to complete their work, and accessed course material on a CD instead of online. Motivation was kept high by having supervisors review the presentations of the students. The organizers reported that the distance education approach did not result in cost savings, as might have been assumed.

The US National Governors Association has released two reports that together offer a ringing endorsement of distance education, according to an article by Sarah Carr in the Chronicle. One report, “The State of E-Learning in the States”, provides an overview of state efforts in distance learning. The authors of that report note that the chief concern of state policymakers is the quality of online courses. The second report, “A Vision of E-Learning for America’s Workforce”, suggests that state governments should seek to form more public-private partnerships in online learning because the economic incentive for investment is so strong. The report states “High-quality e-learning creates an economic advantage for both individuals and organizations by improving ‘speed to capacity’ – or shortening the amount of time it takes to get workers up to speed on new products and processes”. See

The Internet has the potential to enhance collaboration at a distance among researchers by facilitating rapid dispersal of information and the coordination of numerous complex, real-time interactions, according to an article by Stephanie Teasley and Steven Wolinsky in the 22 June 2001 Science. The most frequent currently used applications of the Internet support asynchronous transfers of static text files and images from large publicly available databases. But the authors state that distributed work will ultimately require a fundamental transformation of scientific practice. A growing number of projects allow researchers to control experimental equipment remotely in real-time. The Internet also has the power to support scientific collaboration by linking investigators who can then interact with each other in real-time while dynamically manipulating data. See

The Internet2 consortium of research universities will try to build a Web directory of millions of people in higher education, according to an article by Florence Olsen in the Chronicle. It would be a  ‘white pages’ of faculty and students and staff members, with information on how to communicate with them electronically over the internet. The directory, which officials hope to have operational this summer, would be accessible to all users. The directory will have different ways of searching across multiple campus directories, for example allowing people to be found according to their role on campus. See

Many colleges are now offering their graduates lifetime e-mail addresses, according to an article by Scott Carlson in the Chronicle. In addition to allowing colleges to keep tabs on alumni, it is a constant lure back to their web pages. Although a free permanent e-mail account often amounts to little more that a basic web-based account, it can be a valuable tool for soliciting donations, for keeping alumni involved in an institution’s evolution, and for tracking student’s careers after graduation. Some institutions, such as MIT and Williams College, offer forwarding accounts – e-mail addresses that forward messages to graduate’s primary accounts. For prestigious schools such as Stanford, the free e-mail service can be an online status symbol for alumni. See

Students, education

Seeking to ensure that the most selective institutions maintain a commitment to needs-based financial aid, the presidents of 28 private colleges have endorsed a set of common standards for measuring a family’s ability to pay for college. According to an article in the Chronicle by Eric Hoover, their recommendations include creating a uniform system for assessing the need of divorced or separated families, and establishing a formula that reduces the financial contributions of parents with more than one child in college. The group also proposed counting home equity in the overall evaluation of a family’s financial strength.  It is expected that adoption of these standards will “significantly affect parent contributions in the aggregate and, in many cases, expected family contributions will be reduced”. See

The Educational Testing Service has announced changes in the format of the Graduate Record Examinations General Test for the first time in 20 years, according to an article in the Chronicle by Susannah Dainow. As of October 2002, one section of the standardized multiple-choice test will be replaced with a writing section. The G.R.E. will then consist of verbal, quantitative, and analytical-writing portions. The writing section will replace the current analytical section of the test, which involves the solution of verbal logic problems. The writing samples are meant to measure test-takers’ abilities to argue logically, a skill the rest of the test does not measure. Applicants to master’s and doctoral programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, and engineering take the G.R.E. See

“Balancing Acts—Designing Careers Around the Scholarship of Teaching”, by Mary Taylor Huber, is a major article in the July-August 2001 issue of Change. The author notes that many faculty seek ‘balance’ in their professional lives, but few believe that they can achieve it without serious risk to their academic careers. She states that higher education’s teaching and service performance will be strengthened if faculty are encouraged to approach their work in classroom and community with the same care and curiosity that they bring to library, laboratory, studio, or field. The article reports on four case studies that the Carnegie Foundation is developing as part of a larger inquiry into cultures of teaching in higher education today. The case studies map several routes into scholarly careers that include significant work in the scholarship of teaching and learning. See

