INTERNATIONAL ENGINEERING EDUCATION DIGEST

May 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.

CONTENTS

1 - International developments

2 - US developments

  3 - Distance education, technology

4 - Students, faculty, education

5 – Employment

6 – Journals

7 – Meetings

___________________________________________________________________

1 - International developments

US allows return of suspected Iraqi university faculty, administrators  The US, in a reversal of a previous policy, has permitted faculty and administrators in Iraq’s universities to return to their posts, despite their former membership in Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, according to Erin Strout writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  One of the first acts of Paul Bremer III, when he assumed responsibility as chief civilian administrator of the occupying forces, was to dismiss all former Baathist government workers.  The order swept away thousands of faculty and all deans and presidents, causing anti-American feelings to run higher.  Most hard hit were the universities of Tikrit and Basra , where 20% and 15% of the faculty, respectively, were fired.  As a result, the human capacity required for rebuilding the country was reduced just when it was most needed.  (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042605n.htm)

Election upset in India – India’s economy is booming, but many have been left behind, according to an article by Manjeet Kripalani and Pete Engardio in the May 31st Business Week. It has 2.5 million college graduates annually, but 380 million Indians are illiterate; its 2003 revenue from software exports was $15-billion, but 300 million live in poverty. The country’s huge deficit leaves little room for a surge in social spending. These facts contributed to the change in government in the May elections, as the disenfranchised unseated the incumbent government in the world’s largest democracy. The Congress Party, which will form the new government, is expected to focus on education for the poor, rural infrastructure development, improvement of rural health, and secularism to end religious discrimination. (See http://www.businessweek.com) 

European universities turn to fund-raising – The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a major article by Aisha Labi on the emergence of fund-raising in European universities.  Until now, the concept of asking graduates for money to support the functioning of their university was unheard of.  Universities are almost exclusively state-funded and students are admitted on their credentials, not recruited and courted.  With public funding dropping, and with the very successful US model of college fund- raising before their eyes, European universities have begun to engage in building relationships with their graduates and in soliciting money from them.  (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i34/34a03901.htm)

European university group plans to increase mobility for doctoral candidates – The Combria Group of 39 European universities recently announced plans to promote mobility of doctoral students by creating comprehensive quality standards which would permit students to take courses offered by universities other than the one at which they are registered. The plan is consonant with the principles of harmonization outlined in the Bologna Declaration, according to Aisha Labi of the Chronicle of Higher Education.  While all member institutions of the Combria Group approved the plan, not all intend to participate.  Some members believe that harmonization at the doctoral level should be led by other organizations, and that the Combria Group should concentrate its efforts on masters and undergraduate degrees.  (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042606n.htm)

Reinventing Europe’s universities – European researchers wonder why their universities do not have the same researcher star status as America’s Ivy League, according to an article in the May 14th Science by Martin Enserink. Of the top 10 ranked universities worldwide, eight are in the US and two in the UK . Across the continent of Europe , there are concerns that Europe ’s universities, once bastions of leading science, no longer rate as global players – a slump that could harm Europe ’s economic prosperity. Scientists, administrators, and politicians are grappling with a variety of ways to reform education, improve graduate training, and break down bureaucratic and national barriers. But creating an American-style competitive market goes against the grain of European egalitarianism, which strives to provide a solid education to as many students as possible while refraining from rewarding exceptional talent. The European Commission is about to try to change the situation by using its only tool – money. A new European Research Council is being formed, and is expected to spend billions of Euros annually. (See http://www/sciencemag.org)

Turkish government proposes revision of university admission standards for Islamic-educated students Turkey is caught in a conflict between its moderate-Islamist government and its strong pro-secular military, with university leaders on the side of the military.  At issue is whether students who graduate from religious secondary schools, (Imam Hatip) will continue to be forced to achieve higher examination scores in order to quality for admission to state-run universities.  Those who fear increasing the influence of Islam in the government see this bill as an attempt to permit conservative Muslims to gain access to positions within the government.  The government says that the legislation is merely to provide more equal opportunity to all students.  It is possible for the opponents of the bill to prevent it from being implemented before the next round of university admissions examinations, thus deferring it for another year, according to Burton Bollag in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See http://chronicle.com.daily/2004/05/2004051405n.htm)

