April 2007

Copyright © 2007 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E., and Bethany S. Jones, Ph.D.


1 - International developments

2 - US developments 

3 - Technology

4 - Students, faculty, education

5 - Employment, competitiveness

6 – Journals


1 - International developments

Global warming is changing the world – An international climate assessment finds for the first time that humans are altering the world and the life in it by altering climate. The United Nations sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared in February that the world is warming and that humans are to blame. In April another IPCC panel reported for the first time that humans – through the greenhouse gasses we spew into the atmosphere and the resulting climate change – are behind many of the physical and biological changes that media accounts have already associated with global warming. According to an article in the April 13th Science by Richard Kerr, the latest IPCC report ( sees a bleak future if we humans persist in our ways. The climate impacts, mostly negative, would fall hardest on the poor, developing countries, and flora and fauna. (See

Germany’s bright flight – An engineering brain drain is prompting Europe’s largest economy to seek reforms and to coax its talented flock back to the nest, according to an article by Thomas Grose in the April 2007 ASEE Prism. Many German companies have mandatory retirement policies that kick in at age 55, so every year some 60,000 engineers who are still in their prime leave the workforce. In addition, many educated professionals are leaving the country for greener pastures elsewhere – almost 145,000 last year, a 32% jump over 2001. German engineers cite several reasons for leaving: a tough labor market, rampant joblessness (now 10.2%), and high taxes (particularly social welfare costs). Solutions being sought include lowering barriers to importing engineers from other countries, boosting the number of engineering graduates in appropriate fields, and education reform to help future generations of engineers remain marketable throughout their careers. (See

North Korean education for the elite – In a sign that North Korea is emerging from isolation, the country’s first international university has announced plans to open its doors in Pyongyang this fall. According to an article by Richard Stone in the April 13th Science, Pyongyang University of Science and technology will train select North Korean graduate students in a handful of hard-science disciplines, including computer science and engineering. The campus will also anchor an industrial cluster intended to generate jobs and revenue. Initially PUST will offer master’s and Ph.D. programs in computing, electronics and agricultural engineering, as well as an MBA program. (See

Texas-style engineering in the Persian Gulf  -- Since the late 1990’s higher education has become an increasingly popular export for the United States . According to an article in the March 2007 PE Magazine by Eva Kaplan-Leiserson, colleges and universities in the US , as well as those in other countries such as Australia , the UK and Ireland , are setting up branch campuses around the globe to enable students to get an international education in their own region of the world. One of the largest of these experiments is the export of engineering education taking place with the establishment of a branch campus of Texas A&M University in Doha , Qatar , some 8000 miles away. Qatar initially approached the university because of its strong reputation in petroleum engineering, and in May 2003 a ten year agreement to establish a branch campus was signed. The number of students at TAMUQ has grown from 29 in 2003 to 185 in 2007, and first graduates are scheduled for December 2007. (See

Japan picks up the “innovation” mantra – The science advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan clearly states what is best for that country’s research and development efforts: “First you have to reform the leading universities”. According to an article by Dennis Normile in the April 13th Science, a plan for how science and technology can contribute to Japan’s economic growth, “Innovation 25”, has been crafted. The plan’s recommendations include making energy and the environment drivers for economic growth, radically increasing funding for education, and reforming Japan ’s universities. (See

Argentina increases efforts to repatriate its academics Argentina is now making increased efforts to counteract brain-drain, this month announcing that the Secretariat of Science and Technology would soon pay half the salary of any Argentine researcher who returns home, reports Mike Ceaser in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Political events in 1966 and 1976 and the economic downfall in 2000 all prompted a diaspora.  In addition to repatriating Argentines living abroad, the government is providing support to establish virtual networks in engineering, sciences, mathematics and social sciences linking Argentine-based researchers with their former compatriots working abroad. (See

Eurocommuters learning on the fly – The higher degree completion rates at UK universities, when compared to those of European institutions, have spawned a new breed of student, the Eurocommuter, who takes advantage of cheap airfares to study in the UK and live in Europe .  A recent survey indicates that about one sixth of all the non-UK first year students in UK universities commute home “often.”  Institutions located near major airports are increasingly attractive.  This article, by Jessica Shepherd, appearing in the April 10 Guardian, also highlights students who are studying in two places simultaneously, and those who admit the stress of having to juggle academic and personal responsibilities stretched over the entire Continent. (See

