August 2005

Copyright © 2005 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. Oberst, Ph.D.


1 - International developments

            US visa applications from Chinese on the increase

            Indian universities chart a new course

            African universities need sweeping changes

            India ’s engineering faculty flee to hot jobs

            The other MIT

            Afghanistan : just saying no to the consultants

            A whole new school of thought


2 - US developments

            Report recommends developing human capital in engineering and science

            US enrollments in engineering, science, up in 2003

            Engineering Research and America ’s Future

            Bush fuels debate on evolution

            Energy bill boosts research

       Bush bypasses Senate in UN appointment

            Harvard and associates agree to pay back misspent US grant monies

            US rules could muffle scientific voices

            US transportation bill includes earmarks for colleges

            Business organizations aim at university-level engineering and science

            New Deputy Director at NSF

            New head for National Academy of Sciences


3 - Distance education, technology

            Digital texts on sale at campus bookstores

            Bill Gates foresees the importance of tablet pcs in higher ed

            A new lure to catch phishers

            Research space, wireless connectivity on rise at US colleges

            Engineers modify high-tech devices for the world’s poorest

            NIST building and fire safety recommendations

            Breeding evil?


4 - Students, faculty, education

            Saudi faculty receive segregated development program at US university

            No foreign exchange devalues US universities

            Competition stiff for internships in India

            College textbook prices surge

            Online tutoring is a growing trend


5 – Employment

             Same old song

            Engineering vs the nation?

            Perspective on job offshoring

            White House to push for revised immigration plan




1 - International developments

US visa applications from Chinese on the increase – The US State Department believes that the corner has been turned in declining numbers of Chinese students wanting to study in the US , writes Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Education.  This year during the prime season, May and June, the number of Chinese applying for student visas rose 15% over the same period  the previous year.  The Embassy in Beijing says that this change is a result of concerted efforts made to convince Chinese students that the US welcomes them and that the visa process is manageable.  (See

Indian universities chart a new course – The Knowledge Commission created by Indian Prime Minister Mammohan Singh met for the first time and heard the PM severely criticize his country’s higher education system.  Indian universities have created too many unemployed graduates with their outmoded curricula, while many sectors, including investment banking, tourism and advertising, have trouble finding qualified employees.  Mr. Singh assembled this commission to study the situation, draft a plan for improving mathematics, science and technology, and complete its work by October 2008, writes Shailaja Neelakantan in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

African universities need sweeping changes – Writing in the July 14th Guardian, Calestous Juma of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government put discussions at the G8 Summit in context with respect to higher education in Africa . He notes that proposals there involve a big shift in aid policy from the current focus on primary education to higher education and centers of excellence in science and technology. The aim is to bring technical knowledge to bear to help African countries stimulate economic growth so they can work their way out of poverty.  Juma notes, however, that universities there will have to change in order to pursue such a path – away from their previous focus on training civil servants, and toward preparing graduates to apply imagination and creativity to incubate businesses and to become competitive in the global knowledge economy. (See

India’s engineering faculty flee to hot jobs – As the demand for engineers grows in the Indian economy, many engineering faculty members are fleeing their classrooms to take hot jobs, according to an article by Nachammai Raman in the July 13th Christian Science Monitor. Experts say that India has only 10 to 30 percent of the qualified doctoral degree engineering faculty it needs. High salaries and abundant jobs are attracting more students to engineering, but at the same time wooing faculty members away from classrooms and into India ’s growing technology areas. As a result, the government has slashed the intake capacity at engineering schools by more than 25,000 seats across the country’s private university system. Today India has nearly 1400 engineering institutions, of which only about 200 belong to the government – compared with a total of 139 engineering schools in 1970, only four of which were private. This explosion has allowed many more Indians to pursue an engineering degree, but has led to concerns about the quality of graduates. (See