 

2 - US developments

Steps needed for US to retain its pre-eminent position in engineering and science – On May 4 the US National Science Board released its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators 2004.  The bottom line is that the US retains its pre-eminent position in human resources in these areas, but due to rapidly changing economic and workforce dynamics, it will have to change some of its strategies to remain in the lead.  The Indicators report is a source for reliable information on some of the most pressing concerns of engineering educators: trends in visa applications; numbers of foreign-owned patents in the US; R&D expenditures in various categories; unemployment rates by occupations; numbers of foreign-born scientists and engineers in the US; US venture capital disbursements; age distribution of faculty; citation figures, etc.  The report pinpoints three sources of uncertainty which are affecting S&E in the US : the influence of national security issues on S&E policy, the effects of global economic weakness, and the impact of globalization on knowledge-based industries.  (See http://www.nsf.gov)

Terrorism takes its effect on studies abroad programsJennifer Jacobson, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, described how US colleges and universities are reacting to terrorism threats around the world in their studies abroad programs.  According to the Institute of International Education , 160,920 American students studied abroad in 2001-2002, and most experts contend that those numbers have held steady or perhaps increased.  Most institutions have taken extra precautions to protect their students, such as creating multiple communication networks, banning programs in countries under US State Department warnings, advising students to keep a lower profile when abroad, and warning them to avoid crowds and demonstrations.  According to William Cressy, Vice President of the Council on International Educational Exchange, studies abroad programs became increasingly concerned about security in the mid 1990s, after some well-publicized incidents including an attack on a group of American students in Guatemala .  But faculty and students are torn between being careful and being restrictive, believing that many places where important international learning can take place are dangerous.  And no place seems immune: witness the bombings in Madrid .  (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i33/33a04501.htm)

US is losing its dominance in science and innovation – According to a front page article by William Broad in the May 3rd New York Times, the United States has started to lose its worldwide supremacy in critical areas of science and innovation. The author points to measures the number of prizes awarded to Americans and the number of US-authored papers in major professional journals. Foreign advances in these areas often rival or even exceed America’s, but there is little public awareness of the implications for jobs, national security, or the vigor of the nation’s intellectual and cultural life. Europe and Asia are ascendant, with the output of papers and patents increasing rapidly. The issue has become political, with congressional Democrats blaming the Bush administration – which disagrees, and points to increased research budgets. One observer noted that the ebb and flow of globalization is such that comparative American declines are an inevitable result of rising standards of living around the globe. (See http://www.nytimes.com)

Survey reports continuing public support for US higher education – For the second year, the Chronicle of Higher Education conducted a national survey to track public opinion about higher education in the US , and for the second year, the poll revealed that the US public is overwhelmingly supportive of higher education as an institution, along with the military, and religious organizations.  The same survey, however, indicated that there were substantial concerns about specific practices in higher education, such as support of athletics and admission preferences given to “legacy” students, according to Jeffrey Selingo, reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  To the dismay of college administrators who have faced years of cost-cutting, 68% of the respondents believe that institutions could still maintain quality while reducing costs.  There is also a clear message from respondents that colleges need to focus on providing opportunity to undergraduates through the award of baccalaureate degrees, rather than on research or economic development.  The survey revealed that about 50% of people have a realistic understanding of what a college degree costs, contrary to what many university officials have said.  (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i35/35a00101.htm)

NASA expects space shuttle to fly again by next spring – NASA has made sufficient progress modifying the space shuttle fleet to be confident that it can safely resume flying next spring, according to an article by Warren Leary in the May 1st New York Times. The remaining three space shuttles have been grounded since the Columbia disintegrated in the atmosphere upon re-entry in February 2003, apparently due to a piece of fuel tank foam hitting the edge of a wing and damaging heat shielding tiles during launch. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board made 15 recommendations, and NASA has to date completed responses to all but three. Major issues that remain include finding ways to prevent significant debris shedding from the external fuel tank, and developing a remote inspection system for shuttles in flight. (See http://www.nytimes.com)  

