August 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

7. Meetings




1 - International developments

India announces vast expansion of post secondary institutions – India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, announced that his country will build five new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, eight new Indian Institutes of Technology, seven new Indian Institutes of Management and 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology, in an attempt to insure that 20% of Indians aged 18 to 24 will attend college, writes Shailaja Neelhantan in The Chronicle of Higher Education on August 17. The challenge now will be to find the faculty to staff the new institutions, since many IITs have already been forced to leave 25 – 30% of their faculty positions vacant. (See

Raising the bar in Central America Educators hope that new accreditation standards will improve higher education in Central America ’s poorest countries. According to an article in the August 10 Chronicle of Higher Education by Monica Campbell, cash-strapped state universities in this impoverished region have long struggled to upgrade their programs. But a decade of hard work, forums, fund raising and debate, led by leaders of Central America ’s 18 public universities may soon pay off. The regional Central American System for the Evaluation and Accreditation of Higher Education now oversees a number of new, specialized regional accreditation groups.(See

Group discusses sustainable international development projects – Higher Education Development is a group whose board consists of presidents representing six US higher education organizations, and whose funding comes from the US Agency for International Development.  At a recent meeting of HED, attended by representatives from 170 institutions around the world, a major issue was sustainability, the potential for projects to continue beyond the initial two years of funding.  Sustainability also includes the ability to prevent brain-drain, with particular interest in bringing home to developing countries Ph.D.s who can then become the faculty who will educate the next generation, reports Elia Powers for Inside Higher Education. (See

UK seeks to be the world’s research center – The Research Council UK is focused on making the UK an attractive site for global research, writes Natasha Gilbert in the July 24 issue of the Education Guardian. The RCUK is the government agency that allocates funding for science: it will open offices in Washington , Beijing and Delhi this fall as part of its strategy to promote the movement of researchers into and out of the UK , and to give UK researcher access to the best data and facilities. Other initiatives include setting up an alumni organization for overseas nationals, partnering with the US to fund exchanges of young scientists, present the needs and designs for large scale research facilities, and learn new approaches to research from partners such as India and China . (See http://education/

Arctic ice thawing faster this summer – Whether the Arctic ice thaw this year has broken previous records is open to debate, but there is general agreement that the rate of thaw in June and July has been unusually rapid, reports Andrew C. Revkin in the August 10 on-line edition of The New York Times. The thaw in the Arctic has prompted a renewed interest in claims to shipping routes and mineral rights to deposits beneath the Arctic Ocean . (See

Oxford told to reform its governance system – The Higher Education Funding Council for England has reprimanded Oxford University for its governance system and told it to review it with the help of independent advisors, reports Jessica Shepherd in the August 8 on-line edition of the Guardian. Vice Chancellor John Hood has been trying since 2004 to reform the governance structure by streaming lining it and putting its financial affairs into the hands of outside experts, moves which many Oxford dons have strenuously rejected. The HEFCE insists that Oxford should be more accountable since it receives so much support from the taxpayers. (See

New wave of Saudi students challenge US institutions – The surge in students from Saudi Arabia has presented a challenge to US universities, reports Elizabeth Redden in the August 16 edition of Inside Higher Education. Fueled by a Saudi government scholarship program, thousands of Saudi students have come to the US in the past two years, many with little preparation in English.  The receiving institutions have struggled to find ways to prepare them linguistically and academically for life as undergraduates, and to prepare their campuses to deal with an unfamiliar culture.  Indiana organized a state-wide program training trainers in cross-cultural encounters, while Colorado State University educated over 700 faculty and staff about Saudi culture.  Some critics have pointed out that the immersion into US culture envisioned in this program has not taken place, as Saudi students have been unable to integrate themselves into US culture, language learning has been slow, and some students’ expectations have been hard to realize. (See

