July 2004

Copyright © 2004 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

·   Digital help for India ’s poor

·   Reality of rebuilding Iraq

·   Rebuilding Iraq’s Universities

·    India turns to private education to increase access

·    China keeps eye on web

·   Tsinghua re-emerges as strong science university

·    UK moves to higher, but deferred, tuition plan

·   Global compact, little impact

·   Turkish university did not discriminate: European Court of Human Rights

·    China filtering phone messages

2 - US developments

·   Boeing runs into turbulence

·   NASA changes suggested

·   Engineering and American diplomacy

·   New interest in US NDEA model

·   Presumed US presidential candidate supports increased science funding

·   US Higher Education Act will not be renewed this session: debate too heated

·   Publication superiority of US scientists questioned

·   Student acquitted in terror case

·   SEVIS rules on student fees released

3 - Distance education, technology

·   Atom waste site challenged

·   Nanotechnology grows up

·   Product life-cycle management

4 - Students, faculty, education

·   African Americans shy away from top colleges

·   Hispanic students in US less likely to receive degrees

·   Challenges to aerospace and engineering

·   E-learning failures analyzed

·   NSF reports on women and minorities

·   Nonprofits need cleaning up

·   New engineering education programs created at Purdue (USA)

·   Engineering for the developing world

·   US states struggle to meet application boom

·   Wooing of guidance counselors

·    University of Phoenix targets traditional-aged students

·   Evaluation of “what works”

·   Debate over accuracy of financial aid studies

5 – Employment

·   Outsourcing hops

·   The human side of off-shoring

·   Advised to offshore more

·   Boom or bust in scientists and engineers?

·   Tough in the trenches

·   Leisure in shorter supply in Europe these days

·   Still made in the USA

·   Germans rethink immigration

·   Offshore outsourcing resource

·   Lonely town seeks young professionals

6 – Journals

·   International Journal of Engineering Education

·   European Journal of Engineering Education

7 – Meetings

·   ASEE Annual Meeting

·   WFEO Planning Conference


1 - International developments

Digital help for India’s poor – The boom in India’s high tech sector over the past decade has left that country’s 700-million impoverished villagers, slum dwellers, and tenant farmers just as poor as their forefathers. The huge gulf between India ’s thriving elite and its vast hinterland is one reason that the ruling political party lost the general election this spring. But according to an article in the June 28th Business Week by Margaret Kripalani, the technology industry in India is beginning to find cheap, digital solutions to the problems of the poor. Some of the most promising projects are e-government (inexpensive computerized land titles), computer kiosks (solar powered units where villagers can buy supplies and get health-care information), agricultural e-commerce (web sites to allow elimination of middlemen in marketing), and tele-medicine (urban doctors can back up rural caregivers via satellite video and data links). (See

Reality of rebuilding Iraq – Iraq continues to suffer from sporadic electricity service and a slow pace of promised economic renewal, according to an article in the June 30th New York Times by James Glanz and Erik Eckholm. More than a year into an American aid effort, fewer than 140 of 2300 promised construction projects are underway. Promised jobs for 50,000 construction workers have not materialized – with only 20,000 local workers employed. Construction has been debilitated by bombings and shootings of Western contractors and Iraqi workers, shortages of materials, and poor planning. In perhaps the greatest technical success, oil exports have been restored to their prewar levels, bringing in money that will support the national budget. While the interim Iraqi government has formally taken office, the reconstruction effort is only beginning. (See

Rebuilding Iraq ’s Universities – The task of rebuilding universities in Iraq after the war was headed by John Agresto, former president of St. John’s College in New Mexico . According to an article in the June 21st Washington Post by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, his nine-months in Iraq moved quickly from optimism to frustration, doubts and danger. Visits to the universities he was trying to rebuild and the faculty he wanted to invigorate were more and more dangerous, and infrequent. His plans to repair hundreds of campus buildings were scuttled by the Bush administration’s decision to shift reconstruction efforts and by the failure to raise money from other sources. Agresto estimated that the universities needed $1.2-billion to become viable centers of learning and reap immediate goodwill for the American rebuilding effort. But of the $18.6-billion US reconstruction package approved by Congress last year, the higher education system received only $8-million. When he asked US AID for 130,000 desks, he got 8,000. Such limited allocations could not begin to buy books for the libraries, provide hardware for the technical institutes, nor to replace the computers that were stolen. On the positive side, Agresto was instrumental in promoting academic freedom and an academic bill of rights as the new education ministry was structured. (See

