May 2007

Copyright © 2007 World Expertise LLC – All rights reserved

A periodic electronic newsletter for engineering education leaders,

edited by Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E., and Bethany S. Jones, Ph.D.


1 - International developments

2 - US developments  

3 - Technology

4 - Students, faculty, education

5 - Employment, competitiveness

6 – Journals


1 - International developments

Higher education in Iraq continues to bleed The Chronicle of Higher Education published a set of four articles written by Zvika Krieger in its May 18 issue on higher education in Iraq, all painting a picture of a system decimated by violence and no longer functioning.  Since 2003 it is estimated that as many as 1000 professors may have been killed, 78 at the University of Baghdad alone.  The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is allowing researchers to come to campuses only two days a week, to avoid attack.  Government estimates say that at least 30% of all educated professionals, including engineers, have left the country since 2003.  Those who are left are often those who have been cut off from their disciplines since the first Gulf War, meaning that they are frequently no longer current in their fields.  Authentic research has all but shut down, with grants that were formerly reserved for Baath Party followers now being given out on sectarian grounds.  The UK based Council for Assisting Refugee Academics and the Institute of International Education in the USA have attempted to relocate academics whose lives have been threatened.  The IIE says that it receives about 40 requests each week from Iraqi academics wanting to leave.  Those who are relocated frequently find it hard to learn a new language in a strange country and relaunch their careers. (See

Emirati leader pledges $10 billion in support of Arab education – Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, has pledged $10 billion of his own money to promote improvement in education in the Arab world, reports Mark MacKinnion in the May 21 on-line edition of The Globe and Mail.  Arab leaders gathered in Amman , Jordan were stunned, and wildly enthusiastic.  In creating this foundation, Sheik Mohammed wants to close the gap between the Arab world and the West and Asia , in terms of knowledge.  Arab countries produce only .08% of the world’s books, 43% of Arab women are illiterate, and unemployment currently stands at 14%.  Sheik Mohammed, born in 1949, was educated in the UAE and the UK .  His personal wealth is reported to be $13.8 billion. (See

The decaying of African universities – In days gone by, African countries such as Senegal , Uganda and Nigeria boasted of having a number of strong universities which were a source of pride, as were their notable graduates.  Now, reports Lydia Polgreen in The New York Times in the May 20 online edition, these universities are “warehouses for a generation of young people . . . who can expect to be just as poor as their uneducated parents.”  Much of the blame has been placed on the corrupt governments which swept into power in the 1970s, felt threatened by the democratic leanings of the academic communities, and let them decay.  This was followed by policies of the international funding agencies such as the World Bank which gave funding preference to basic education as a fix for poverty, meanwhile neglecting the increasing numbers of young people who came to the universities only to face critical shortages of space, professors, equipment.  Augmenting the problem has been the loss of thousands of academics who have left Africa to teach abroad.  The current situation is that universities are populated by huge numbers of young people who are angry and disillusioned over the unfulfilled promises of higher education. (See

Australian university abandons its Singapore program – Almost one third of Australian university students are enrolled offshore, but not all Australian offshore programs are successful.  The University of New South Wales will stand to lose tens of millions of US$ when it closes down its campus in Singapore in June, just one semester after opening it, reports Harriet Alexander for the on-line edition of The Sydney Morning Herald on May 24.  The UNSW Asian campus was originally planned to break new ground, in being both a research and a teaching institutions, and aimed at enrolling 15,000 within 20 years.  When that enrollment was below 150 in its first semester, and after discussions with the government of Singapore did not achieve a rescue plan for the campus, university leaders decided to terminate the program, including plans for construction of a $140 million new campus. (See

French scientists watch Sarkozy’s new education and research policies – French scientists and educators have differing views of the future under newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy, reports Martin Enserink in the May 11 edition of Science.   Some, such as Jean-Robert Pitte, president of the Université Paris-Sorbonne, look forward to the reforms Sarkozy has announced, and hope he will go even further, giving universities more autonomy including control over admissions.  Others, such as Bertrand Monthubert, president of Sauvons la Recherche, a group of French researchers, believe that Sarkozy’s plan to turn research bodies such as the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) into funding agencies will not work in France and will make careers in science unattractive.  (See

