December 2006

Copyright © 2006 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 - Other articles of interest

7 - Meetings

8 - Journal



1 - International developments

India calling – Around 40 international universities are awaiting Indian government permission to start operations in that country. According to an article by Kalpana Pathak in the December 6th Business Standard foreign universities are making a beeline to establish their campuses in India , notwithstanding the fact that the government is still mulling over allowing foreign direct investment in education. Several US and Canadian universities are included in the list, and a major United Arab Emirates based institution has plans to invest $300 to 350-million to establish a campus in India. The subjects these universities will offer would concentrate on IT, engineering, business and science. Supporters in India believe that such foreign programs will bring about needed changes in syllabi and study patterns. In India only 11% of college age students sign up for higher education, compared with other developing countries: 13% in China , 31% in the Philippines , 27% in Malaysia , and 19% in Thailand . (See

Japan ’s slow moving tide – Dragging the Japanese engineering curricula into the global era is no mean feat, but a few professors are pushing for change in that nation’s tightly regulated world of academe. Writing in the December ASEE Prism, Lucille Craft cites efforts by a few Japanese engineering professors who see the need for a globally oriented curriculum, and are collaborating with foreign universities to introduce such a curriculum in their Japanese universities. Language is a barrier, with very few Japanese engineering professors feeling confident enough to teach in English. And the tightly regulated and budgeted nature of most Japanese universities makes it difficult to hire foreign professors, even on a visiting basis. (See

European research budget increase draws faint praise – The European Parliament has approved a 40% increase in research funding for the next seven years, a €55-billion package to boost science and innovation. But according to an article by Martin Enserink in the December 8th Science, European scientists are less than ecstatic, because many think Europe still does not have its priorities right. They did get a €7.5-billion scientist-run European Research Council, but a much larger chunk – more than €30-billion – will go to a vast, goal-oriented lab that Brussels loves and most researchers hate. The Seventh Framework Programme still needs to be approved by the EU’s Council of Ministers, but intense informal talks have assured that it will be approved. (See

Italy tries to raise standards in university education – The government of Italy is attempting to reverse a trend toward lax standards in the country’s higher education system, writes Francis X. Rocca in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Reforms permitted by the previous administration have reportedly led to an uncontrolled proliferation of branch campuses, waiving of degree requirements for members of special interest groups, and irregularities in the approval of online institutions. These reforms were implemented to solve earlier problems of degree completion rates.  (See

Italy ’s research crunch: election promises fade – Italy ’s researchers are bracing for a tough year ahead. According to an article by Susan Biggin in the November 24th Science the 2007 national finance bill due for legislative action and signature by December 31 would provide no growth for cash-starved universities and research centers. Some centers are facing cuts as deep as 13%. But the bill does create new research jobs and makes small additions to selected research budgets, mainly in response to protests. Researchers are feeling the pinch because the center-left government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi elected in May is under pressure to reduce the country’s deficit. During the political campaign, Podi’s team campaigned on a pledge to hike research spending from the current 1.1% of gross domestic product to 3% by 2010. But now the sights have been lowered to achieving 1.5% within 5 years. Institutional reforms are also included in the bill – restoring autonomy to institutions, setting up committees to search for institution heads based on merit, and separating the education and research ministries. (See

Saudi Arabia to open new science and technology university – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is preparing to open a $2.6 billion science and technology university in 2008, reports Danna Harman in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will be located about 60 miles from Jeddah, and be open to Saudis as well as some strong Muslim students from other countries.  The project comes as a response to data showing that fewer than 5% of Arab university students major in science.  (See

Islamic governments’ support of science linked to Koran Nature magazine recently published an article by Ehsan Masood on “Islam and Science: An Islamist revolution,” which analyzes the attitude of Islamist governments toward support for science.  The bottom line is that how current and future Islamist governments operate will depend largely on how literally they interpret the Koran.  Secular governments in Muslim countries have done little to nothing in support of science in the past.  But variation between the Muslim dominated countries is great, and the thinking of leading scholars is as well, making predictions difficult.  Islamists who are adamantly conservative may restrict free thinking, driving out the innovators, leaving behind those who can only imitate the past.  (See

Iraq ’s library and archive closed under pressure of violence – The National Library and Archive of Iraq in Baghdad has closed, a victim of escalating violence.  The library was twice looted and plundered shortly after the 2003 US led invasion, but it had since reopened and had been rebuilding its collections and modernizing its services.  Recently, however, staff members have been killed and the building – located on the fault line between battling Sunnis and Shiites – attacked. The director-general, Saad Bashir Eskander, characterized the situation as chaotic, writes Burton Bollag in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Oxford ’s reforms rejected by faculty – The faculty of Oxford University (UK) has rejected Vice Chancellor John Hood’s proposed reforms, including the reconfiguration of the Oxford Council in favor of outsiders who would determine on a day to day basis how the institution is run.  Procedures permitted a postal ballot, which was conducted, yielding a 61% vote against reforms. (See