The other MIT – Manipal Institute of Technology, and other second-tier schools like it, are India’s real tech secrets, according to an article by Josey Puliyenthuruthel in the August 22/29 Business Week. For decades the famed campuses of the Indian Institute of Technology were just about all the world knew of the country’s technological genius, but lesser-known colleges such as MIT will be playing a key role as India continues on its fast-growth path. This second tier of some 2240 engineering schools – 55% of them public institutions – are not nearly as exclusive as the IITs, which accept only 2% of the 200,000 candidates who take its demanding exam each year. Graduates of IIT’s seven campuses rarely top 3000 annually. The second-tier institutes educate far more Indian engineers – some 207,000 graduates in 2005 – and fill an important need. (See

Afghanistan : just saying no to the consultants Afghanistan ’s higher education minister, appearing recently in Washington , DC , spoke in favor of long-term partnerships with US universities rather than the use of short-term consultants in his plan to reform higher education in his country.  The country is no longer in an “emergency phase,” but needs to modernize its colleges, update the curricula, fight corruption in admissions, strengthen regional universities, and create a network of two year vocational schools, reports Burton Bollag in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

A whole new school of thought – Shantou University in China is offering a blueprint for education reform in that country, according to an article by Bruce Einhorn in the August 22/29 Business Week. A star-studded corps of American-trained educators is remaking Shantou in the image of a US university, using funds from a Hong Kong billionaire. They are introducing new teaching methods, overhauling the curriculum, and giving Shantou ’s 8000 students more responsibility for their own educations. Instead of a set of required courses, Shantou now has a credit system – the first of its kind in China . The reformer’s goal is to replace traditional rote learning with active learning that emphasizes creativity. The Shantou experience could serve as a model for other Chinese schools. (See    


2 - US developments

Report recommends developing human capital in engineering and science US leadership in science and engineering is declining, according to Harvard’s Richard Freeman  in an article summarized on August 12 on the Forbes website.  Freeman presents evidence in support of this position: the off-shoring of skilled work to China and India ; the migration of some high-tech R & D overseas; China ’s technological growth over the past decade; and the development of China ’s high-tech exports while the US share of those same exports declined.  Freeman emphasizes human capital, pointing out that US citizens account for a smaller percentage of the worldwide university population, and that science and engineering are no longer very attractive employment areas for US citizens.  Counter balancing these factors is the overall strength of the US system: the general quality of China ’s educational system is not on a par with its narrower S&E sector.  In addition, there are closer connections in the US between higher education and industry, and both government and corporate funding for research are stronger in the US .  (See

US enrollments in engineering, science, up in 2003 – According to a report from the US National Science Foundation, graduate enrollments in science and engineering were up 4.2% in 2003, reports Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Education.  The increases were greater for women than for men, with the gains coming from foreign enrollments. The increases for all minority groups were greater than for whites.  The only discipline to show a drop was computer science (-2.9%).  Increases in engineering disciplines ranged from 22.1% for biomedical engineering to 6.4% for civil, 4.5% for electrical, down to 1.4% for chemical.  The full report, “Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2003,” will be posted on the NSF website. ( ) (See

Engineering Research and America ’s Future – Leadership in innovation in essential to US prosperity and security, according to a new report issued by the National Academy of Sciences: “Engineering Research and America ’s Future: Meeting the Challenges of a Global Economy”. Historically, engineering research has yielded knowledge essential to translating scientific advances into technologies that affect everyday life and US competitiveness. Unfortunately, according to the report, US leadership in technological innovation seems certain to be seriously eroded unless current trends are reversed. The report makes several policy recommendations, including rebalancing the federal R&D portfolio by increasing funding for research in engineering and the physical sciences, stimulating the reestablishment of long-term basic engineering research by industry, upgrading the engineering research infrastructure, increasing the participation of American students in engineering, encouraging women and minorities to pursue careers in engineering, establishing a major federal fellowship-trainee program in strategic areas, and streamlining immigration policies and practices to restore the flow of talented people from around the world into American universities and industry. (The report may be read or ordered at

Bush fuels debate on evolution – A sharp debate between scientists and religious conservatives escalated recently when President Bush commented that the theory of “intelligent design” should be taught alongside evolution in the nation’s public schools. According to an article by Elizabeth Bumiller in the August 3rd New York Times, Mr. Bush defended his view by saying that “… both sides ought to be properly taught ... so people can understand what the debate is about”.  The President’s science advisor, John Marburger, sought to play down the president’s remarks as common sense and old news. Marburger said that “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology” and that “intelligent design is not a scientific concept”. Intelligent design does not identify the designer, but critics say the theory is a thinly disguised argument for God and the divine creation of the universe. Invigorated by a recent push by conservatives, the theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, with Kansas in the lead. (See http://www.nytimes.con)