Mixed report on US higher ed among G-8 countries – The National Center for Education Statistics released results of a study of education in the G-8 countries and found that the US has the highest number of foreign students enrolled in higher education.  In 2004, two-thirds of the 2.7 million students studying abroad around the world were enrolled in institutions in G-8 countries, with 22% in the US , and 11% in the UK .  While 23% of US population between the ages of 20 – 29 is enrolled in education programs, 27% of similarly-aged UK citizens were.  17% of first university degrees in the US were awarded in science, math and engineering related fields, making the US rank last in the category among G-8 countries. This summary was published by the American Council on Education on August 21.  The complete report is available at  (See

US graduate students recycle old lab equipment abroad – Seeding Labs is a Harvard initiative founded by a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Medical School . She and numerous colleagues and collaborators are running a shoe-string but successful operation to locate unused laboratory equipment and send it to institutions or individual researchers in developing countries, reports Elizabeth Redden in the August 24 edition of Inside Higher Education. To date, Seeding Labs has given away about $300,000 in equipment, spending about $8000 in the process.  In addition to relocating equipment, the organization has plans to publish the research results of scholars who have received it, so they findings can be disseminated and collaborations established, and so donors can put a face on what they have accomplished. (See

Special report on global education – The August 20 – 27 issue of the online Newsweek International contains a special report on “Global Education.” The four chapters contain articles of “The Education Race,” “The Business Edge,” “Vying for Influence,” and “The Challenge of Keeping Up.” (See

CORRECTION – Washington Accord membership – The summary of actions taken at the recent Washington Accord meeting, contained in the July Digest, was inaccurate and incomplete. Full signatory status was conferred upon two accrediting bodies: Institute of Engineering Education Taiwan , and the Accreditation Board for Engineering Education of Korea. Provisional membership status was accorded to three bodies: the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka, the National Board of Accreditation of the All India Council for Technical Education, and the Russian Association for Engineering Education. The Washington Accord, signed in 1989, is an international agreement among bodies responsible for accrediting engineering degree programs. (See


2 - US developments  

Embracing Globalization – A report on “Embracing Globalization: Meeting the Challenges to US Scientists and Engineers”, stemming from a September 2006 workshop sponsored by Sigma Xi, has been summarized in the September – October 2007 American Scientist. Leading figures from industry, academia, and policy making discussed the implications of globalization for the nation’s scientists and engineers and offered specific recommendations for assuring that the workforce of the future will be able to adapt to the requirements of a global economy. The report ends with recommendations to the National Science Foundation, recommendations for research and education, and recommendations for industry. (See

“The Gathering Storm” recommendations reflected in legislation – The recent legislation passed by the US Congress in support of research and educational systems contains almost all of the recommendations included in the US National Academies’ Rising Above  the Gathering Storm, including educating more and better science and math teachers, reports Jeffrey Mervis in the August 10 issue of Science.  The legislation, called America COMPETES Act (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science), is not a spending bill, but an authorization, describing the policies agencies should adopt, the programs needed to achieve specific goals, and recommending a spending level. It will fall to the appropriations committees to decide how much money to make available.  The America COMPETES Act would double NSF funding over seven years, create scholarships for teaching careers in science, math and engineering, endorses an industrial research program at NIST, and creates a new agency within the Department of Energy, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, which is already highly controversial. With a focus on alternative energy, the new agency is seen by some as a useless bureaucracy and by others as the only way that new and innovative ideas can be recognized and fast-tracked. (See

Bridge collapse spotlights US deferred maintenance – About one-quarter of America’s 577,000 bridges were rated deficient in 2004, according to an article in the August 3 Christian Science Monitor by Ron Scherer. The tragic rush-hour collapse of a bridge over the Mississippi River at Minneapolis is again forcing a reexamination of the nation’s approach to inspecting and maintaining critical infrastructure. According to engineers, the nation is spending only about two-thirds as much as it should to keep dams, levees, highways, and bridges safe. The American Society of Civil Engineers, after assessing 12 categories of infrastructure ranging from rails and roads to wastewater treatment and dams, gave the nation a ‘D’ grade in a 2005 report. (See