Canadian windfall without competition – Several Canadian research institutes will receive multimillion dollar grants from the government this year without having even to ask for the money. According to an article in the March 30th  Science by Wayne Kondro, the money will go to eight institutions deemed best-in-class in fields that include brain research, stroke recovery, sustainable energy, and optics. One institute, for example,  will expand its fledgling research programs on neural engineering – using engineering techniques to understand and manipulate the behavior of the central and peripheral nervous systems – and neuropalliative care. The government’s unprecedented decision to dispense with peer review in awarding the grants – or even solicit advice on which programs to fund – comes as a surprise to the science community, which has questioned the process even as it welcomes the windfall. (See


2 - US developments 

Virginia Tech massacre – On April 16 a lone gunman (subsequently identified as Seung Hui Cho, an undergraduate student) shot and killed thirty two students and five faculty members at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, known as Virginia Tech, write Andy Guess and Elizabeth Redden in Inside Higher Education.  Two of the shootings were in a residence hall, then two hours later, in Norris Hall, an academic building.  This was the worst mass killing in the history of the US . (See  Two days after the killings, Gary Lavergne, director of admissions research at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of a book on the Charles Whitman murders which took place in 1966 at UT-Austin, published an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, written as the country and university officials attempted to understand, explain and in the future prevent, what happened.  “The Whitman case taught me that sometimes our zeal to champion causes important to us or to explain the unexplainable and be ‘enlightened’ blinds us to the obvious,” writes Lavergne.  “But as long as we value living in a free society, we will be vulnerable to those who do harm – because they want to and know how to do it.”  Va Tech will continue its great work of education, as UT-Austin has done, overshadowing the deeds of the killers. (See  The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Va Tech lost one professor, seven graduate students and one undergraduate student in the massacres, reported Robin Wilson in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See It was later revealed that another engineering professor, Liviu Librescu, died attempting to protect his students from the gunman, barring the door to his classroom with his body and thus allowing many of his students in solid mechanics to escape through the windows, writes Jonathan Turley in the April 25 edition of USA Today. (See

The power of green – Thomas Friedman of The World Is Flat fame has published a major article in the April 15th New York Times Magazine, arguing that what America needs to regain its global stature is environmental leadership. He argues that one day the post-9/11 trauma and the divisiveness of the Bush years will be behind the US , and that America will want and need to get its groove back. He believes living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a “green” way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century – addressing the three major issues facing America today: jobs, temperature and terrorism. Friedman believes that the world will not effectively address issues such as the climate-energy challenge without America –its president, its government, its industry, its markets, and its people – all leading the parade. (See

Billionaires start $60-million schools effort – Eli Broad and Bill Gates, two of the most important philanthropists in American public education, have pumped more than $2-billion into improving schools. But according to an article in the April 25th New York Times by David Herszenhorn, they are dissatisfied with the pace of change and are joining forces for a $60-million foray into politics in an effort to vault education high onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential race. The project, called Strong American Schools, will include television and radio advertising in battleground states, an Internet-driven appeal for volunteers, and a national network of operatives in both parties. The project cannot endorse candidates, but will instead focus on three main areas: a call for stronger, more consistent curriculum standards nationwide; lengthening of the school day and year; and improving teacher quality through merit pay and other measures. It is shying away from some of the most polarizing issues in education, such as vouchers, charter schools and racial integration. (See

NSF to revisit cost-sharing policies – Cost sharing has long been a requirement for many types of competitive grants at the US National Science Foundation. According to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the April 13th Science, in 2001 institutions pledged more than half a billion dollars to supplement some 3300 NSF-funded projects on their campuses. But despite its value in leveraging federal dollars, cost sharing can also give wealthier institutions an unfair advantage in vying for an award. So in October 2004, NSF decided to eliminate the provision from future program announcements. But now the National Science Board wants to take another look at the issue, with some members worried that local and state governments, industry and other nonfederal research partners may lose interest in research collaborations if they do not have a financial stake in the project. (See


3 - Technology

Preview of new UN report on climate change – The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a summary of a report it will issue later this year on the impacts of climate change, reports Richard Monastersky in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Global warming can have beneficial effects, such as increased crop yields, but some of the negative effects include more pests, wild fires, heat related health problems, costal flooding, and ozone pollution. The US delegation waged a successful struggle to remove from the report statements that “scientists were quite confident that climate change has already caused noticeable impacts.” The entire report will be subject to the approval of officials from each of the over 100 countries that participated in the project. (See