Energy bill boosts research – The US Congress has passed a landmark energy bill, after a four-year effort, according to an article in the August 5th Science by Eli Kintish. The 1724-page bill includes $14.6-billion in tax breaks to encourage domestic energy production from conventional sources, new efficiency standards for appliances, and renewed legal protections for nuclear power plant operators. It also contains provisions to bolster federal spending on basic research, backs applied research efforts aimed at burning fossil fuels more cleanly, and calls for studies on combustion and carbon sequestration. But these commitments are only targets, and are subject to further approval by spending committees. Critics of the bill note that it lacks government mandates to boost energy production from renewables, such as wind and solar power, and to raise fuel efficiency of automobiles. Researchers praised the creation of a new Under Secretary of Science position at the Department of Energy, which should give them more influence in tough budget times. (See 

Bush bypasses Senate in UN appointment – President Bush sidestepped the US Senate to install John Bolton as United Nations ambassador, according to an article by Christopher Cooper in the August 2nd Wall Street Journal. He used a constitutional right that presidents’ have to make appointments during congressional recesses to short-circuit the efforts of Democrats who twice blocked the nomination of the controversial State Department official. With the recess appointment, Bolton will be able to serve until January 2007 when the current Congress ends. Critics of Mr. Bolton alleged misuse of intelligence information, and questioned his aptitude for diplomacy. Mr. Bolton has rapped the UN for being ineffective and largely unnecessary. (See )

Harvard and associates agree to pay back misspent US grant monies – The US government has recouped most of the money it granted Harvard University in the 1990s to run the now disbanded Harvard Institute for International Development in Russia . Harvard and two of the top administrators of the program, Andrei Shleifer and Jonathan Hay, are obliged to pay back a total of around $30 million.  According to Marcella Bombardieri writing in the August 4 edition of The Boston Globe, the two individuals were accused of having misused funds and making personal investments while they were supposed to be working under contract with the US government. No one has admitted liability, but everyone claims to have settled in order to avoid further legal wrangling.  Harvard was accused of lack of oversight on the project, not of collaborating in the dubious activities. (See

US rules could muffle scientific voices – The US government has issued new rules on interactions between US citizens and UNESCO, which some scientific organizations fear could limit access to that international scientific and cultural body by US experts. According to an article in the July 22nd Science by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, a directive from the US Ambassador to UNESCO requires that UNESCO consult with US officials before partnering with organizations or citizens in the US. The directive asks UNESCO to check with the permanent US delegation and the US National Commission to UNESCO before planning any US events, and instructs US individuals and institutions to channel all communications through the commission and avoid direct contact with the UNESCO secretariat in Paris . Critics of the new rules say that they imply that UNESCO can no longer choose its interactions with US experts on the basis of scientific merit, but only with those that have been pre-approved by the US government. (See 

US transportation bill includes earmarks for colleges – “Pork barrel projects,” aka “earmarks,” were prominent in the recently passed US federal transportation bill, reports Kelly Field – aided by Anne K. Walters and Jamie Schuman – in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Over $500 million will be directed to 141 colleges and universities via this legislation, more than three times the amount included in the last transportation bill passed in 1998.  $160 million will go to ten National University Transportation Centers, $14.5 million to the University of Kansas for advanced vehicle technologies, and $12 million to the University of Oklahoma for global freight tracking.  Some projects appear less directly related to transportation: one that caught attention is the $1 million that the University of Iowa will receive for the “ Native Roadside Vegetation Enhancement Center .” Academic lobbying, which seeks to promote such projects, is on the ascent in the US, and is especially effective in states whose legislators occupy important elected offices, such as Alaska and Tennessee. (See