US leaders defend overseas branch campuses – The US House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology continued its investigation of economic competitiveness and how to increase the number of US students studying the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).  In one recent session they questions academic leaders about the wisdom of establishing branch campuses overseas, reported Goldie Blumenstyk in the July 27 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  While the campus officials pointed out that such branches offer faculty expanded research opportunities and the possibility of important industrial ties, critics on the committee expressed fears that the overseas branches are a drain of tax dollars and might permit foreigners to gain knowledge that they would then turning against the US in wartime.  (See

Foundations admit their mistakes, and analyze them – In a break with tradition, major US foundations are now making public their failures and analyzing how they went wrong, writes Stephanie Strong in the July 26 on-line edition of The New York Times.  The Carnegie Corporation, for example, admits in print that it failed in its project involving Zimbabwe ’s government, and the James Irvine Foundation said its $60 million project focused on after school programs in California had not succeeded and discussed how it tried to make some amends.  This new transparency may be a result of the creation of new philanthropies funded by younger entrepreneurs whose fortunes were made under the scrutiny of investors and thus for whom openness is a norm. There is also a belief that more frankness about what did not work will help others avoid the same mistakes.  (See

Universities told to provide professional development for post docs – The US government has taken steps to insure that post-docs receive professional development for the next stages of their careers by stipulating that National Science Foundation grants that funding post doc positions include descriptions of mentoring and professional development opportunities which will be offered.  And the NSF grant review process will include an evaluation of these activities, reports Doug Lederman in the August 20 issue of Inside Higher Education.  The pressures are intense to focus post docs exclusively on research outcomes, so leaving the responsibility of career preparation for post docs to the P.I.s does not work.  (See

The pros and cons of US academic status worldwide – The August 20 – 27 issue of the online Newsweek International featured a pair of editorials expressing two views of the future of US higher education.  Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York , declared that the lack of central direction in US higher education is the source of its strength and its ability to adapt to the changing needs of society.  Gregorian does, however, say: “Today, free markets are on a collision course with state ownership or sponsorship of universities,” and recommended that the US invest more heavily on all of education. Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University , sees US higher education stagnating, in need of growth in capacity, and in a commitment to produce graduates capable of adapting to change, and to engage in “discovery, entrepreneurship and the creative process.”  (See and

3 - Technology

New R&D mission agency needed re new energy technologies? – The energy technology challenge has generated a debate about the possible need for a new US government agency, modeled after the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. According to an article in the July 2007 issue of bridges by William Bonvillian, ARPA-E could fill a gap in the federal innovation institutions for energy in the area of translational research. New energy technology will not be a short-term project, so any new program in this area should maintain a long-term focus. (See

Canadian academics plan less expensive Mars shot – A group of Canadian universities will launch an all-Canadian mission to Mars in 2009, writes Tom Spears in the August 22 on-line edition of The Ottawa Citizen.  While the launch vehicle will likely be made from old Soviet ballistic missiles, the spacecraft which would land on Mars would be purely Canadian.  The cost is estimated to be $20 million, while the current US NASA Mars Phoenix mission cost $420 million. (See

Distance ed as summertime supplement – Distance education courses offered by some universities have attracted growing numbers of full-time students from those same institutions.  In an article by Elia Powers for Inside Higher Education we read that American University is drawing AU students who want to accelerate their degree completion by using summer vacations to study.  Study abroad students, and those who are working over the summer like distance education courses, as well.  And Diane Oblinger, vice president of Educause, believes that this trend will become more popular as both students and university administrators see the advantages of offering their enrolled students different ways to earn credits in a timely way. (See