India turns to private education to increase access – India is in desperate need of more higher education institutions to reach its goal of enrolling 10% of its 18 – 24 year olds, up from the current 7%, writes Shailaja Neelakantan in a lengthy article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  With the government cutting back on funds for higher education in favor of primary education, the only hope lies in expanded private institutions.  One of the popular approaches is for foreign institutions to twin with an existing Indian university, then guaranteeing successful students the right to transfer to the foreign institution after completing two years at home. This model is especially popular in engineering and business curricula, two attractive programs in India now.  The need for expanded access, however, has led to abuses: many fraudulent private “colleges” have opened, little more than storefronts, undermining the reputation of private education in the eyes of many Indians, who prefer to take their chances on being admitted to one of India ’s strong universities.  And in a tardy effort to impose some quality standards on new higher education ventures, the Indian government is accused of creating a bureaucratic environment which discourages reputable private initiatives.  Earlier this year Laureate Education, Inc. (formerly Sylvan Learning Systems) closed its doors in India , citing a difficult business environment.  (See

China keeps eye on web – Even though its restrictions on the Internet are already among the broadest and most invasive anywhere, China appears to be moving toward tightening controls and increased surveillance of its users. According to an article by Howard French in the June 27th New York Times , China has some 30,000 Internet police officers charged with blocking access to web sites that the government considers politically offensive, monitoring users who use other politically sensitive sites, and killing off discussion threads on Internet bulletin boards. All web traffic passes through government-controlled servers. But the volume of online information is increasing so rapidly that the country’s censors are finding it hard to control free expression on the web. (See

Tsinghua re-emerges as strong science university Tsinghua University in Beijing is fast becoming a significant leader in science and mathematics, after decades of being shunted to the background by the Communist government.  Now that same government is investing large amounts of money into its programs, with a result that many of its best graduates are staying in China to pursue their graduate degrees, rather than turning automatically to the US for advanced study.  Jen Lin-Liu, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, described a new way of thinking about quality at Tsinghua, including a decision to eliminate the old system of nepotism which saw teaching faculties dominated by the university’s own graduates.  And departments now have funds to bring in visiting professors from overseas and to subscribe to expensive journals.  No one will comment, however, on what recruiting incentives have been available to bring back from the US top-ranked Chinese scholars to run leading centers.  (See

UK moves to higher, but deferred, tuition plan – The Labor government of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair won a hard-fought victory when it gained final approval for an increase of higher education fees beginning in September 2006.  The system calls for students in England and Wales to pay no yearly fees, but to begin paying back their university education after graduation and after earning over $27,300 per year in annual income.  Those new fees would be set by the university from which they graduated, up to a level of $5450 per year, according to Aisha Labi in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Total student debt burden is predicted to rise from under $5.5 billion annually to $25.5 billion by 2009.  Opponents of the new law vow to extract revenge from its supporters in the next round of elections.  (See

Global compact, little impact – Four years ago, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reached out to big business with a UN Global Compact. According to an article by Pete Engardio in the July 12th Business Week, he brought multinationals and activist groups together to help ensure that company activities conform to basic human rights, labor and environmental standards. Since then its corporate membership has increased from 50 charter members to more than 1700, and two dozen NGOs and labor groups have joined, making the Compact the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship group. The Compact’s main goal is to get companies to halt practices that have given globalization a bad name, such as the use of sweatshop labor, toleration of atrocities by repressive regimes, and rapacious mining and logging in poor nations. But many see the project as falling far short of expectations. Critics are disillusioned because the UN has focused more on expanding membership that on finding ways to ensure that corporations honor their commitments. After four years there are no clear reporting or compliance standards. (See

Turkish university did not discriminate: European Court of Human Rights – The European Court of Human Rights ruled recently that Turkey ’s ban on the wearing of religious garb at public universities did not violate the rights of a Turkish medical student.  Ms. Leyla Sahin had claimed that her rights were violated when she was forbidden to take an examination while wearing a headscarf, writes Aisha Labi for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Turkey justified its stand on the basis of its interest in maintaining a secular society despite having a predominantly Muslim population.  This unanimous ruling could have repercussions in countries such as France and Germany , where headscarves have become a contentious issue.  (See

China filtering phone messages – According to an article in the July 3rd New York Times by Joseph Kahn, China has begun filtering billions of telephone text messages to ensure that people do not use the popular communication tool to undermine its one-party rule. Stimulus for the controls appears to be text messages sent between China ’s 300-million mobile phone users which helped to expose the national cover-up of the SARS epidemic last fall. Text messages have also generated popular outrage about corruption cases that have received little attention in the state-controlled media. Message service providers are being required to install filtering equipment that can monitor and delete messages that contain key words, phrases or numbers that authorities consider suspicious, before they reach customers. Text messaging is a primary means of communication in China , where mobile phone users send more text messages that the rest of the world combined. (See