Business organizations aim at university-level engineering and science – On the cover of its report entitled Tapping America’s Potential: The Education for Innovation Initiative, there appears a challenge: “Goal: Double the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates by 2015.” Speaking for fifteen major business organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Semiconductor Industry Association, the Business-Higher Education Forum, the Minority Business Roundtable and the National Defense Industrial Association, the report states that the United States must make a major effort to educate more scientists and engineers or risk falling behind other nations which are making stronger efforts to educate their people.  The report cites competition from Asia , unhealthy reliance on foreign-born talent in engineering and low scores earned by American grade schoolers in math and science.  While acknowledging the importance of primary and secondary education, the report calls for additional sustained effort at the college and university level to increase the number of baccalaureate-level citizens prepared to create and innovate.  The benchmark for a successful response to the threat to US leadership in science and engineering should be the efforts which grew out of the launch of Sputnik in 1957, including the National Defense Education Act.  (The report is available at

New Deputy Director at NSF – The Senate has approved the appointment of Kathie L. Olsen as Deputy Director of the US National Science Foundation. Dr. Olsen earned her undergraduate degree in biology and psychology, and her doctorate in neuroscience. Prior to this NSF appointment, she served as Associate Director for Science for the Office of Science and Technology Policy for the White House. Her previous positions include that of Chief Scientist at NASA, and several positions at the National Science Foundation.

New head for National Academy of Sciences – Ralph Cicerone has arrived in Washington to head the National Academy of Sciences, and immediately has become involved in the Congressional discussion of the science of climate change. According to an article in the July 29th Science the politically savvy administrator intends to make the voice of science heard in Washington , and beyond. Policy-oriented answers to complex problems are the academy’s stock in trade. More than 200 times a year it delivers measured judgments on issues from teaching evolution to energy policy. Dr. Cicerone began his career as an electrical engineer studying atmospheric plasmas. Prior to being elected to head the NAS, he served as chancellor at the University of California Irvine . (See


3 - Distance education, technology

Digital texts on sale at campus bookstores – This fall will see the first major attempt to sell digital textbooks through university bookstores in the US , reports Andrea L. Foster in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Ten institutions are part of the pilot project, along with publishers Houghton Mifflin, John Wiley & Sons, McGraw Hill Higher Education, Sage Publications and Thompson Learning.  Each store will offer around 25 – 30 digital texts which are being used in courses and for which the publisher holds the rights. Digital texts will cost one third less than hard copies, but cannot be resold at the end of the semester.  Other potential limitations that students will encounter include access that ends after five months and constraints that prevent the book from being downloaded from more than one specific computer, and from being printed out at one time.  (See

Bill Gates foresees the importance of tablet pcs in higher ed – Microsoft chairman Bill Gates recently gave an interview to The Chronicle of Higher Education in the context of his company’s annual Microsoft Research Faculty Summit.  Chronicle reporter Andrea L. Foster writes that Gates believes that the tablet pc will be the wave of the future for higher education. He regrets the decline in federal investment in research and in computer science enrollments.  And Gates emphasized that despite often severe criticism from universities, Microsoft is placing a priority on security in its widely used programs.  (See

A new lure to catch phishers – A piece of good news for those interested in computer security has come out of Stanford University (USA).  Researchers have designed a way to block interception of computer passwords by hackers through the use of an encryption program run on Web browsers.  The program hinders such ploys as “phishing” by preventing hackers from capitalizing on bogus look-alike websites that  capture victims’ passwords.  The new program would not solve all security problems but is easy to install and use on major browsers.  Test versions  can be downloaded from  (See