4 - Students, faculty, education

Study abroad providers under scrutiny by Cuomo—A New York Times article published on August 13 featured an analysis of potential conflict of interest in the area of study abroad.  Diana Jean Schemo investigated the ties between providers of study abroad programs and the universities which advise students on their overseas options. The reporter pointed out perks such as free travel for university officials, bonuses for recruiting students into certain programs, and others as being problematic, especially now that studies abroad is a booming area.  For example, the non-profit Institute for Study Abroad, affiliated with Butler University , has agreements with institutions that promise up to $500 per student enrolled if the institution declares the Institute the only approved provider in a region.  Whether that money is passed back to the students is unknown. (See Two days after the publication of the above article, New York State’s attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been a leader in investigating the student loan industry, began his investigation of study abroad programs and their links with higher education, reports Elizabeth F. Farrell, writing in the August 16 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Subpoenas were issued to five study abroad program providers, including Butler ’s Institute for Study Abroad, and the American Institute for Foreign Study.  (See Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, wrote an invited op ed piece for USA Today on August 23, recommending that more oversight was needed in the expanding study abroad area, but that links between universities and program providers should not be broken, because those providers are useful in giving students opportunities that the home campus might not be able to offer on individualized basis. (See

College science teaching very slow to change, despite best efforts In an overview of the state of science teaching in US higher education, Jeffrey Brainard, reporting in the August 3 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, reveals a general consensus among those in the field that not much reform has taken place, despite the availability of instructional models which have been proven successful in retaining students and increasing learning.  The large lecture format persists, due to an incompatible tenure system, faculty resistance to change, and lack of sufficient awareness of alternative approaches. Student based, or inquiry based learning models emphasize active students, better and quicker feedback and real-world problems. But over the past decade, such approaches have made few inroads at the major research institutions who graduate the lion’s share of science and engineering students.  Administrators are reluctant to advocate for changes against the will of the faculty.  In general, however, engineering colleges are more open to changes than are science departments, mainly because ABET Inc. engineering accreditations standards require student centered teaching, while there are no centralized accreditors for the various science disciplines. (See

Consortium seeks better ways to support interdisciplinary research – The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is the lead institution of a consortium of research institutions which are seeking answers to questions about how to institutionalize interdisciplinary research.  Included in the group are the University of California at Berkeley , the Universities of Michigan, Pennsylvania , North Carolina at Chapel Hill and others.  The group has designed a self-study, and when the results of that are analyzed, a conference on “Fostering Interdisciplinary Inquiry” will be held at Minnesota on fall of 2008, writes Elizabeth Redden for Inside Higher Education. Issues such as what are the best practices, how to evaluate interdisciplinary work for promotion and tenure decisions, the best methods for funding raising for projects that span a variety of disciplines, are expected to be raised, and it is hoped that some answers will be forthcoming. (See

Differential tuition plans gain adherents – Decreasing state support, spiraling faculty salaries, and specialized equipment needs are helping persuade universities to apply differential tuition rates across their campuses.  Last year, writes Jonathan D. Glaser in the July 29 on-line edition of The New York Times, the University of Nebraska tacked a $40 per credit hour premium on its tuition for courses in engineering.  This year, the University of Wisconsin , Madison , will have its business students pay $500 more each semester than other students.  There are fears that poorer students will begin to cluster in less expensive majors, and that students who are paying a premium, such as in engineering, will tend not to take courses outside of their major in order to “get their money’s worth.” Many universities with differential tuition rates use the money to provide financial aid, and in engineering, the money might go toward lab equipment.  One rationale for paying these premiums is that graduates will earn more money when they graduate.  This reflects s shift in the thinking that higher education was primarily for the public good, not for individual wealth generation. (See

High school math is best predictor of success in college science courses – Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Virginia recently reported that a high school course in one of the sciences does not act as a predictor of success in a college course in other scientific areas.  However, strong mathematics training in high school is a predictor of success in college courses in biology, chemistry and physics.  These results run contrary to the “Physics First” theory which advocates for the teaching of physics as the first course in science in secondary schools.  And the findings do not support the notion that learning physics and chemistry will be helpful to learning introductory biology. The survey was administered to 8,474 students at 63 four year institutions in the US , wrote Philip M. Sandler and Robert H. Tai in the July 27 issue of Science. (See