New US commission studies accountability – The Ford Foundation has funded the creation and work of a new US National Commission on Accountability in Higher Education, which met for the first time in early May.  The group was organized by the State Higher Education Executive Officers association (SHEEO) in an attempt to affect public policy.  In the discussion, the burden was placed on higher education institutions to better articulate what they contribute to the welfare of the citizens. There was consensus on the need to set standards, although no clear agreement on who should do that.  According to reporter Michael Arnone of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the group will meet again in the summer, draft a report for discussion in the fall, release it for comment, and then publish a final report. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/05/2004051101n.htm)  

Group calls for revisions of visa application process – A coalition of higher education groups, including engineers, has called for changes to be made in the way visa applications are processed in the US in order to reverse the impression that the US is no longer an attractive place for international students and scholars to study and conduct research.  Their recommendations include such things as permitting foreign students to pay the $100 fee to support the Student and Exchange Visitor Information Service (SEVIS) after they arrive in the US, and giving priority to visa applications that have been in process for over 30 days, writes Kelly Field, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/05/2004051304n.htm)

50th anniversary of key integration ruling – May 17th marked the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark US Supreme Court ruling that declared racially segregated “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. African Americans have made major strides since – economically, socially, and educationally – according to an article in the May 17th Business Week by William Symonds. But starting in the late 1980’s, political backlash has brought racial progress to a halt. Courts have been pulling back, saying for example that heavily black Detroit did not have to integrate its schools with the surrounding white suburbs. The courts have also backed away from busing and race-based school assignments. Schools have been resegregating due to housing and economic patterns, and the gap between white and black school-children has been widening again. The approach of government has shifted dramatically – away from forcing integration, and toward equalizing education by providing ”adequate” funding for minority and low income schools. However, the author states that it is hard to see how students attending largely segregated schools, no matter how proficient, could be adequately prepared for life in this increasingly diverse country. (See http://www.businessweek.com). See also similar coverage in the May 16th New York Times by Greg Winter (http://www.nytimes.com)

US universities struggle against restrictions on non-classified research – The battle between universities and the US Department of Defense continues.  The latest is an attempt on the part of the DoD to place restrictions on non-classified research, which, according to college officials, is a violation of a 1985 policy.  University researchers might be required to obtain special licenses if they want to involve foreign researchers, for fear that they might gain access to “sensitive” information.  The Association of American Universities and the Council on Governmental Relations in a recent report says that such intervention by the government has become more frequent, causing delays due to contract renegotiation, and potentially holding up the granting of graduate degrees.  (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50//i35/35a02701.htm) A similar article is found in the April 23rd Science, written by David Malakoff. (See http://www.sciencemag.org)

Engineer receives prize for invention of LED – The world’s largest cash prize for invention, the 2004 Lemelson-MIT Prize, was awarded to Nick Holonyak, Jr., of the University of Illinois .  The $500,000 prize recognizes his development of the LED (light-emitting diode), among others.  Professor Holonyak is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of physics.  Kellie Bartlett reported for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042207n.htm)

Women engineers in high places – A note in the Summer 2004 ASEE Prism observes that while the number of women in engineering remains small, several have advanced to high profiles within the profession. Women have recently been elected to presidencies in five major professional societies: Teresa Hemlinger at NSPE, Patricia Galloway at ASCE, Susan Skemp at ASME, Dianne Doreland at AIChE, and Sherra Kerns at ASEE. Hopefully these role models will make engineering more attractive to young women. (See http://www.asee.org/prism) 

Foundations insert anti-terrorism wording in grants – Erin Strout of the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations (USA) have added anti-terrorism wording into their grant agreements, a move that has prompted some university provosts to protest. The foundations say that these changes are intended to prevent their funds from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.  The provosts, all from leading universities, claim the language is too vague to be enforceable and may lead to suppression of some cultural or political aspects of research projects.  The foundations said they are willing to work with the provosts to resolve these issues. Together, the two foundations accounted for about $50 million in grants in 2003. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/05/2004050501n.htm)

US medical schools received almost half of federal research funds – The RAND Corporation recently released a study showing that almost half of all federal funds for university research went to US medical schools.  The report was financed by the US National Science Foundation but was conducted by the RAND Corporation and was more detailed than previous studies.  Six states have no medical schools ( Alaska , Delaware , Idaho , Maine , Montana and Wyoming ).  Among the findings was the fact that some states specialize in research funded by specific agencies. The report covers both grants and contracts.  Contracts include more restrictive proscriptive provisions than do grants and give the government ownership of the research outcomes.  Jeffrey Brainard, reporting for the Chronicle of Higher Education, also noted that the Department of Health and Human Services was the primary dispenser of funds, and that historically black institutions received only one quarter of the amount that the average institution received.  (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042003n.htm)