As student cheating incidents continue to make headlines, many colleges are beginning to equip all of their professors with high-tech tools designed to detect plagiarism. According to an article in the Chronicle by Jeffrey Young, some professors say that checking papers for cheating may soon become a routine part of grading. Some schools are turning to commercial sources such as to scan student papers to see if the material has been copied, while others are relying on search engines such as Google to look for unique phrases appearing in papers that they suspect have been copied from Internet sources. See

The debate over whether a licensed civil engineer should be required to obtain a master’s degree remains unresolved, according to an article by Cathy Murphy if the July 2001 issue of CE News. While the American Society of Civil Engineers actively supports the idea, many others are firmly against it. In its most recent salary survey, CE News found that of the more than 500 people who responded, 80% felt that a master’s degree should not be required for a P.E. license, while 12% supported the idea. Those who favor the master’s degree requirement cite the need for civil engineers to have a broader education, and also the need for increased education in specialty areas such as structural engineering. Opponents argue that practical experience is just as important as formal education, and that there is nothing wrong with the current system.

President Bush has picked a nominee to become assistant secretary of education for civil rights who has sharply criticized affirmative action in college admissions, according to an article in the Chronicle by Scott Jaschik. Gerald Reynolds, formerly president of the Center for New Black Leadership, has written newspaper columns that say that affirmative action is wrong, and does not help minority students. In one article, Mr. Reynolds stated: “I would like to suggest that solving the spiritual and economic problems that are devastating many black communities is far more important than maintaining racial preference policies whose benefits are restricted to blacks who possess ‘middle class’ values”. See

MIT has received two grants, totaling $11-million, for its project to post course materials online, according to an article by Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle. Many see MIT’s project as an important statement that course materials should be considered scholarly publications, not commercial products. The grants include support for an effort to develop software for online courses that other institutions could use free. The first phase of the project, which is funded by these grants, will last 27 months, and will include development of 500 course Web sites. See


The July/August 2001 issue of Foreign Affairs contains at least two articles of interest. “China’s Coming Transformation” by George Gilboy and Eric Heginbotham, notes that the path China’s leaders have taken over the past decade – rapid economic reform while stifling political change – is likely to be modified by new leaders to accelerate political reform. And “The Missile Defense Debate” by John Newhouse argues that the threat the Bush administration sees is trivial, and that its approach will only anger China and Russia while alienating US allies. See

The June 2001 issue of European Journal of Engineering Education contains a group of papers on “Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications: New Tools for Engineering Education”. It also has  interesting papers on “Self Training through the Internet” and on “Implementation of engineering product design using international student teamwork – to comply with future needs”. The final section of the Journal has two papers about accreditation, as applied in Portugal and in developing countries. See

The International Journal of Engineering Education has published Volume 17, Number 3, 2001. It contains three papers on engineering education policy and research, plus a series of papers on developments in several disciplinary areas of engineering education.

See  This Journal has recently been selected for inclusion in the Science Citation Index, and will be listed in the Current Contents/Engineering, Computing and Technology.

The July/August 2001 issue of the online journal TechKnowLogia has been posted at  The thematic focus of this issue is technology for social action. Featured articles are concerned with economic globalization, information technology and poverty, and e-dialogue and social policy.

Positions of possible interest

From the July 6 and July 13 issues of the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Ø      Electrical engineering faculty, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Ø      Dean, College of Engineering, University of Rhode Island

Ø      Director, Minority Engineering Program, University of Missouri – Rolla

Ø      Dean of Academic Affairs, DeVry Institute of Technology, CO

Ø      Vice Chancellor/Academic Affairs, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Ø      Vice Chancellor and President, University of New South Wales, Australia

Ø      President, Utah State Board of regents



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