Women make enrollment gains in engineering and science – While some institutions in the US are worrying about the decline in men’s enrollment, science and engineering institutions generally continue to be concerned about the lack of women.  Some new information, however, is pointing to some gains in women’s enrollment, due, in part, to increased outreach efforts.  MIT, Cal Tech, Rensselaer, Michigan Technological Institute, and Worchester Polytechnic Institute all reported gains in admission of women.  Writing for Inside Higher Education, Andy Guess described ways that these schools used marketing, outreach, and communications to reach potential women students.  All of these colleges were similar in that they had recently been through a decline in women’s enrollment, then this rebound, they have seen increased numbers of applications from women, and they acknowledge the role of national efforts to attract women into science and engineering.  They also see in women a preference for majors such as biomedical engineering and environmental fields, reflecting women’s determination to work in areas where they can make a difference. (See

NSF funding report includes minority serving institutions – The National Science Foundation’s annual report on the distribution of federal research funds did not contain many surprises: Johns Hopkins University continued to lead the list with $1,233,900,000, followed by the University of Washington with $663,300,000.  Of the 1227 institutions which received money for science and engineering in fiscal 2005, the top twenty schools received 34% of the funds. What was new in this year’s NSF report was the list of top recipients among historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and Hispanic serving institutions.   Hampton University led the list of HBCUs, having received $44,072,000, the United Tribes Technical College led tribal colleges with $5,134,000 and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio led Hispanic serving institutions with $88,801,000.  Scott Jaschik wrote this report for Inside Higher Education. (See

Few universities change rewards to promote school partnership programs – Of all the universities which have taken leadership in the National Science Foundation’s Math and Science Partnerships programs, the University System of Georgia is one of the few (only?) that has altered their promotion and tenure policies to support math and science faculty who have participated.  The report, “Effect of STEM Faculty Engagement in MSP – A Longitudinal Perspective: A Year 3 RETA Report,” includes mixed successes and failures.  While the number of faculty involved in the projects has grown, participants continue to report apathy, at best, hostility, at worst from their colleagues.  Most MSP participating institutions continue to consider faculty work in this area as outreach or service, and rated the importance as much lower than teaching and research.  But the lack of pedagogical training of the college faculty was also a barrier in these projects, leading some institutions to offer professional development activities to help faculty interact productively with schoolteachers, reports Jeffrey Brainard in the August 16 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See  

College rankings contain fewer surprises, fewer participants – While there were few surprises in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings, what did make headlines was the fact that the reputational survey drew many fewer responses that in the past, perhaps showing the impact of a protest led by a group of college presidents.  Last year 58% of all colleges and universities participated in the peer assessment activity, while this year only 51% did.  And this compares with a 68% participation rate as recently as the year 2000.  In any case, Eric Hoover, reporting for the August 17 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, points out that in 1997 Gerhard Casper, president of Stanford University, announced he was refusing the rank other institutions because the results were inaccurate and misleading, but that nothing came of that protest.  BTW, Princeton is still ranked as the best, with Harvard still in second place, and Yale third. (See

Value of undergraduate research has proven success The Chronicle of Higher Education sent out reporters to study undergraduate research, which has been the subject of three major studies in the past few years.  At issue is whether the current enthusiasm for undergraduate research in science is producing demonstrably favorable outcomes.  The three major studies all indicate that in fact, undergraduate students do grow in confidence and knowledge as a result of having participated in research.  Successful outcomes depend on having a good faculty mentor, however, and the required dedication of time to working with undergraduates is perceived by many faculty as a potential threat to their future academic success (promotion and tenure) and to time with their families. Finally, results show that undergraduate research has not proven to be very effective in motivating students to go on to earn a doctorate, although in many cases it strengthens an already existing interest in pursuing graduate studies. Lila Guterman wrote this article for the August 17 issues of The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Academic achievements differ across spectrum of Asian Americans – The US Government Accountability Office has published a report demonstrating that not all Asian Americans excel in educational preparation and achievements, writes Scott Jaschik in the July 27 issue of Inside Higher Education.  While 68% of Asian Indians have at least a four year college degree and earn an average of $66,000, only 13% of  Cambodians, Laotians and Hmongs, on average, have comparable degrees, and their average incomes is $32,000.  And while 42% of Korean families have put away over $20,000 for their children’s college education, only 8% of Southeast Asian families have done the same.  (See