2 - US developments

Boeing runs into turbulence – Boeing is readying a new 7E7 plane, but serious doubts persist about engineering, management, labor relations, and commitment to civil aviation. According to an article in the July 2004 IEEE Spectrum by Willie Jones, the company faces several daunting challenges: ethical lapses (offering a job to a military procurement officer), fancy new jets (competition with Airbus for the commercial aircraft market), labor pains (enmity with its workforce as manufacturing is farmed out), and leadership woes (ouster of the former CEO due to scandals). A fundamental concern is whether Boeing is making the investments needed to be competitive in the commercial aircraft markets in the long run. (See

NASA changes suggested – A White House panel has recommended that the government reorganize NASA and encourage private companies to provide the entrepreneurship and expertise needed to implement President Bush’s plan to explore the moon, Mars and the solar system. According to an article by Guy Gugliotta in the June 15th Washington Post, the panel report recommends that the human space flight program should remain in government hands for the foreseeable future, but that a “commercialized” space industry should take over robotic space ventures and launches of low-Earth-orbiting satellites. The key focus of the report is to nurture a space industry that breaks the old pattern of space initiatives controlled by the government through its private sector contractors. (See

Engineering and American diplomacy – The original science and technology advisor to the US Secretary of State, Norman Neureiter, has written a major commentary on his three years of service in that position in the Summer 2004 The Bridge. He notes that the role of the State Department, with its 250 embassies and consulates abroad, is to formulate and implement the foreign policy of the United States and to manage its relationships with some 190 countries and many international government organizations. US foreign policy addresses many areas that need engineering and science input: climate change and global warming, environmental degradation, natural disasters, stopping terrorists and controlling weapons of mass destruction, new sources of energy, food safety, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, transportation, communications, the livability of cities, and economic viability for a world population that may reach nine billion by 2050. Neureiter notes that technology has become a new international currency, and that the world needs engineering-literate people in the policy making arena. (See

New interest in US NDEA model – While for many in the US the most famous outcome of the launching of Sputnik in 1957 was the National Defense Education Act, which developed math, science and engineering brain power, a small but significant part of that NDEA money went to motivate universities to teach Russian, recognized as a strategic language.  Today, however, the urgent need is for speakers of Arabic and other critical languages and dialects.  But the US Congress, dominated by Republicans, has not supported initiatives to use the old NDEA model for new language priorities.  As a result, the ability of the US to understand, to negotiate, to communicate in the languages of friends and enemies is severely hampered.  In 2003 only 22 US students took degrees in Arabic, for example, and the US government has been reduced to pulling translators out of retirement in times of emergency.  A new initiative, which has some bipartisan support, is expected to be considered by the US House of Representatives, using the NDEA model, but at greatly reduced levels of funding, according to Samuel G. Freedman writing for The New York Times on June 16.  (See

Presumed US presidential candidate supports increased science funding – Presumed US presidential candidate Senator John F. Kerry said that if elected, he would increase funding for science and engineering, according to Jeffrey Selingo writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  This would be accomplished by increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  Nor was the Pentagon left out of Kerry’s plans: he would increase spending for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, which engages in long-range research, and which President Bush has proposed to cut by 15%. (See

US Higher Education Act will not be renewed this session: debate too heated –The US House of Representatives has decided not to renew the Higher Education Act this year, according to a story written by Stephen Burd in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The Republican leadership has declared that the excessively partisan debate has made delay wiser, in order to build consensus on those issues which are amenable to compromise between Republicans and Democrats.  Some Democrats, however, think that the delay is an effort to avoid giving them political ammunition against the Republicans for the upcoming fall elections.  One of the most contentious issues involves changing the rate of interest on consolidated federal student loans, presumably in favor of the lenders and not the borrowers.  Failure to renew the act will not affect student aid programs, and college lobbyists are pleased that more time will be available for negotiations.  (See

Publication superiority of US scientists questioned – The traditional primary indicator of scholarly superiority has been publications in refereed journals.  And using this indicator shows that US science and engineering has lost some of its status, with numbers of publications remaining flat over several years, according to a National Science Foundation report.  Richard Monastersky, reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education, shows that these assumptions are too simplistic, and that a closer look at the data shows that American science remains dominant.  What might be more important is that the figures show conclusively that science is increasingly international, both in terms of collaboration and in the increased output of papers from countries such as China and India .  Additional wisdom emerged from the discussion:  Rudy M. Baum, editor in chief of Chemical & Engineering News, points out that science and engineering knowledge does not belong to any one country.  (See