Foundation pledges support of policy studies on global warming The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation recently announced that it would spend $100 million to study how government policies can respond to global warming by developing alternative sources of fuel and conserve energy, writes Brennen Jensen in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  The foundation understands that much more money is needed, but thinks that the best use of its resources in this five year program is in support of sensible policy making.  Says Andrew Bowman, director of this new program, “In our view, the debate over global warming is settled.”  (See

The pace quickens in search for energy alternatives – “Money is flowing into fundamental research faster than September corn fills a grain elevator,” writes Jeffrey Brainard in his article on biofuels research in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Hundreds of millions of dollars from a variety of sources have recently been dedicated to finding alternative sources of energy from plants such as corn, switch grass, miscanthus and kenaf.  But while “biorenewable energy” and “ethanol” have recently become household words, “thermoconversion,” “biological conversion,” and genetic engineering of plants are concepts that are close behind.  Problems inherent in biofuels research include ethanol’s relatively low energy and high carbon dioxide yields when compared with fossil fuels, the threat of over-fertilization, and the possibility that energy crops will threaten total food production around the world just as the global population is predicted to surge ahead. (See

Speeding from university labs to the marketplace – The existing system of commercializing innovation is based on a “home run” mentality where universities only focus on patenting and licensing technologies that offer the promise of a bigger payback: that mentality likely impedes the development of new technologies. According to a report released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, researchers argue that university leadership must refocus from a patenting/licensing model that seeks to maximize income to a volume model that emphasizes the number of university innovations and the speed at which they are commercialized. According to the report, multiple pathways exist that can provide broader access to innovation, allow greater volume of deal flow, support standardization, decrease redundancy of innovation, and shorten the cycle time for commercialization. These models include open source collaboration, copyright, non-exclusive licensing, and the development of social networks for faculty and their graduate students to commercialize all types of innovation. These perspectives are explored in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, “Commercializing University Innovations: A Better Way ”, by Robert Litan, Lesa Mitchell and E.J. Reedy of the Kauffman Foundation (See  

4 - Students, faculty, education

Gender gaps in salaries start upon graduation – The American Association of University Women Education Foundation has issued a report that shows the salary gap between men and women begins immediately after college graduation.  Although there are more women than men in college today, and women’s grades are higher than men’s in all majors including science and mathematics, within one year of graduation, women earn 80% of what men earn.  The gap increases to 69% ten years after graduation, despite the fact that during those ten years, women engage in graduate studies more frequently than men.  While some of the difference is attributable to the choice of college majors, in biology where the gender mix is not skewed toward men women still earn only 75% of what men do.  And even women who graduate from highly selective colleges earn about the same as a man who has his degree from an unselective college, reports Paula Wasley in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (

US black colleges losing their economic advantage – Between the 1970s to the 1990s the economic advantage for a black student who attends a historically black college disappeared in the US .  In addition, while black students enrolled in elite black institutions were more apt to be politically or socially active, fewer of them, when compared with black students enrolled in predominantly white institutions, would pick the same college again or felt prepared as leaders with the ability to work well in racially mixed groups.  Scott Jaschik, writing in Inside Higher Education, pointed out the complexity of the issues and quoted some leaders of HBCUs who think that the study may reflect more on white institutions than on their own.  They and others indicate that black institutions are serving a different type of student today, frequently “diamonds in the rough.” (See

Graduate applications from abroad increase for fall 2007 – Each year the US Council on Graduate Schools releases three sets of figures, monitoring international applications, admissions and enrollments, reports Elia Powers in Inside Higher Education. This month, application figures were released, and showed that students from outside the US are increasingly applying to US graduate programs, although the rate of growth is lower than last year.  International applications for fall 2007 are 8% higher than in 2006.  In engineering, the physical sciences and education applications are up 8%, in business up 7%, in arts and humanities up 12% and in the life sciences and agriculture up 13%.  Across all fields, applications from China increased 17%, from the Middle East 9%, and from India 6%, while the number of applications from Korea declined 2%. A new analysis showed that international students tend to apply to universities that already have substantial international populations. (See

Forty years of trends in profile of US freshmen “The American Freshman: Forty-Year Trends 1966 – 2006” is a summary study drawing on the results from the annual Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshmen Survey, administered by the University of California at Los Angeles.  The recently released summary confirms that today’s first year students are substantially better off financially than before, that after graduation they aspire to raise families, to continue to be well off financially, and to help others, that they are less likely to claim religious affiliation, that they are more politically polarized, and that they consider themselves to be academically in the top 10% of their peers, reports Andy Guess in Inside Higher Education.  The racial and ethnic profile of freshmen has changed significantly: in 1971, 90.0% of full-time, first-time freshmen were white, while in 2006, the figure was 76.5%. (See