Arab states promote spending on research and development – The Arab League, meeting in Cairo this spring, pledged member nations to spending  2.5% of their GDP on scientific research and development, wrote Wagdy Sawahel in the Science Development Network on March 30.   The current global average for research and development is 1.4%, but Arab nations spend only .15%.  The plan also calls for Arab nations to spend 7% on education, including science and technology programs.  Finally, the members expressed their intention of exploring the peaceful uses of nuclear energy while monitoring its use at the national level.  The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, and others, are charged with assessing the plan’s progress and implementation. (See

Tony Blair’s legacy of support for science – Tony Blair’s ten year tenure as prime minister of the UK has been marked by significant support of science.  Over the decade, the country’s science budget has more than doubled, the government has worked with, for example, the Royal Society, in writing legislation, animal rights activitsts have been restrained, and stem cell research has proceeded with few restrictions.  Observers point out that the 2000 foot and mouth crisis marked the beginning of a productive working relationships between scientists and the prime minister’s office.  Daniel Clery, reporter for this article in the May 18 edition of Science, says, however, that university science has prospered less: science in secondary schools is hampered by a lack of teachers, university research is not funded so as to support smaller institutions, and numerous university science departments have closed for lack of funding.  (See


2 - US developments  

ACS reinstates Iranian members, partially – The American Chemical Society conferred with the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency which determines how to implement US sanctions against countries such as Iran and Cuba , and has decided to reinstate the fourteen Iranian members from whom it previously withdrew membership. These fourteen members will be granted all membership benefits with the exception of two: access to career development services and discounted attendance at national meetings.  Permission to grant these last two benefits is under consideration at the OFAC, reports William Schulz, writing in Chemical & Engineering News in the May 11 edition. (See

MIT admissions director quits over misstated academic credentials – MIT’s well-known dean of admissions, Marilee Jones, resigned after admitting that she misstated her academic credentials when she first was employed by MIT almost thirty years ago, and never corrected those facts.  The New York Times on April 27 featured this story covered by Tamar Lewin, Christy McKerney and Sara Rimer.  Ms. Jones was well known in her field for attempting to insert some calm into the frequently frenzied world of college admissions, and was the co-author (along with Kenneth R. Ginsberg) of a book entitled Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond.  Since 1979 when she was first hired by MIT Ms. Jones had indicated that she held degrees from three New York institutions.  In 1997, when she was appointed dean of admissions, no one ever went back to verify the facts of her academic preparation. (See

US infrastructure is in crisis – A new report from the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young LLP reinforces the grade of “poor” that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave to the US infrastructure in 2005, writes Thaddeus Herrick in the May 9 on-line edition of The Wall Street Journal. “Infrastructure 2007: A Global Perspective,” says that the transit infrastructure is in crisis, threatening US global competitiveness and suggesting the possibility of more disasters such as the levee failure during Katrina.  Solutions would all call for more taxes, something no political leader wants to advocate. Meanwhile, American’s continued and growing dependency on automobiles has created a problem which no amount of new roads will solve.  Only by planning cities where cars are less needed, and increasing public transportation, will any progress be made.  (See

Researchers told: don’t look to feds to increase funding – US presidential science advisor John Marburger has told US researchers to start looking farther afield for funding, because Congress and the White House were not able to keep up with budget needs.  Pointing out that for the last 40 years science has received a constant portion of available federal funds, Marburger said he didn’t see any reason to think that it would grow larger.  He said that the large increases that the NIH enjoyed in previous years has resulted in the creation of a research infrastructure that the government is unable to sustain, and spoke enthusiastically about the private funding for research that has become available more recently, writes Jeffrey Mervis in the May 11 edition of Science. (See

New handbook describes US higher education – The American Council on Education, with the help of ETS, has published the seventh edition of A Brief Guide to U.S. Higher Education.  This guidebook has chapters on policy issues, students and faculty, and describes important issues related to higher education.  The guide emphasizes the distinctive characteristics of US higher education, to contrast it with other systems around the world.  (See


3 - Technology

Non-engineer takes on questions about ubiquitous computing – A non-engineer has been attracting favorable attention of engineers with the ideas in his book Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing.  Adam Greenfield, the author, claims the challenge of today is for a broader array of people to think about how items such as wired toilets and systems capable of tracking employees’ whereabouts at every moment impact “personal agency, civil liberty, and simple sanity,” writes Andrea L. Foster in the May 18 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Greenfield questions radio-frequency identification, for example, which is under consideration by some campuses as an approach to increased student security in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech killings.  He suggests challenging the assertion that the benefits in terms of security outweigh what is lost in the way of privacy. Greenfield believes that engineers are too frequently people who are not empathetic, and since technology is increasingly about the social aspects of life, this spells trouble.  He also is concerned about the quality of life in cities, as most of today’s technologies pull people inward, not outward, and thus threaten civic life and the good sides of the urban experience.  (See