Student acquitted in terror case – A jury has acquitted a Saudi graduate student of government charges that he used his computer expertise to help Muslim terrorists raise money and recruit followers, according to an article in the June 11th New York Times by the Associated Press. The case against Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the University of Idaho , was seen as an important test of a provision of a new antiterrorism law that makes it a crime to provide expert advice or assistance to terrorists. Mr. Al-Hussayen set up and ran Web sites that prosecutors said were used to recruit terrorists, raise money and disseminate inflammatory rhetoric. The defense argued that the material posted was protected by First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and was not intended to raise money or recruit extremists. Mr. Al-Hussayen was acquitted on several counts, but the jurors could not reach agreement on several others and a mistrial was declared on those counts. (See

SEVIS rules on student fees released – After many difficult discussions with the US higher education community, the US Department of Homeland Security released the final rules governing the collection of a mandatory $100 service fee from international students and scholars seeking entry in the US .  The fee covers the cost of the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and will be collected beginning September 1, 2004 .  Applicants will have to pay the fee by mail or using a credit card prior to applying for a US visa, according to Joshua Karlin-Resnick, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Earlier this summer the American Council on Education had suggested that universities be given permission to pay the fees for entire “cohorts” of applicants, then recoup the fees through their own financial procedures.  While many universities supported this idea, a vehement opposition also arose, forcing the ACE to withdraw the proposal.  (See


3 - Distance education, technology

Atom waste site challenged – The US government’s 17-year effort to bury nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has suffered a major setback as a federal appeals court said that the standards for protecting the public from radiation leaks there (10,000 years) were too short. According to a report in the July 10th New York Times by Matthew Wald, the US Energy Department has spent about $9-billion on the repository to date to build a place to store radioactive material left over from nuclear weapons production and civilian power reactors. The power reactor materials are currently stored in about 68 locations around the country, and providing a final repository for such materials is key the nuclear power industry’s hope for new reactor construction after a 30-year drought. The case was brought by the State of Nevada and environmental groups, which oppose the repository. An appeal of the decision is possible, but both sides said the argument is more likely to move to Congress. (See

Nanotechnology grows up – The emerging field of nanotechnology stands at a crossroads, according to an article in the June 18th Science by Robert Service. In areas such as computer chips, it is already here; tens of billions of dollars worth of chips packed with electronic circuitry patterned down to the nanoscale are sold every year. And there are futuristic visions of molecular-scale devices that can seek out and destroy cancer cells and repair faulty heart valves. Regulators and watchdog groups are investigating how nanoscale materials affect human health and the environment.  But many observers worry that the field may be growing too fast for its own good and that regulators cannot keep pace with the release of new nano-based products. There is concern that news about environmental dangers from one form of nanomatter could spark a public backlash against the whole field – such as has occurred with genetically modified food. As funding for nanotech skyrockets, the US National Nanotechnology Initiative devotes 11% of its budget to health and environmental studies. (See

Product life-cycle management – With mind-blowing efficiency, smart producers now use software to hustle their wares from the lab to the world, according to an article by Gene Bylinsky in the July 12th Fortune. One breakthrough approach is training of workers on changes in the parts they will work with on the assembly line, using clear three-dimensional images provided by a new kind of manufacturing software: product life-cycle management, or PLM. Using digital simulation not only boosts the efficiency of changeovers in assembly lines for their workers, but also lets engineers ensure that robots will have adequate room to work. Proponents of this approach claim that PLM can turn a mediocre product into a category leader. And engineers on different continents can participate in changes at the same time. (See


4 - Students, faculty, education

African Americans shy away from top colleges – After blows to affirmative action, black applications to some of the elite institutions in the US are off. According to a commentary by Roger Crockett in the June 21st Business Week, after nearly 30 years of rising African American enrollments at US colleges and universities, blacks are not applying at former rates. At UC Berkeley black applications were down 10% from last year; and applications at the University of Michigan have dropped 25%. The red flag came last June when the US Supreme Court declared the affirmative action program at the University of Michigan illegal. While that ruling left the door open to some consideration of race in admissions, the perception among blacks is that affirmative action has been killed. Crockett argues that several efforts are needed to reverse the downward trend: help with admissions, boosting public funding, and creating effective outreach. (See

Hispanic students in US less likely to receive degrees – The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a report showing that Hispanic high school graduates enroll in college at about the same rate as white students, but are only half as likely to persist to baccalaureate degree completion.  The reasons cited are that Hispanic students are more likely to register in colleges that have much lower graduation rates, and they have “individual circumstances” such as starting college later and living at home, that make degree attainment more difficult, according to Brendon Fleming in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Even the best prepared Hispanic students, when enrolled in less selective colleges, graduate at lower rates (57%) than equally prepared white students (81%).  Hispanic students need more information about their options in higher education so that they can consider applying to more selective institutions, thus increasing their chances of earning a degree.  (See