 

3 - Distance education, technology

Audits reveal security weaknesses in US campus networks – Campus networks in US colleges and universities are too frequently open portals to hackers and disgruntled former employees because the institutions fail to audit their systems or enforce basic computer security procedures among users, according to Andrea L. Foster writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  This article, based on investigative reporting including a review of network audits conducted in California , Texas , New York and Florida , sketches a picture of inadequate and decentralized controls which leave networks vulnerable.  Many basic practices, such as requiring passwords to be changed frequently, or terminating access to computer systems by former employees, are not mandatory.  Disaster recovery plans are not in place, and too many people have access to sensitive data.  Some people interviewed considered that audits themselves were a problem when they were run by people who were not experts in information technology: non-experts seemed to neglect larger problem related to hackers and confidentiality of information which are prime concerns of campus specialists.  There is some movement toward the use of teams of auditors, including risk managers and attorneys, along with information technology people.  Problems are becoming more complex, as evidenced by a case cited in which an institution’s relationship with VISA credit cards was in jeopardy because university personnel inadvertently allowed access to credit card numbers they had stored on their server.  (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i35/35a03301.htm)

US supercomputing to be placed in Office of Science and Technology Policy – The Bush administration has proposed legislation to reorganize supercomputing programs by placing them under the authority of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.  The bill also asks federal agencies to develop new software and to support education in areas such as computer science, applied math, and computational science.  No new money, however, was attached to the bill.  The US has been very concerned since its dominance in supercomputing was displaced by Japan ’s Earth Simulator, according to Vincent Kiernan, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/05/2004051404n.htm)

Sylvan Learning Systems Renamed – A Baltimore-based firm best known for operating after-school training centers across the US and Canada has changed its name from Sylvan Learning Systems to Laureate Education, according to an article by Bill Brubaker in the May 18th Washington Post. The change reflects the company’s new focus on running career-oriented universities outside the US . Sylvan sold the tutoring piece of its business last year, and turned its attention to operating university campuses in nine countries, including Mexico , Chile , Spain and Switzerland . The company has 113,000 students enrolled in campus-based universities, and 17,000 in online programs. (See http://www/washingtonpost.com)

Inappropriate use of Internet2? – Internet2, whose main mission is to support research, is being used for file swapping by students.  Although this use does not threaten the speed of the network, only 15% of whose bandwidth capacity is in use at any one time, it does violate restrictions about using the service for illegal purposes.  Internet2 administrators are informing member universities where such activity is taking place, and leaving it to them to enforce their own policies, according to Brock Read of the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/05/2004050402n.htm)

Dell discusses computer re-cycling – Dell, Inc., an important provider of computers at many US universities, recently agreed to participate in a Web cast involving Chairman Michael Dell and a group of university students and administrators.  At issue were its policies regarding computer disposal, wrote Scott Carlson for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Because a computer may contain large amounts of toxic substances, environmentalists have been pressing for computer manufacturers to establish recycling programs and to reduce the toxic components in their products.  While no specific results came from the meeting, an important dialogue was begun. (See http://chronicle.com/free/2004/04/2004042705n.htm)

Nanotechnology: hype and fear – An eclectic band of scientists has mapped out a new frontier in recent years – nanotechnology. According to a special report in the May 6th Business Week Online, the explorers in this new field come from several disciplines: biologists, chemists, physicists, chipmakers, and computational experts. The basic question being addressed is how to control the building blocks of matter from the bottom up. Nanotechnology arguably shows as much promise in both science and business as any other technology of the past century, including nuclear energy and genetics. But before business rushes in with applications of the developing science, an assessment of the risks it may pose to public health and the environment needs to be done. Just as nuclear waste and the concern over genetically modified foods have raised questions about what were hyped to be transforming technologies, many people are concerned that nanomaterials could create problems if introduced without thorough testing. (See www.businessweek.com)