Research space, wireless connectivity on rise at US colleges – The US National Science Foundation has released its biennial survey of university research facilities, which this year included questions about  IT infrastructure.  In 2003 there was an 11% increase in space allocated to research, the largest  since 1988.  The report says that 8% of doctoral institutions had gigabit-size Internet connections, while only 1% of nondoctoral institutions had that capability.  In 2003 wireless connections were already available in 20% or more of the buildings on one third of the surveyed institutions, but 70% of the respondents planned to have that coverage by 2004, writes Vincent Kiernan in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Engineers modify high-tech devices for the world’s poorest – Some of the engineers who make products for the world’s economic elite are also working on radically simplified versions for use by the world’s very poorest, according to an article by Lee Gomes in the August 1st Wall Street Journal Online. Their goal is to make technology a cause, not a consequence, of economic development. Personal computer prices have already fallen to levels where they are affordable in developing countries, but they must also be adapted to work on uncertain power supplies and in harsh environmental conditions. Ultrasimple computers with bare-bones wireless networking systems have emerged in response. Other examples include an indoor stove to efficiently burn whatever energy source is used by the local culture, to reduce the health risk of indoor pollution; low cost super-simple cell phones; and Velcro-closing sacks which can be filled with soil and stacked to provide shelter in poor villages. (See   

NIST building and fire safety recommendations – The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a draft of its recommendations for improving the safety of buildings – particularly tall buildings – in the wake of its exhaustive, three year study of the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A special report in the August 2005 Civil Engineering by Laurie Shuster notes that the NIST recommendations include changes in the way structures are designed, analyzed, constructed and protected from fires and other disasters. If implemented, the recommendations could dramatically change the way designers think about building security. The draft report of 10,000 pages is available at The report states that “the standards for estimating the load effects of potential hazards (for example, progressive collapse and wind) and the design of structural systems to mitigate the effect of those hazards should be improved to enhance structural integrity”. The report also suggests that engineers need to consider designing stairwells that are large enough to accommodate not only occupants on their way out but also rescue workers on their way in. (See 

Breeding evil? – A video gaming furor has erupted, fueled by a popular and notoriously violent cops-and-robbers game, “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”, that has been found to contain hidden sex scenes. An article in the August 6th The Economist explores the question of whether such video games are bad for people, or indeed may be positively good. Critics are concerned that video game playing is addictive, and that the games  encourage violence. Neither problem seems to be significant, according to research. And good games can be good for players, rather than bad, when developed as educational tools and simulations. The article concludes that the controversy over gaming is mostly the consequence of a generational divide – disagreement between old and young over new forms of media. (See 


4 - Students, faculty, education

Saudi faculty receive segregated development program at US university – Virginia Tech (USA) found itself in a controversy this summer when it designed a faculty development program under contract to King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia .  The contract called for about 60 faculty, half men and half women, to come to Virginia Tech to study such things as website development: their classes were separated by gender, reported USAToday on August 12.  When a Tech faculty member protested, the university administration allowed the classes to continue, but made the gender segregation optional and indicated it would consider doing things differently in the future.  (See

No foreign exchange devalues US universities – Writing in the August 2nd Wall Street Journal, David Skorton and Robin Davisson of the University of Iowa decry the recent decrease of enrollments of international students in American universities. They note that the American research university is a major engine of innovation in the US knowledge economy and a critical element in economic competitiveness in the increasingly interdependent and globalized world. The authors state that an insidious and significant threat to the US innovation and competitiveness has recently become apparent: the loss of talent, temporary and permanent, due to a striking downturn in international students on American campuses. They urge universities nationwide to develop innovative, mutually beneficial educational and research exchanges that will attract students from other countries to the US . (See

Competition stiff for internships in India – An article in The New York Times on August 13 describes an interesting trend: US MBA students foregoing Wall Street in order to do a summer internship in India .  Reporter Saritha Rai says that competition is rigorous for placement in outsourcing firms and other private industries. Infosys Technologies, one of India ’s top outsourcing firms, received 9000 applications for 40 internship positions in its headquarters in Bangalore . It’s a win-win situation: students from high prestige universities such as Harvard, Duke, and Carnegie Mellon learn a different perspective on globalization and the Indian firms are happy to be able to attract potential future employees. (See

College textbook prices surge – Prices of textbooks for college students are rising at twice the inflation rate, according to an article from the Associated Press printed in the August 16th  Wall Street Journal. Once just a weighty tome, the college textbook has evolved into a package including text, colorful supplements, and software. But these bells and whistles – which critics and many students call unnecessary – are the main reasons for price escalation, according to a new government report. According to the report from the Government Accountability Office, the average college student spends nearly $900 on textbooks and supplies, or 26% of the tuition fees per year at typical public four-year colleges. The report finds that textbook prices have increased 186% since 1986, or about 6% per year. By comparison, consumer prices rose 72% over that period, and college tuition and fees have more than tripled. Publishers contend that their new products aid learning, and help overworked teachers instruct and evaluate. (See