Challenges to aerospace and engineering – Advances in aeronautics and aerospace served as a hallmark of technological progress for much of the 20th century, according to John McMasters and Russell Cummings writing in the Summer 2004 Bent of Tau Beta Pi. But currently those fields are in decline, as professionals there are unable to create a collective vision of the future as compelling as that which has driven progress in the past. And the pool of technical talent in these fields is in need of replenishment. To meet both challenges, the aerospace industry needs responses from universities in several areas: attract and retain bright students, especially women and minorities; encourage faculty to get industrial experience; keep the costs of engineering education within reach; and have students develop the broader skills that will make them successful in their future employment. (See

E-learning failures analyzed – Robert Zemsky and William F. Massy wrote an extended introduction to their report, “Thwarted Innovation: What Happened to E-Learning and Why” ( in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  They point out that the promise of e-learning was characterized by three beliefs: “If we build it, they [faculty] will come;” “The kids will take to e-learning like ducks to water;” and “E-learning will force a change in how we teach.”  Each of these beliefs has now been proven wrong. An overabundance of e-learning tools confuses most professors; the most popular software among students permits them to show off, not to analyze, problem solve, etc.; and faculty use new technologies primarily to simplify existing teaching techniques, not to revolutionize them.  The authors, who claim to be optimistic about e-learning eventually becoming the dominant instructional mode, see only slow progress over the next decade, but believe that learning on demand will ultimately prevail.  (See

NSF reports on women and minorities – A new online report, “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering 2004” has been released by the US National Science Foundation. It provides data and interpretive graphics in these areas by education level, employment, and population group. Like earlier reports, this edition continues to show differences in the participation of men, women, racial/ethnic groups, and persons with disabilities in both education and employment in science and engineering fields. For example, while overall degrees in computer sciences have increased since 1997, the percentage awarded to women dropped from 37% in 1985 to 28% in 2001. Women now constitute 41% of all S&E graduate students, ranging form a high of 74% in psychology to a low of 20% in engineering. (See

Nonprofits need cleaning up – The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law passed to deal with management abuses in public companies has led to several high profile legal cases in the corporate world. And according to an article in the June 21st Business Week by Jessi Hempel and Amy Borrus, government scrutiny of nonprofits is also increasing. One such high profile case is the suit against the former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange by the New York Attorney General. Other non-profits such as the Nature Conservancy are also being challenged on items such as insider trading and CEO compensation. Harvard University ’s management of its $19-billion endowment has drawn criticism when the university shelled out a total of $107.5-million to its top five money managers last year. Boston University drew criticism for paying a $1.8-million severance package to a newly appointed president who was fired just before he took office. It appears that cozy boardrooms at colleges and charities face increasing government scrutiny. (See

New engineering education programs created at Purdue (USA) – Acting on the two beliefs, that engineering enrollments are threatened and that engineers ought to draw from a more diverse population, several US engineering schools have taken steps to attract more students into their programs, writes Kelly Field in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  At Purdue, this has meant the creation of the first department of engineering education, combining Purdue’s first year engineering program and its interdisciplinary engineering program, and focusing on diversifying the pipeline out of schools.  The plan calls for offering master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering education, and also certification programs for high school teachers.  Responding also to student concern about job stability as engineers as a result of off-shoring, Purdue will also place increased emphasis on the management and leadership skills that complement engineering at higher levels of responsibility.  Other schools are looking at educating engineering students for employment in areas of homeland security, and some are sending out their international graduates to recruit in their home countries.  (See

Engineering for the developing world – Engineers must adopt a new attitude toward natural and cultural systems, according to Bernard Amadei writing in the Summer 2004 The Bridge. Engineers have a collective responsibility to improve the lives of people around the world, and engineering education must address the challenges associated with global problems. But engineering schools in the US do not usually address the needs of the most destitute people on our planet – even the many who live in industrialized countries like the US . Amadei has founded and directs several programs at the University of Colorado at Boulder to address these issues. One successful effort, Engineers Without Borders-USA, was started at Colorado in 2001, and now has grown to have 74 student and professional chapters across the US , involving 959 engineering students, faculty and professional engineers. EWB-USA helps disadvantaged communities improve their quality of life through implementation of environmentally and economically sustainable engineering projects, and in the process develops internationally responsible engineering graduates. (See