Life-expectancy of a link – The life-span of a link is not a physiological issue, but a technology problem.  Scholars are beginning to do serious research into the time it takes for a typical web link to disappear, change or become outdated.  Concerns are increasingly being raised about the instability of the Internet as a medium for research and archiving knowledge.  One study has indicated that the half-life of the links examined was fifteen months.  A study of the Medline archive run by the US National Library of Medicine showed that links in its database have a half-life of seven years.  Solutions to this problem include having the publisher or author of an article archive the content of links, according to Scott Carlson, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i34/34a03301.htm)

Tracking tags get field test – Wal-Mart has begun a major field test of radio tagging on several of its products, according to an article by Barnaby Feder in the May 1st New York Times. The field test involves 21 radio-tagged products from 8 manufacturers – a step toward its goal of having its top 100 suppliers using radio tags to track their shipments by the end of the year. Radio tagging is intended to reduce theft, better match supplies to demand for particular products, and speed distribution. Unlike bar codes, radio tags do not have to be in the line of sight of a reader to be recognized, they can carry far more information about the product, and large numbers of tags can be read simultaneously. Concerns have been expressed about the accuracy and cost of the system, and about privacy of consumers once the products have been purchased. (See http://www.nytimes.com)

E-voting raises security concerns – The Chronicle of Higher Education published a major article on electronic and web-based voting systems written by reporter Peter Schmidt.  The report covers the safety of such systems, their vulnerability to hacking, political corruption, and terrorism, and the role of a group of computer scientists who have launched a well-organized and effective attack against the proliferation of such systems.  Proponents of the use of web-based systems say that they will provide more people – including military and civilians living abroad – with the opportunity to vote via the internet.  They are eager to expand on a small-scale experiment the US Department of Defense recently conducted.  Critics say that internet systems are too vulnerable to various kinds of abuse and corruption to be used reliably yet.  The discussion has moved beyond year 2000 concern about hanging chads and predates it.  Since the 1990s the US Congress and various states have invested large amounts of money to prompt localities to replace outdated voting systems. This infusion of money has attracted the attention of scholars, particularly in areas of computer security.  And a core of those researchers has been able to generate sufficient doubt about the security of elections when using electronic techniques that the push to implement modern systems has been thwarted.  No one claims that any voting system is perfect, least of all Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia who is an expert on corruption. But some of the persistent unknowns have pushed policy makers into conservative positions. (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i33/33a01801.htm)

New undersea cable projects – The undersea cable industry has not had smooth sailing in recent times, according to an article in the May 15th New York Times by Ken Belson. Lease prices for cable lines have fallen, many companies that string cables across oceans have been restructured or gone bankrupt, and bankers are wary of new projects. Only 11% of available undersea bandwidth is currently being used. Yet announcements have been made recently for two new large cable projects to be built under the Indian Ocean , the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea to connect East Asia with Europe via the Middle East . The cables will stretch 9300 miles, touching some of the more underserved parts of the globe. Internet use is surging in many of the countries which will be served by the cables – particularly in India , where Western countries are shifting some of their data businesses. The excess in capacity of such cables has forced prices for its use lower, allowing Internet providers to offer competitive long-distance calls and Internet connections. (See http://www.nytimes.com)

On-line resources raise concerns among US faculty – Increasing numbers of faculty from all disciplines are using on-line resources, but they are increasingly dissatisfied with limits to access.  In a survey released by the Coalition for Networked Information, and sponsored by Ithaka, an organization backed by three prominent foundations, respondents revealed that over 50% of them thought wide circulation, eternal archiving, cost-free publication for authors, and free availability to readers were very important characteristics of a scholarly journal.  Only 47%, however, thought it important that journals be available to developing countries.  Overall, the response rate was low (17%) so the results could be questioned. The article was written for the Chronicle of Higher Education by Vincent Kiergan. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042203n.htm)

Blackout question still open – As the US electric grid approaches its peak season, engineers still cannot answer the central question of how a power failure in Ohio became the largest blackout in North American history on 14 August 2003 . According to an article in the May 10th New York Times by Matthew Wald, the eastern US power grid has become so large, complicated and heavily loaded in the last two decades that  it is difficult to determine how a single problem can expand into an immense failure. A report issued by the US Energy Department on April 5th put forward extensive recommendations for reducing the likelihood of isolated problems, but stopped short of speculating on how a local problem cascaded into the catastrophe last August. (See http://www.nytimes.com)