2 - US developments 

US scientists feel pain on 2007 budget outlook – The Republican Congress has adjourned without passing a 2007 budget for most federal agencies. Writing in the 15 December Science Jeffrey Mervis reports that the incoming Democratic leadership plans to apply current spending limits for the entire fiscal year, so that it can make a fresh start on the 2008 budget. Such an approach would put a squeeze on many research agencies and the scientists funded by them. The biggest scientific loser would be the Administration’s proposed American Competitiveness Initiative which calls for a 10-year doubling of research at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the in-house National Institute of Standards and Technology labs. (See

Congress extends tax credits for industry – At the end of its session, the departing Congress gave the US business community a parting gift: $16-billion in tax credits for money it spends on research and development. According to a note in the December 15th Science by Eli Kintisch, legislators extended the current credit for 2 years and broadened the number of eligible firms. The R&D tax credit was first enacted in 1981, and the current extension is retroactive to 2006. (See

New science in corporate R&D? – US dominance in cutting edge science is challenged by the decline of its share of patents and the growth of corporate spending on R&D in emerging countries like China and India . According to an article in the December 8th Science by Jerry and Marie Thursby, these trends have sparked concern in the US because scientific discovery is critical to economic growth. The authors conducted a survey of 249 R&D intensive companies headquartered primarily in the US and Western Europe , and learned that respondents expect their R&D to grow in emerging countries and to decline in developed countries. Reasons include market factors, collaboration with university scientists, and quality of R&D personnel – in addition to lower R&D cost in emerging countries. Respondents identified the more aggressive stance that US and European universities are taking in negotiating IP terms as a significant factor that has them looking increasingly to universities in emerging economies. (See

US advised to change education system to maintain leadership – A national commission has warned the US that more jobs will be lost to India and China unless radical changes are made to its schools and colleges. While US spending on education is among the highest in the world, the results are only mediocre, says the report, according to V. Dion Haynes writing on December 15 in The Washington Post. Among the recommendations are that school districts be permitted to have companies and teachers run their schools, and that teachers be given huge pay raises in return for giving up pensions.  The group also recommended “personal competitiveness accounts,” to fund re-education if jobs are lost, and a plan to restructure the last two years of high school to permit students to accelerate toward college or to enter into trade schools. (See

How to bring US schools out of the 20th century – A major article in the December 18th Time by Claudia Wallis and Sonia Steptoe states that American schools have failed to keep up with the pace of change in the world outside the schoolhouse. While recent public discussion has focused on reading scores, math tests and the achievement gap between social classes, the authors focus on whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they cannot think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad, or speak a language other than English. The article describes needed 21st century shills: knowing more about the world, thinking outside the box, becoming smarter about new sources of information, and developing good people skills. (See

US public thinks students avoid science because it’s too hard – The American Council on Education’s Solutions for Our Future Campaign polled the American public on their opinions on math and science education, in light of current concern about declining US leadership in these areas.  64% of respondents believe that the goal of higher education is to get a good job, 44% think that students avoid studying math and science because it is too hard, and 54% said that all college students should take more science and math regardless of their major, while 44% don’t agree.  David Ward, president of the ACE, says the country needs a rallying point, comparable to the announcement of the launching of Sputnik 50 years ago, to promote the learning of science and math, writes Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed.  (See

US federal agencies told to help universities handle security in research – The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is telling federal agencies to develop programs to help universities handle the security issues related to the use of foreign students in research programs subject to “export controls,” writes Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed. (See


3 - Technology

100-million data leaks – A milestone in the number of computer records that have been compromised in data breaches has been passed, according to an article by Tom Zeller in the December 18th New York Times. Recent announcements by UCLA (800,000 records), Aetna (130,000 records), and Boeing (382,000 records) have pushed the total over the past two years to above 100-million. In the UCLA case, hackers had been entering the restricted current and former student and faculty data base for over a year before the breach was discovered. Educational institutions have a particularly acute problem when it comes to the nation’s leaky data issue: they are responsible for some 43% of breaches. College and university data bases are an ideal target for cyber criminals in that they store large volumes of high-value data on students and parents, including financial aid, alumni and credit card records. The greatest concern about such breaches is identity theft. (See