US states struggle to meet application boom – Sara Hebel, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, alerted readers to the growing crunch in higher education enrollments in the US , where public college enrollments are booming, while funding and building projects are not keeping pace. Citing Virginia as an example, Hebel describes how large applicant pools have made the top four Virginia public institutions (the College of William and Mary, James Madison, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech) so selective in their admissions that many well qualified students are being pushed back to the second tier institutions, which in turn are filled to capacity, putting increased pressure on the community college system.  In addition, retention rates in some places are increasing, meaning fewer openings for transfer students.  University officials in Virginia and elsewhere are attempting to craft new approaches to expand access through budget incentives, but so far, legislators have been unable to come up with appropriate funding.  Virginia Governor Mark Warner is encouraging high school seniors to get a jump on earning college credits by enrolling in courses delivered over satellite and the Internet during their last year in school.  In California , Governor Schwarzenegger made a recommendation that state support be cut for any students who enrolls for more than 110% of the credits needed for their degrees. Nevada is adding a new state college, and other states are looking at how private colleges can help absorb the load.  Pressure may be building for merger and relocation of more remote colleges that are no longer in areas of high population growth.   (See

Wooing of guidance counselors – Though the typical image of the college admissions process is of high school guidance counselors sidling up to colleges in hopes of gaining an advantage for their students, the reality is sometimes the other way around. According to an article by Greg Winter in the July 8th New York Times, some colleges that are intent on getting more and better applicants are lavishing perks on guidance counselors – to curry favor with those who speak directly into the ears of students and parents. Many in the profession agree that every university has the right to market itself, and that it is important – maybe critical – for counselors to see the universities they advise students about.  But colleges are uncertain about what is or is not appropriate – theatre tickets, fancy dinners, waterfront cruises, golfing? (See

University of Phoenix targets traditional-aged students – As of May 31, the University of Phoenix already had 213,000 students enrolled in degree programs.  Now Tod S. Nelson, president of the Apollo Group, parent company of Phoenix , says that they will begin admitting traditional college-aged students soon.   In addition, the University of Phoenix now has on-ground presence in 38 of the 50 US states, with applications pending to begin operations in five additional states.  According to Mr. Nelson, the US Department of Education’s review of the University of Phoenix ’s financial aid practices will be cleared up promptly, having found no problems as yet.  (See

Evaluation of “what works” – Two recent reports look at the heightened interest in assessment of educational programs stimulated by the “No Child Left Behind Act”, according to an article by Jeffrey Mervis in the June 11th Science. One by the National Research Council examined evaluations of 19 elementary and secondary school mathematics curricula and found them wanting. The second, from the Building Engineering and Science Consortium, did the same for programs aimed at increasing the number of minorities, women, and low-income students studying science and math. Again, none of the programs could claim to be successful based on objective assessments. Both reports emphasize that many programs may be doing a terrific job of helping children, but there is no way to tell scientifically. Experts in the field of assessment say that the discipline of rigorous evaluation is just emerging – just as it is needed. (See

Debate over accuracy of financial aid studies – The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by David Glenn which describes a dispute over claims that the US Department of Education has based policy recommendations on defective studies.  Public Policy and College Access: Investigating the Federal and State Roles in Equalizing Postsecondary Opportunity, edited by Edward P. St. John, claims that four studies contracted for by the Department Education suggested that tuition is not a major barrier to poor students’ college enrollment.  The authors of the studies, including Laura J. Horn at MPR Associates Inc., said these accusations are grossly inaccurate.  Mr. St. John remains optimistic, however, that financial aid could be improved without additional federal funding if needs-based grants replaced some loan programs, and states worked to improve attendance and completion rates for low-income students.  (See


5 – Employment  

Outsourcing hops – Timisoara , Romania , has successfully transformed itself into a high-tech center, promoting its pool of talented engineers and its prime location between east and west. But according to an article by Dan Bilefsky in the July 8th Wall Street Journal , Romania ’s push to join the European Union in 2007 will likely force the country to abandon many of the tax incentives that draw companies to invest here. Already wages here are slowly rising, and some multinationals warn that they will move further east to Ukraine , Russia or China if the city cannot retain its competitive advantage. Romanian technology leaders say that about a third of the nation’s information-technology professionals left last year, lured by the chance to increase their pay as much as tenfold. The challenges Timisoara faces are typical of places that hope to tap the global outsourcing trend. Many jobs are racing to the bottom of the wage scale, moving from places like Detroit to Mexico then on to China . Meanwhile, individuals, as they gain marketable skills, pursue the highest paying jobs they can find elsewhere, potentially wreaking havoc on the local economy they leave behind. (See