Want to feel older? Read on – Each year for the past decade two people from Beloit College have taken the time to make faculty feel older by publishing a “Mindset List,” itemizing the stuff that populates the minds (or is remarkable absent from) this year’s college beginners, reports Scott Jaschik in the August 21 issue of Inside Higher Education. Those students in your classes this fall don’t know that there was a wall in Berlin, that women’s studies majors have not always been offered, that China ever engaged in re-education, that the space program was something interesting, and that car windows sometimes were cranked down.  For them, Fox has always been a leading network, the World Wide Web has always been available, water always comes bottled in individual servings, and Nelson Mandela has always been free. (See


5 - Employment, competitiveness

European workers more willing to relocate for better jobs – n the past decade, European workers have increasingly broken with tradition and begun to leave their home countries to work abroad.  In an article by Carol Matlack in the August 20 issue of Business Week, three people were profiled, a Polish carpenter working in Norway , a Ukrainian engineer working in the Czech Republic and a Frenchman working at a call center in Scotland .  Money, in the form of higher salaries, is a powerful motivator to moving abroad, along with the promise of an improved quality of life. And specialized employment agencies such as Adecco are doing the training and orientation to make the transitions easier. (See 

Lessons in how to foster innovation – The Pew Center on the States, part of the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the National Governors Association issued a report on August 3 called Investing in Innovation, describing what states have done in face of declining federal support for research and development to create jobs through innovation.  The lesson is that innovation must be nurtured:  it does not occur automatically.  Universities and industry are frequently the major partners in these programs, and states such as Arizona which have made the investment are now beginning to see results.  The report includes six guidelines on how to build effective innovation programs, and emphasizes that the amount of money spent is not as important as how the money is spent. (See

Arab entrepreneurship takes shape – Injaz-al-Arab is featured in the August 20 – 27 issue of Newsweek International article on Arab entrepreneurship written by Stefan Theil with Mandi Fahmy, Gameela Ismail and Zvika Krieger. Injaz is an organization that promotes entrepreneurship in the Arab world by sending volunteers to speak at schools.  The movement is small but catching on, as various sectors in the region realize that the overwhelmingly young populations in Arab countries need to find jobs, but that neither the government nor big corporations can create them rapidly enough.  Students need to be taught how to create jobs, not just to seek them.  Many obstacles stand in the way of entrepreneurial efforts, however, including bureaucracy, cultural biases, and education systems built on rote memorization.  (See


6 – Journals

International Journal of Engineering Education – The current issue contains a special section on Mobile Technologies in Engineering Education. Guest Editors Kok Kiong Tan and Ahmad Ibrahim have assembled a dozen papers on topics such as improving mobility, face-to-face collaborative learning, mobile digital library services, e-learning, control of mobile robots, and flexible graphic communication. A second part of the issue contains seven additional papers on a variety of engineering education topics. (See

Chemical Engineering Education – The summer 2007 issue includes eight feature articles, on topics as diverse as a course on energy technology and policy, teaching material and energy balances, and fostering an active learning environment. (See

IEEE Transactions on Education – The August issue contains eight articles on topics such as training digital hardware designers for industry, a rigorous integrated introduction to electrical and computing engineering, coping strategies for computing students, and computer game programming. (See

European Journal of Engineering Education – The current issue contains a dozen articles, covering topics such as the emerging knowledge society, learning styles in engineering education, immersive learning, self directed learning, conceptual development from student to experienced engineer, and remote learning. (See  


7 – Meetings

Colloquium on International Engineering Education – The tenth annual Colloquium will be held 1 – 4 November 2007 at Purdue University . Initiated at the University of Rhode Island , the series focuses on cooperative efforts to build a more globalized curriculum for today’s engineering students. Funding is available to support student attendance. (See   



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