Use of electronic signatures approved – For the first time, the US Department of Education is accepting electronic signatures for waivers of privacy laws when requesting personal data about students.  The announcement was to take effect on May 21, although institutions which jumped the gun will not be reprimanded, according to Andrea L. Foster of the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042205n.htm)

4 - Students, faculty, education

US engineering faculty among highest paid . . . but – The annual survey of US faculty salaries conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources revealed that in 2003-2004 the highest paid professors, on average, were from law ($109,478), engineering ($84,784) and business ($79,931). One reason for the high law salaries is that a higher percentage (60%) of law faculty are at the professor rank.  Overall, according to Scott Smallwood writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, faculty salaries increased by 2.1% on average, the lowest percentage in 30 years.  Faculty at unionized public institutions fared a little better than their counterparts in non-unionized schools.  The complete data are available at http://cupahr.org. (See http://chronicle.com/prm/weekly/v50/i35/35a01601.htm)

Expanding the mind – The cover story in the Summer 2004 issue of ASEE Prism, by Dan McGraw, asks: “Creativity is such an integral part of being an engineer, but how on earth do you teach it?” Many engineering schools say that they foster creativity and innovation among their students. How to teach these two attributes, however, has almost as many approaches as there are faculty members involved. One faculty member says that these are skills that can be learned – that every student can be more creative, better at problem solving and invention, if they are made aware of their own creativity and how to improve it. The author states: “Teaching students to be creative liberates them. The mother of invention is freedom; the father of invention is hedonism”. (See http://www.asee.org/prism)

Off-shoring in the curriculum – The Chronicle of Higher Education recently looked at off-shoring/out-sourcing as a subject taught in US business schools and found that it is approached in a variety of ways.  Some universities such as Emory and Indiana University have built into their curriculum trips to countries to which US jobs have been outsourced, while MIT hastily pulled together a course ten days after the opening of the spring 2004 semester.  Louisiana State University accepted $11,000 from Halliburton to prepare a case study on outsourcing, and asked students to advise them on whether or not to support proposed federal anti-outsourcing legislation. (The students concluded that Halliburton shouldn’t support it.)  Some professors have pointed out that the off-shoring rhetoric has been super-heated, but that the subject is a serious one with long-term consequences.  And one faculty member from MIT who teaches the subject even admits that his job could itself be offshored to an overseas faculty reaching students through distance learning.  (See http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i36/36a01201.htm)

More black students in engineering – The US Department of Education has reported that the percentage of black college students majoring in engineering has increased from less than 2% to more than 12% in the past 30 years, according to an article in the April 19th USA Today by In-Sung Yoo. The study compared high school graduating classes from 1972, 1982, and 1992 – with the percentage of black students with engineering majors going from 1.7% to 6.1% to 12.6% respectively. The study found that 70% of black engineers from the high school class of 1992 took either pre-calculus or calculus in high school, and that seven of eight black students who had strong involvement in math and science courses and activities in high school went on to get engineering degrees. (See http://usatoday.com)  

Harvard recommends changes in core curriculum Harvard University recently announced recommendations for major changes in its undergraduate curriculum, including doing away with the famous “core” of required courses, and increasing emphasis on both study abroad and science for all students. The recommendations are the results of a year’s work by a committee, but it will take an additional year for the recommendations to be discussed by the faculty as a whole.  The entire report is available on the Harvard website, http://www.fas.harvard.edu/curriculum-review/. This article was written by Thomas Bartlett for the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042801n.htm)

Learning deficit in poor countries – The lack of quality education programs holds back much of the world, according to an article in the April 22nd Economist.com. Where schools do exist in poor countries, there may be no qualified teachers and a lack of teaching materials and basic equipment. Up to now, the emphasis on aid programs for such countries has been on the proportion of children who enroll in schools, with less attention paid to ensuring a decent education and to keeping them enrolled. In a recent assessment, only 3% of students in Indonesia had a reading competence better than the average of French students, and the average Brazilian student had math skills at the level of the lowest 2% of Danish students. This educational deficit clearly holds back poor countries, thwarting opportunities that they might otherwise be able to exploit in the rapid globalization of the world economy. The article cites a paper prepared for the Copenhagen Consensus Project by Lant Prichett of Harvard University , which argues that systematic reform of education is needed in poor countries in order to lead to appropriate educational achievement. (See http://www.economist.com)  