The human side of off-shoring – The July 5 issue of The New Yorker contains a long article of Katherine Boo entitled, “The Best Job in Town: The Americanization of Chennai.”  Using as a focal point a company called “Office Tiger,” the author illustrate in detail the Indian side of off-shoring.  Office Tiger is located in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, and is the fourth largest city in India .  Office Tiger is an American-owned company run by co-CEOs Joseph Sigelman and Randy Altschuler, who founded the company in 1998.  They risked their futures on the idea that many of the back office operations for the banking and finance industries, where they had both worked after Princeton and Harvard, could be done better and more cheaply off-shore.  Boo’s article picks out telling details about the lives and motivations of the CEOs, but also of a star Office Tiger employee, Harish Kumar.  Harish is shown negotiating the American model he is consumed with at the office, and his Indian heritage.  All this is played out against the sharp contrasts between the booming Americanization of Chennai and some of its citizens, and the grinding poverty of enormous numbers of people whose chronic destitution has been exacerbated by three years of drought and a spiraling cost of living.  Finally, the article encompasses the May national elections, in which Tamil Nadu rejected all forty of its legislators, and voted in the opposition which represented people neglected by the economic boom of India.  This article is available on-line at  (See also

Advised to offshore more – An influential consulting firm is exhorting US companies to speed up offshoring operations to China and India , including high-powered functions such as research and development. According to an article by Paul Blustein in the July 2nd Washington Post, the Boston Consulting Group is warning American firms that they risk extinction if they hesitate in shifting facilities to countries with low costs. That is partly because the potential savings are so vast, but also because the quality of American workers is seen as deteriorating. A report by the consulting firm states that “the largest competitive advantage will lie with those companies that move soonest”.  Successful companies are asking themselves “What must I keep at home” rather than “What can I shift to low-cost countries”. The report undercuts the view that R&D jobs in western countries will increase even as low-skill jobs migrate to nations like China and India . But other observers maintain a belief that the US economy will grow, and job opportunities expand, even as offshoring continues to disrupt the lives of many American workers at the lower end of the skill scale. (See

Boom or bust in scientists and engineers? – The Chronicle of Higher Education focused on science and engineering capacity in the United States in a set of articles by various reporters.  The lead article on predicted labor shortage in science was written by Richard Monastersky and challenges some of the predictions.  At the same time in May when the National Science Board was warning of a shortage of scientists, the National Science Foundation was revealing that the declines in science and engineering graduate education seen between 1994 and 1998 have now been reversed.  And the discussion is shifting from quantity to quality, as unexpectedly high unemployment in some areas has suggested that US higher education should take a hard look at itself and made the changes needed to preserve the US competitive edge in technology.  Conflicting reports from a variety of sources and constituencies are being played out against a background of history.  Dire warnings made by the NSF and the US Bureau of Labor statistics in the mid-1980s and onward turned out to be wildly inaccurate.  But an added complexity in today’s world is factoring in the enduring results of changes in immigration due to national security issues and the increasing strength of competing overseas universities.  Science, engineering, technology and mathematics programs have all relied heavily on international graduate students in the past, and so are keeping a close watch on emerging patterns.  It is not surprising that a heretical question is being asked: is the US educating too many scientists and engineers?  The answer is yes to some people, who see that the predictions of shortages that come from universities heavily invested in research that depends on a steady stream of graduate students should perhaps be subjected to more objective scrutiny.  Warren M. Washington, chair of the National Science Board, and a committee of the National Academy of Engineering both have concluded that excessively narrow specialization in science and engineering could be detrimental to finding a job and solving the problems that need to be solved in an increasingly complex world.  (See

Tough in the trenches – Although employed US engineers are starting to see their salaries rise, outsourcing has them fearing for their jobs. According to Terry Costlow, writing in the July 2004 IEEE Spectrum, the first three months of this year have seen the electrical engineering unemployment rate rise from 4.5% to 5.3%. Many of the engineering jobs lost in the US have moved to low-wage countries. As the trend to a truly global economy continues, observers say that the only sure way to create jobs is to pioneer new ground. Companies at the leading edge will have more job openings than those that compete on price. There is also concern, though, that offshore competitors will move into leading-edge segments. Even though raises are returning for those US electrical engineers that are employed, engineers are generally earning less now than they did at the end of the high-tech boom. And the most recent college graduates in engineering and computer science still make less that their counterparts in 2001. (See

Leisure in shorter supply in Europe these days – European workers, according to Mark Landler in the July 7th New York Times, are increasingly finding their famed short work weeks and long paid vacations under attack.  Siemens of Germany, for example, recently concluded a union contract that calls for increasing the work week from 35 hours to 40 hours, holding pay constant.  And the former holiday bonus will be transformed into a performance bonus based on profits from the production unit. Siemens and Germany are not alone in this transformation: with increased pressure to lower labor costs and increase productivity companies are looking to move operations overseas unless concessions are made at home.  France cut its work week to 35 hours in 2000, hoping to stimulate new jobs, but now is considering moving back to the former model because of a stagnating economy. (See