The next steps in greening American campuses – In 1998, Greening the Ivory Tower: Improving the Environmental Track Record of Universities, Colleges, and Other Institution, was published by Sarah Hammond Creighton.  Now Creighton and Ann Rappaport have published a new book, Degrees That Matter: Climate Change and the University.  In an interview conducted by Elia Powers for Inside Higher Ed, the authors argue for colleges and universities to move beyond small projects that have high PR potential and instead engage in transforming their operations in a comprehensive effort to combat climate change.  Institutions are in a good position to effect change because they often own and operate their own buildings.  Also needed are new governmental policies and incentives. (See

This inventor lights up their lives, literally – When he learned in 2005 that almost two billion people around the world do not have an affordable source of light, Mark Bent, a former foreign service officer who works now in the Houston oil industry, invested a quarter of a million US dollars into developing a solar powered flashlight. These flashlights, which use LEDs, can be charged  daily and provide about seven hours of light.  The three AA batteries need replacing only about every three years and cost $.80.  Partnering with Bent on this project have been the Department of Energy, NASA and some US universities.  Exxon Mobil, the Awty International School of Houston, and the UN have helped the project financially.  This report was written by Will Connors and Ralph Blumenthal for the May 20 online edition of The New York Times. (See

Astrophysicist Hawkings does zero gravity – Zero Gravity Corp. offered Stephen Hawking an opportunity to experience simulated space flight, and a occasion to express his profound conviction that the human race must go into space, given the strong potential for global doom.  Flying out of Cape Canaveral on a Boeing 727, Hawkings, holder of the Isaac Newton chair at Cambridge , along with a team of assistants, enjoyed eight 25 second rounds of weightlessness.  Hawkings, writes Peter Whoriskey in the Washington Post on April 27, wanted not only to demonstrate what someone with disabilities can do, but to encourage others to follow him.  (See

Is Motorola’s razor-thin lead gone? – After only a year of basking in the success of its Razr phone, Motorola has seen its lead in cell phone design outdone by rivals, write Christopher Rhoads and Li Yuan in a substantial article appearing in the April 27 edition of The Wall Street Journal. Adding to its struggles were challenges to the corporate leadership of Ed Zander, who came from outside the industry to lead the company starting in January 2004.  The success of the Razr diverted attention from developing 3G networks which were the focus of competitors.  (See

4 - Students, faculty, education

Re-attracting women into computer science – Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr College have joined forces to create an introductory course in computer science for women, attempting to emphasize the excitement of the discipline from the very beginning.  This is in response to a precipitous drop in the enrollment of women in CS, nationally counted as 70% from 2000 to 2005.  Some leaders in the field are admitting that introductory courses are typically boring, and want to do something about it.  In the new course at Bryn Mawr, for example, each student receives a robot on the first day of class, and begins learning how to program it to do interesting tasks.  Carnegie Mellon took another approach, and dropped its requirement that all in-coming students have prior experience in programming.  Enrollment of women has gone from 7% to 40% in a matter of a few years, reports Josh Fischman in the June 1 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Little evidence about what works in promoting STEM in schools – The Academic Competitiveness Council, created by the US Congress two years ago, has concluded from its study that there is virtually no evidence to decide whether the money spent by the federal government on improving engineering, science and math education is doing any good, reports Burton Bollag in the May 18 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  The council was chaired by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and included representatives from 13 agencies that fund initiatives in the STEM areas.  The report – found at – examined projects whose support totaled $3.12 billion in fiscal 2006.  Each project was asked to provide the best evidence it had about the success of its outcomes.  Of the 115 evaluations submitted, only 10 were considered scientifically rigorous.  And only 4 of the 10 came to the conclusion that the project activity had “meaningful positive impact.” The report concludes with six recommendations which do not call for reduced spending, but for a halt to expansion and for better assessment and coordination. (See; see also “Report Urges More Coordination To Improve Science and Math,” Science, 4 May 2007 ,