Tuition breaks for some illegal immigrants – The state of Kansas (USA) has followed the lead of Texas and California and passed legislation permitting some illegal immigrants to qualify for lower in-state tuition in the state’s public universities. Immigrants who graduated from a Kansas high school after attending for three years, or who have earned a General Educational Development certificate (GED) would have to prove that they were seeking legal immigration status or planned to seek it.  This report was written by Alyson Klein for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/05/2004050602n.htm)  

Statistics on engineering education -  The ‘Databytes’ pages in the two most recent issues of ASEE Prism contain interesting information on faculty and student patterns. In the April issue, faculty numbers and student enrollments are listed by engineering discipline. Electrical and computer engineering is largest, with 6,284 faculty, 114,456 undergraduate students, and 47,818 graduate students. Following those numbers in decreasing size are mechanical engineering, computer science, and civil engineering – with ten other branches significantly smaller. In the Summer 2004 issue of Prism, engineering enrollments and degrees are shown to be up – bachelor’s degrees at 70,949 in 2003 compared with 62, 372 in 1999, and undergraduate enrollments almost 374,000 in 2003, up 13% from 1999. (See http://www.asee.org/prism)   

Coalition presses for more responsible investing by university boards – Representative from 22 elite US colleges and universities have formed the Responsible Endowments Coalition to promote social progress, including more stringent world-wide labor standards, responsible investing, and equal-opportunity personnel policies.  In particular, it is advocating the management of university endowments so as to promote socially beneficial initiatives through divesting from unsuitable companies.  The coalition urges universities to vote on shareholder resolutions, which is something that is left frequently unattended, according to John L. Pulley for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Trustees of the institutions, however, are torn between their desire to take guidance from such a group, and their responsibility to the institution in terms of increasing funds through investments.  (See http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/04/2004042301n.htm)

   

5 – Employment

Tech jobs come back – After a three-year slump that erased more than three million jobs, US technology companies have begun hiring again, according to an article in the April 29th Wall Street Journal by Scott Thurm. The gains to date are tiny – fewer than 20,000 jobs since late last year – and concentrated among smaller companies, but they may mark a trend that could brighten the country’s economic outlook. For the first time in several years, more workers are being hired than fired, and companies are again raising salaries. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that after eliminating more than 538,000 jobs in the course of three years, makers of computer hardware and components added 2000 jobs between December and March; and computer system design companies added 14,400 since last July. Despite a strong surge in both revenues and profits, though, many technology executives remain exceptionally cautious – with layoffs continuing in some operations, and tech companies still expanding their overseas operations. (See http://www.wsj.com)  See also a similar article, “Tech Jobs are Sprouting Again” by Spencer Ante and Ben Elgin in the May 10th Business Week. (http://www.businessweek.com)

India losing edge for outsourcing – Wages in India’s major outsourcing areas have been rising by close to 15% a year, due to an increasing competition for qualified labor, according to an article in the May 2nd New York Times by Noam Schreiber. The stiffest competition for offshore labor is for managers in the business-processing sector, where companies poach from one another for qualified and effective individuals. To date the heaviest competition for qualified employees has been in India ’s first-tier cities: Bangalore , Mumbai, New Delhi and Hyderabad . Indian companies are now exploring moving operations to other cities, such as Nasik and Ponticherry, where wage inflation is relatively mild. A recent report indicates that if India continues to produce college graduates at the current rate, demand will exceed supply by 20% in the main outsourcing markets by 2008. Local universities have begun to expand enrollments to meet increased demand for employees for the outsourcing firms. (See http://www.nytimes.com)  

Startups head overseas – Tech startups are heading overseas even more eagerly than multinationals, according to an article in the May 17th Business week by Spencer Ante and Robert Hof. Venture capitalists are prodding companies they invest in to hire workers overseas. While some 15% of the 145 large companies recently surveyed by Forrester Research say they have made offshoring a permanent part of their strategy, an informal survey of venture capitalists suggests 20 to 25% of the companies they invest in have a comparable commitment. Motivation includes lowering costs and finding good talent. (See http://www.businessweek.com)   