Still made in the USA A company that supplies about 55% of the tiny suspension assemblies used in computer disk drives worldwide, Hutchinson Technology Inc., has retained all of its manufacturing operations near its birthplace in Minnesota . According to an article in the July 8th Wall Street Journal by Timothy Aeppel, Hutchinson exports 98% of its product to the Far East , and all of its competitors in the $900-million industry are based there. But Hutchinson considers its location in the US to be a competitive advantage because of access to two areas of expertise where the US remains strong – extremely precise tools and advanced engineering. In addition to being concerned about how long it would take to develop a sufficiently skilled workforce abroad, company executives say they would risk the disseminating of valuable technology that is their competitive advantage. Staying in a relatively isolated patch in the upper Midwest makes it harder for competitors to snare the company’s trade secrets. (See

Germans rethink immigration – A long and bitter battle over Germany ’s attitude toward immigration is coming to a close, with the country set to pass legislation that would introduce a system to allow qualified newcomers to settle there permanently. According to an article by Jareen Bhatti in the July 2nd Wall Street Journal, the draft law would allow economic migrants to enter Germany if they posses skills in certain fields, such as engineering, information technology, or sciences. The initiative results in part from Germans’ realization that the country needs foreigners to prosper. If passed into law, the approach would create Europe ’s most comprehensive immigration policy, potentially serving as a model for debate in other European countries struggling with similar economic and demographic issues. (See

Offshore outsourcing resource – The controversial area of offshore outsourcing has generated many papers and statements. An interesting website that has collected many of the current resources is

Lonely town seeks young professionals – A range of midsize, small and large cities in the US are launching programs to lure new college graduates to their job markets. As described in an article in the June 15th Wall Street Journal by Anne Marie Chaker, the programs are an attempt to counter a demographic shift that is alarming some cities. Only 14 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US had more 25-34 year olds in 2000 than they did in 1990. That age group is considered an economic engine because of its long- term potential impact on the community. This age group is often drawn by the cosmopolitan allure of cities like San Francisco and New York – but cities like Memphis and Cleveland are presenting themselves as legitimate alternatives. Cleveland ’s program, for example, offers interns ten weeks of living, working and schmoozing with civic leaders. Other cities are looking at everything from building museums and art spaces to encouraging the development of loft apartments that they believe will attract more creative young people. (See 


6 – Journals

International Journal of Engineering Education – Volume 20 Number 3 is largely a special issue on designing engineering education organized by guest editor Clive Dym. Over 20 papers on the theme are included, comprising much of the proceedings of a July 2003 Mudd Design Workshop. The workshop brought together engineering educators and practitioners to discuss the state of engineering education and the prospects for re-design of the engineering educational enterprise. Topics include ABET’s EC2000; barriers to change; learning and motivation; the many roles of design; and the ethos of and ethics in both education and practice. (See

European Journal of Engineering Education – The June 2004 journal is a special issue on Assessment of Learning Results in Engineering Education, organized by guest editors Erik de Graaff and Otto Rompelman. Some 16 papers cover assessment practices, project assessment, portfolio assessment, and the assessment of foundation knowledge. (See


7 - Meetings

ASEE Annual Meeting – The annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education was held in Salt Lake City , Utah , from 20-23 June 2004. The main plenary speaker was Professor Woodie Flowers of MIT, a leader and innovator of teaching hands-on courses. In his presentation, he asserted that the days of engineers merely crunching numbers and running computer code are fast coming to an end, and that future generations of engineers need to be educated to engage in “informed creative thinking”.  He described the FIRST Robotics Competition, in which he has been heavily involved, which draws more than 20,000 high school students each year to build robots to perform a specific task. At the annual awards banquet, Sherra Kerns (Vice President for Innovation and Research at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering) was installed as the 2004-05 President of ASEE. In her inaugural address, she stated that today’s engineers are no longer seen as geeks, but as citizen heroes who can solve the problems that affect society. She observed that engineers need to be central to decisions that society makes, not on the sidelines, and that engineers need to lead the broader society to ask the right questions. Kerns also stated that society needs citizens who are technologically literate, and an engineering workforce that has attracted diverse talent. (See  

WFEO Planning Conference – A new standing committee of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, the Committee on Capacity Building , held an initial planning conference in Washington on June 28-30. Aimed at complementing a proposed “Engineering for a Better World” proposal currently under consideration at UNESCO, the WFEO CCB assembled an international committee of some two-dozen members, plus an equal number of experts, to plan its action oriented agenda for the months and years ahead. It is focused on building technical capacity in developing countries as a base for economic development there. The WFEO CCB is hosted by the American Association of Engineering Societies, and is chaired by Russel Jones. (See  


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