Group opposes U.S. News reputational rankings – Some US college presidents have received a letter asking them to refuse to participate in the (in)famous reputational surveys of the U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings.  In addition, the letter, sent by the Education Conservancy, a group that opposes the commercialization of college admissions, advises presidents to stop referring to the ranking in ways that suggest that they are real measures of institutional quality.  Plans call for the letter to be sent to about 600 college and university presidents this spring, writes Eric Hoover in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

New report on international ranking systems – The Institute for Higher Education Policy has released a report, “College and University Ranking Systems: Global Perspectives and American Challenges, (posted at which starts with an article by Alvin P. Sanoff, the managing editor of the U.S. News & World Report’s well-known rankings.  Sanoff’s article is followed by another describing the major rankings in other countries, and by a final article blaming rankings for increasing the stratification of higher education, as institutions use scarce resources to elevate their standings. This article, written by Martin Van de Werf, appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The IHEP report recommends more collaboration between the publishers of these various rankings as well as an assessment of the impact of rankings on the quality of higher education. (See

Fifteen minutes of glory – The electrical engineering programs at Portland State University ( Oregon ) and the University of Texas at Arlington briefly enjoyed being ranked in the top ten in the US in U.S. News & World Report’s annual reputational survey before being demoted to their true status.  The company hired to conduct the surveys made an error in data output, according to U.S. News officials, writes Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Education.  The error was spotted by such institutions as the University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon, who were briefly nudged out of their familiar top ten status.  UT-Arlington remained silent; Portland State vowed to continue working hard, confident that national recognition would one day follow. (See

ETS aborts new GRE – The Educational Testing Service has announced that plans to use an overhauled Graduate Record Exam, starting in September, have been abandoned. According to an article by Scott Jaschik in the April 3rd Inside Higher Ed, the new GRE has been plagued by delays, and graduate admission officials were concerned about the direction of changes planned and were considering policy shifts to decrease the use of the test. ETS attributed the change to issues related to the new testing format planned for the new test – which would have made the test longer and added new features while taking others away. Currently the test is computer based, but not Internet based, and will stay that way. (See

Computer science takes steps to attract  women – Undergraduate women have been moving in ever greater numbers into science and engineering departments at American universities, but there is one area in which their presence relative to men is static or even shrinking: computer science. According to an article by Cornelia Dean in the April 17th New York Times, women received 38% of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the US in 1985, the peak year, but in 2003 the figure was only 28%. There is concern that women are the “canaries in the coal mine”, and that factors driving women away will eventually drive men away as well. Two explanations are most often offered for flagging enrollments: the dot-com bust and the movement of high-tech jobs offshore. Universities are trying to attract more women by moving the emphasis in their curricula away from programming proficiency. (See

Real pay increases for professors – The average full-time faculty salary for 2006-7 climbed 3.8%, outpacing the inflation rate of 2.5% during 2006 and giving professors a real raise. A study released by the American Association of University Professors, as reported by Scott Jaschik in the April 12th issue of Inside Higher Ed, indicates that in the two previous years inflation outpaced salary increases. The AAUP report emphasized growing gaps between professors in different disciplines. Top salaries go to faculty members in law, management, computer and information sciences and engineering. In a comparison of assistant professors’ average salaries by discipline, engineering faculty earned 144% that of an assistant professor in English. (See

English expanding as language of instruction – On April 11 The New York Times published an article entitled “English as Language of Global Education,” written by Doreen Carvajal, describing the rush to implement English as the language of instruction in business schools all around the world.  Not only is English cited as the language of business in a globalized environment, but using English in the classroom increases a school’s chances of attracting larger numbers of international students, who pay higher fees for their studies. Ewha Womans University in Seoul requires students to take four classes taught in English, two from native English speakers. The Lille School of Management in France no longer considers English as a foreign language, and when it opens its satellite school in Abu Dhabi , the United Arab Emirates , in the fall, the working language will be English. (See