NASA plans permanent Moon base – NASA has announced plans for a permanent base on the Moon, to be started soon after astronauts return there around 2020. According to an article by Warren Leary in the December 5th New York Times, the US will develop rockets and spacecraft to get people to the Moon and establish a rudimentary base. Then other countries and commercial enterprises could expand the outpost to develop scientific and other interests. The agency envisions a base at one of the lunar poles, to take advantage of the near-constant sunlight for solar power generation. Human stays would become permanent by 2024, and by 2027 a pressurized roving vehicle on the surface would take people on expeditions far from the base. NASA gave no cost estimates for the program and no design details for the base, but its spokesman said that all plans assume that the agency will continue to operate from a fixed budget of about $17-billion a year. (See

Engineering students give people new limbs LeTourneau University in Texas is three years into a project to reverse engineer expensive prosthetic devices to make them more affordable, then take them to Bangladesh , Sierra Leone and Kenya to be fitted on people who have lost their limbs.  The project is led by Roger V. Gonzalez, professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering, along with eleven undergraduate students, ten of whom are in engineering, writes Katherine Mangan in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  The project includes teaching locals to manufacture the prosthetic legs on their own, with available resources and tools.  (See  


4 - Students, faculty, education 

Study abroad is a career building exercise US students are increasingly seeing study abroad as a major career building initiative, according to a report by Nick Timoraos in the December 19 issue of the Wall Street Journal.  Destinations that are out of the ordinary, that is, not in Europe or Australia , demonstrate to potential employers that the student is capable of taking risks and enjoy adventure, and thus could be the determining factor in hiring.  Students studying in the Middle East and Africa are more common, and interest from students in non-traditional majors is increasing. (See

New publication  media, the scholarship of teaching, recommended by task force – A Modern Language Association’s committee has released a major report making recommendations that may have considerable impact on standards for tenure, the definition of scholarship including the new media, and the role of the doctoral dissertation, writes Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed.  For example, the committee recommends that the burden be on professors and departments – not on junior faculty – to be capable of judging the quality of scholarship produced in media other than traditional print formats.  In addition, the group referred back to Ernest Boyer’s Scholarship Revisited, and says that promotion committees need to take into consideration a wider range of activities, including authoring textbooks and curriculum design, as worthy professional contributions.  (See

The pipeline to publication – New Ph.D.’s in their first jobs as assistant professors seeking tenure often believe they have a choice: develop and submit conference papers, or develop and submit articles for peer review. In an article in the December 6th Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Bugeja and Lee Wilkins urge young academics to do both by using conferences as a way to meet contacts and as a stepping stone to peer reviewed publication. Conference papers are the beginning of a life of scholarship, and allow new scholars to hone their skills, improve their writing and research, and gain valuable insight and feedback. But a conference presentation is no substitute for publication, especially when tenure and promotion decisions are made. (See

Unintended consequences – An article in the December 2nd The Economist reviews what happened when California ’s universities banned racial preferences a decade ago. The initiative voted in then effectively outlawed the practice of affirmative action, whereby some university students were favored because of race or ethnicity. The abolition of affirmative action was expected to transform the racial mix of California ’s top universities and turn them into less diverse places. The first prediction turned out to be right; the second did not. The percentage of black students dropped significantly in the first year – down 22% across the system, and down 47% at the two most prestigious institutions, UCLA and Berkeley. The percentage of blacks has never returned to mid-1990’s levels. But the University of California campuses have become more diverse anyway; last year 15% of newly admitted students were Hispanic, and an astonishing 41% were Asian. Whites, who were supposed to benefit most from the demise of affirmative action, comprised34% of the new intake – a smaller proportion than in 1995, and less than their share of California high school graduates. (See

Grad deans increasingly concerned about student debt loads – Graduate deans gathering for the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools expressed growing concern about the debt load which doctoral candidates face upon leaving with their degrees.  Money from grants and assistantships do not cover all the expenses, so more students are turning to loans to make ends meet.  Minority students are particularly burdened: about 65% of minority grad students leave graduate school with over $51,000 in debts, reports Paul D. Thacker in Inside Higher Ed.  (See

Intel won’t pay tuition for programs lacking specialized accreditation – Intel is now telling its employees that they will not receive tuition reimbursement for degree programs unless those programs have both regional and specialized accreditation. This decision will impact in particular engineering and business programs offered at the University of Phoenix, which do not have specialized accreditation, but have attracted large numbers of students, writes Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed.  (See

US governors set to study math and science education – The US National Governors Association has organized a special task force, “Innovation America,” to study science and math education, reports Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed. (See