Online tutoring is a growing trend – In a growing trend, students are utilizing online tutors for one-on-one help in math, writing, science and other topics, according to an article by Mark Chediak in the August 16th Washington Post. Available 24 hours a day, such services allow students and tutors to discuss assignments through online chat sessions, using a virtual whiteboard that allows for use of charts, graphs and diagrams. Those wanting help with a paper can submit a draft for feedback within 24 hours.  The commercial services are typically contracted for by schools and colleges, which make them available free to their students. The rise in demand for such services is credited to  an increase in the number of non-traditional students who do not have time to seek on on-campus resources, a more competitive educational landscape in which colleges and schools are trying to attract students by providing additional services, and student’s greater familiarity with the internet. (See 


5 – Employment

Same old song – A pair of articles addresses once more the persistence of barriers to women’s full participation in the world of work.  The first, written by Diane Lewis and published in the Boston Globe on August 7, reports on a study done at Pennsylvania State University on the information technology sector.  The research consisted of interviews with 2,800 IT graduates since 1988. The median pay for men was $80,000, for women, $65,000.  Within fourteen years of graduation 33.6% of women had dropped out of the industry, while only 14% of the men had left.  (See  In the July 23rd issue of The Economist “The conundrum of the glass ceiling” was dissected in Europe , the US and Japan .  Despite a growing awareness of the value of women’s leadership in business and industry, women are still largely lacking in the highest levels of management, are more likely to drop out because of family related obligations, and spend more time than men do in household chores.  Once again there were calls for reform, including flexible working patterns, mentoring and breaking the hold of traditional power networks. (See 

Engineering vs the nation? – Samuel Florman, a thoughtful and articulate writer on the broad aspects of engineering, has written about “a worrisome confrontation” in the Summer 2005 issue of The Bent of Tau Beta Pi. He notes that the relationship between his profession of engineering and the American society has generally been good over a long time. But he expresses concern that globalization, with its related outsourcing of technological work to countries where salaries are very low, has changed that harmonious relationship. Now engineers and their professional societies are concerned that globalization is jeopardizing the well-being of American engineers, while business and government interests pursue its economic benefits. Florman personally comes down on the side of legitimate political action by engineering societies to protect their members from excessive foreign competition. And he expresses concern that the loss of status of the American engineer will diminish the appeal of this field to talented youngsters. (See

Perspective on job offshoring – A new US Commerce Department report shows that employment and capital spending by US multinational companies have been declining domestically and rising abroad, as feared by many workers. But, according to a report in the July 27th Wall Street Journal by Jon Hilsenrath, the good news is that the changes have been relatively small. From 2000 to 2003, offshore employment by US multinationals rose 193,000, or 2.4%, to 8.4-million affiliates abroad. During that period, US employment by American multinationals declined 2.2-million, or 9.1%, to 21.7-million. Observers note that outsourcing is not the only trend at play in multinational behavior – the increased use of technology and improved productivity are also dampening employment. And employment by multinationals is not the only potential source of a broader shift of work to low-wage countries; many goods and services are produced overseas by foreign competitors, and imported directly into the US . (See

White House to push for revised immigration plan – Responding to the interests of President Bush’s big business supporters who believe that the economy needs more workers, the White House is planning a new push to change US immigration laws. According to an article by John McKinnon in the August 16th Wall Street Journal, the importance of such a change is underscored by the recent announcement that the US is no longer accepting applications for visas for high tech and skilled workers for 2006, since the year’s quota of applications has already been reached – a month earlier than last year. These H-1B visas are particularly important for companies needing white-collar workers with specialized skills. For the years 2001-03, Congress tripled the number of visas allowed under that program, but due to the contentiousness of immigration issues they have returned to the established limit of 65,000  H-1B permits annually. The issue of immigration is compounded by concern about national security, where conservatives want to clamp down on illegal immigration. (See 



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