Group fights to increase transparency in textbook prices – The battle between the State Public Interest Research Groups and the Association of American Publishers has been reignited now that several states are considering legislation related to the price of textbooks.  PIRG’s surveys assert a lack of transparency on the part of publishers about the actually price of texts, leaving professors with insufficient information on which to base their text selection.  A bill before the Senate in Oregon requires publishers to permit students to purchase textbooks unbundled from materials such as CD-ROMs, which are often seen as vehicles for price inflation.  California ’s legislature is considering whether to require publishers to provide faculty with wholesale prices for their products and an estimate of how long they plan to make these products available. The Association is pushing back against legislation which is burdensome or intrusive, writes Elia Powers in Inside Higher Education.  (See


5 - Employment, competitiveness

India ’s skills famine – The economic transformation of India is one of the great business stories of our time. As stifling government regulations have been lifted, entrepreneurship has flourished and the country has become a high powered center for information technology and pharmaceuticals. But according to an article by James Surowiecki in the April 16th New Yorker magazine, India has run into a surprising hitch on its way to superpower status – its inexhaustible supply of workers is becoming exhausted. Although India has one of the youngest workforces on the planet, employers say there is an acute shortage of skilled manpower. A study by Hewitt Associates predicts that this year salaries for skilled workers will rise by 14%, a sure sign that demand for them is outstripping supply. Part of the problem is that only 10% of Indians get any kind of post-secondary education, compared with some 50% who do in the US . India has taken tentative steps to remedy its skills famine – the current government has made noises about doubling spending on education, and a host of new colleges and universities have sprung up since the mid-nineties. (See

Foreign high-tech workers earn less – Many US companies say they hire foreign scientists and engineers because of a shortage of qualified native-born workers. But according to an article in the April 13th Science by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee a new salary study bolsters the claim of some analysts that a strong reason may be to hold down wages. The study by Georgetown University shows that overall, technical workers holding H-1B visas earn 5% less than natives employed in similar positions with similar skills and experience. The study also shows that H-1B visa holders who do not job-hop make 11% less than natives, and that those who enter the workforce after graduating from a US university earn 16% less. There is one group of foreigners who do not seem to be handicapped by their H1-B visa status, however. Those hired directly from overseas – 45% of the total – make 14% more than native workers. (See

US IT lead slipping? -- A new report from the World Competitiveness Forum contains some sobering news for America ’s information technology industry and its supporters. The Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007 ranks 122 countries on their capacity to develop, support and disseminate new information and communications technologies. The report assesses the preparedness of countries to use ICT across three broad areas: general business, broader ICT infrastructure, and the capabilities of individuals, businesses, and government to use and benefit from ICT advances. Denmark emerges as the front-runner on these measures, followed by (in rank order) Sweden , Singapore , Finland and Switzerland . The US position (number 1 in last year’s rankings) dropped to seventh place. The declining performance was attributed to “the relative deterioration of the ( US ’s) political and regulatory environment.” The US still maintains a dominant position in various measures of innovation capacity. (See

Outsourcing to Eastern Europe The US may turn to India to fill many of its call-center jobs and the like, but Western Europe is turning more frequently these days to its own backyard, transforming a few urban centers of the former Communist bloc into the Bangalores of Europe. According to an article in the April 19th New York Times by John Tagliabue, experts expect growth of outsourcing in Eastern Europe to outstrip the rest of the market in the next four years. The most advanced cities in Eastern and Central Europe offer a potent mix of attributes that even Bangalore cannot rival: a highly educated, multilingual pool of talent in an increasingly affluent consumer market – all barely a stone’s throw from its prime clients. The area’s new attractiveness for outsourcing is not limited to its promising talent at cheap prices, but also because it is one of the world’s great untapped markets for services and consumer goods. Governments there also offer incentives like simplified tax structures and subsidies for office construction. (See


6 – Journals

Journal of Engineering Education – The April issue of this research journal for engineering education focuses on technology and culture. It includes articles on difficulties of trained engineers in learning educational research methods, achieving individual diversity, faculty and student attitudes toward community service, and cross-disciplinary learning. (See

Issues in Science and Technology – The Spring 2007 issue takes a deep look at China and India – innovative capacity, the quantity and quality of engineering education, and policy and practice – through four major feature articles. In addition, an article explores the education imperative for US competitiveness, and another article discusses promoting low-carbon electricity production. (See 

Studying engineering in the USA The second issue of a new quarterly online journal, EducationUSA Connections, is devoted entirely to engineering, and offers perspectives from engineering faculty, admissions counselors, researchers, advisers, and students themselves. Feature article include a dean’s perspective on current trends in engineering, frequently asked questions about engineering education, challenges of financing engineering education, and comments from international students enrolled in US engineering schools. (See




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