Employment lagging in India , despite off-shoring growth The New York Times reported on May 6 that despite India ’s success in building high-tech centers, jobs are scarce in that country. Public sector jobs, with their security and benefits, are disappearing, and in some areas the market has been flooded with so many graduates from new engineering colleges that jobs are hard to come by.  The population is growing faster than jobs can be created, and economists say that the stated 8% unemployment figure is greatly distorted to cover the more dismal reality. Reporter Amy Waldman illustrates the point by referring to a riot which broke out in late 2003 when 600,000 people applied for fewer than 3,000 low level jobs with a railway.    (See http://www.nytimes.com/)  

Is Siemens still German? – Siemens employs so many people abroad that it is reasonable to ask whether it is still a German company, according to an article by Jack Ewing in the May 17th Business Week. The company has steadily reduced domestic employment even as total employment has grown: in 1994 it had 218,000 domestic employees in a pool of 376,000 globally; in 2004, the domestic number has shrunk to 167,000 within a larger global pool of 415,000. Relocation of assembly line jobs to where the customers are has been a major reason for this shift – but more recently software jobs are also moving offshore. Still, Siemens is Germany ’s fourth largest employer, and the top management is predominantly German. Driving forces for these moves are that the German labor market is one of the most rigid in the world, and that companies have to cut costs or find ways to reduce staff. (See http://www.businessweek.com)

Outsourcing predictions increased – The number 3.3 million, Forrester Research’s predicted volume of US jobs that will move overseas by 2015, has been extensively cited as a mantra for the jobless recovery in the US. Now the researchers have issued an update of that 2002 prediction, indicating that job losses will hit a lot sooner than previously expected, according to a note in the May 24th Time. Forrester now believes that by the end of next year some 830,000 jobs will have gone abroad, mainly to India .  That is 242,000 more than it previously predicted for that period. According to the predictions, the tech sector will be hardest hit: 181,000 jobs lost by 2005, some 66% higher than predicted earlier. (See http://www.time.com)   

 

6 – Journals  

Journal of Engineering Education – ASEE’s April 2004 Journal includes four papers from the 2002 Frontiers in Education Conference, and four additional papers. Topics include description of a nationwide Internet-based bridge design contest, student-controlled learning, faculty-student interactions, and a unique approach to assessment. (See http://asee.org/publications)

IEEE Transactions on Education – The May 2004 issue includes eighteen papers, covering topics such as software modeling techniques, computing in the classroom, technology transfer, and web-based applications. (See http://www.ewh.ieee.org/soc/es)

 

7 – Meetings

Convocation of Engineering Societies – The National Academy of Engineering hosted its annual Convocation for leaders of the professional engineering societies on 3-4 May 2004. In a section on Engineering and Public Policy, Senator Jeff Bingaman outlined current congressional concerns in science and technology policy, focusing on the issue of whether the US is losing stature in science and engineering, and listing needs to reverse any such erosion. He was followed by Presidential Science Advisor John Marburger, who focused on threats from terrorism that require attention from the science and engineering community. A second section of the meeting focused on the ”Body of Knowledge” approach to the education of the future engineer being taken by several engineering societies, including its implications for accreditation. A final section of the meeting explored outsourcing of high technology jobs, with a panel of experts exploring the topic from a variety of perspectives. A sprightly post-lunch talk by ASCE President Pat Galloway described a new joint society project to attract more women into engineering.

Global Outsourcing Roundtable – Five large engineering societies held a roundtable on global outsourcing at the US Capital on May 18th, organized by the ASME Washington staff. Private sector perspectives were provided by a panel of experts from academia, an economics think tank, and a council concerned with government procurement practices. Public policy perspectives were added through presentations by Representative Vernon Ehlers and Representative Donald Manzullo, followed by a panel of House and Senate staffers. The final section of the meeting consisted of a panel of engineering society representatives, describing what their organizations were doing on the issue of offshoring. Current society positions range from no-action-to date, to formal policy statements adopted by governing boards. The most extensive society activity has been by IEEE-USA, which has a formal policy statement on offshore outsourcing which was approved by its board in March 2004. (See http://www.ieeeusa.org/forum/POSITIONS)  

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