Please don’t go – Many European graduate students travel to the US for advanced degrees, but Europe is boosting its research funding in an effort to keep them at home. According to an article by Thomas Grose in the December ASEE Prism, fully 71% of the 15,000  graduate students from EU countries who studied in the US between 1991 and 2000 stayed in the US . Students from abroad find it easier to pursue graduate study in the US , where assistantships and work opportunities make it possible to finance their educations. Some European countries are reaching out to American universities to help increase research opportunities on their home turf. (See


5 - Employment, competitiveness

Learning to keep learning – Returning from a trip to China , Thomas Friedman reflected on national futures in a December 13th op-ed article in the New York Times. He noted that conventional wisdom says that Great Britain dominated the 19th century, America dominated the 20th, and China is going to dominate the 21st. But he is not ready to cede the future to China just yet. The basic question to be addressed is: Why should any employer anywhere in the world pay Americans to do highly skilled work – if other people, just as well educated, are available in less developed countries for half our wages? Friedman contends there is only one right answer to that question: In a globally integrated economy, our workers will get paid a premium only of they or their firms offer a uniquely innovative product or service, which demands a skilled and creative labor force to conceive, design, market and manufacture – and a labor force that is constantly able to keep learning. The author concludes that the US, China, India and Europe can all flourish; but the ones that flourish most will be those who develop the best broad-based education system, to have the most people doing and designing the most things we can’t even imagine today. (See

Prizes proposed as research incentives – The Brookings Institution (USA) drew together a group of scholars to discuss strategies that the US government might adopt to support the country’s economic competitiveness, writes Paul D. Thacker in Inside Higher Ed.  Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University , posed the question of whether the US will be the leader in advances in the biomedical sciences that will be the hallmark of the 21st century, just as it was in the domain of physics which defined the 20th century. Thomas Kalil of the University of California at Berkeley proposed the awarding of prizes as incentives to research. The advantage of prizes rather than grants is that prizes reward success, they stimulate private investment in science, and they arouse public interest.  Although admitting that prizes will not work as motivators in in some areas of research, Kalil pointed to vaccines, energy policies and African agriculture as areas where prizes would be effective in bringing about needed advances. (See

Future Hispanic engineers? – To stay competitive, the US needs to attract more Hispanics to engineering. In an article in the December ASEE Prism Margaret Loftus describes a number of programs that are doing just that. While the largest minority group in the US is Hispanic-Americans, at 14.5% of the population, only 4% of the engineers in the US workforce are Hispanic. Currently Hispanics earn 7% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering, 5% of master’s degrees, and even fewer Ph.D.s. The US Latino population is expected to grow 45% by 2015, compared with 1% for whites. With the potential shortage of engineers in the US , many engineering educators say that attracting more Hispanics to engineering education is no longer a choice. (See http://www.asee/org/prism)


6 - Other articles of interest

Distance ed’s new market – in Spanish -- December 19th Inside Higher Ed, by Elizabeth Redden (See

And now a syllabus for the service economy – December 3rd New York Times, by William Holstein (See

German higher education: how private universities could help to improve public ones – December 16th  The Economist (See

Rockefeller revolutionary—President shaking up the foundation -- December 16th The Economist (See

When patents threaten science – December 1st Science, by Lori Andrews et al (See

Science journals must develop stronger safeguards against fraud – November 29th Chronicle of Higher Education, by Richard Monastersky (See


7 – Meetings

Offshoring of engineering – In late October, the US National Academy of Engineering hosted a free public workshop aimed at developing new understandings on the phenomenon of engineering offshoring and its implications for the US engineering enterprise. In recent years there has been an intense debate in the US over the shift of engineering and other high-skill service work from the US to developing economies, known as offshoring. Some warn of long-term erosion in US engineering prowess and living standards, while others claim that offshoring is the inevitable next stage of globalization and that the US is well positioned to reap the benefits of more efficient global innovation networks. The meeting featured talks by industry and academic engineering leaders. (See

Latin American & Caribbean Conference for Engineering & TechnologyThe 5th conference in this series will be held at Tampico , Mexico from May 29 – June 1, 2007 . The theme is “Developing Entrepreneurial Engineers for the Sustainable Growth of Latin America and the Caribbean : Education, Innovation, Technology and Practice”. Abstract proposals are due by December 29th. (See


8 - Journal

WFEO IdeasNumber 13 in a series of publications by the Committee on Education and Training of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, dated October 2006, focuses on Education for Mobility. It contains papers presented at the 7th World Congress on Engineering Education held in Budapest in March 2006. Topics covered include Towards Mobility, Solutions for Mobility, National Experiences in Education for Mobility, and Technological Challenges. (See





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