Models for studies abroad for engineering students – The University of Rhode Island, Worcester Polytechnic and Purdue were featured in a June 1 Chronicle of Higher Education  article about giving engineering students international experience.  Advocates for study abroad for engineering students say that the profession has become globalized and students need to learn how to solve problems within complex constraints such as those presented in developing countries.  The URI program is focused on teaching students a foreign language, then sending them to use that language in studying and working abroad.  Worcester Poly has designed seven week programs abroad which fit well into the quarter system of the home campus.  Purdue’s program is subsidized by industry, thus reducing financial barriers to participation.  Still, writes Scott Carlson, these programs are making only slow progress, due to factors such as the rigidity of the engineering curriculum which makes it difficult to participate in study abroad without adding a fifth year to the undergraduate program.  (See; see also “Cream of the Crop,” in Prism, Summer 2007, pp. 28 – 32,

College ranking systems go global – While the debate about college rankings continues in the US , rating systems are springing up all around the globe, writes Burton Bollag in the May 25 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  In 2003 the “Academic Rankings of World Universities” from Shanghai began rating universities based strictly on research strength, then publishing a list of the world’s top 500 institutions.  The Times Higher Education Supplement in the UK ranks about 200 institutions based half on opinions and half on student-faculty ratios and citation indexes.  The Center for Higher Education Development in Germany ranks about 250 universities along a number of dimensions, basing the scores on results from surveys of students and faculty.  The information is then posted on an interactive website so that users can select the dimensions they deem most important.  The European Union is looking into a ranking system, and about 20 individual nations around the world have set up rankings of their own colleges.  (See

Colleges join to protest shortcomings of reputational rankings – A movement to change the U.S. News & World Report college ranking system begun by a group of college presidents is slowly gaining momentum. The presidents are calling upon colleges not to participate in the reputation part of the surveys, and not to use rankings in their advertising. Among the colleges which joined the movement is Philander Smith, an historically black college whose president, Walter Kimbrough, says that the rankings do not take into account the mission of his college and other similar institutions which aim at educating students who may not score well on SATs, and which do not have a lot of money to spend on special programs and services, reports Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed.(See

Puppies and kittens vs. microchips? – Rachel Maines, a scholar of science and technology, wrote a piece in the May 25 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education asking “Why Women Become Veterinarians but Not Engineers.”  She points out that schools of veterinary medicine are dominated by women, with 77% of the students in doctoral veterinary-medicine being women, and up to 99% of undergraduates, as compared with 18% of engineering undergraduates being women.  What is striking is that this shift toward women’s participation in the profession has been extremely rapid and apparently spontaneous.  In response to questions about why this has happened, some have cited Title VII, the publication of Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, and the low pay associated with veterinary practice.  But Maines refutes each of these and instead recommends that studies be undertaken to attempt to learn what has happened in veterinary medicine that might be applicable to engineering and science. (See

Campus visits outscore FaceBook in search for colleges – Despite being tech-savvy, today’s high school students rely mostly on traditional sources of information when looking into college, reports Elyse Ashburn in the May 14 on-line edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Using Web-based surveys of 7,867 students, plus 12 focus sessions, “College Search and the Millennial Generation,” published by Eduventures Inc., says that 84% of the students used college websites most heavily in the search-for-college process, 75% relied on personal recommendations, and 64% relied on campus visits.  MySpace, YouTube and the like did not feature prominently as sources of information.  Overall, 71% of the respondents said they began their college search before junior year in high school.  (See

Cheating viewed in a global context – Academic misconduct, in the form of student cheating, was again in the headlines when Duke University announced that 34 MBA students had cheated by collaborating on a take-home examination.  All nine of the students who were expelled as punishment were from Asia , leading to questions about the cultural dimensions of what is known as cheating.  Plagiarism is particularly challenging, because many Asian students are educated to give back verbatim what has been presented to them, without attending to attribution.  In addition, students from abroad can feel isolated enough in their new campus environment that they do not seek guidance on what is considered cheating.  Many US campuses are now strengthening their orientation programs for international students to teach them about standards of academic integrity, and some universities give additional guidance to professors on how to help prevent violations, reports Elizabeth Redden on May 24 for Inside Higher Ed.  (


5 - Employment, competitiveness

Competitiveness: focus of graduate school report and Congressional actions – The US Council of Graduate Schools has released a new report, “Graduate Education: The Backbone of American Competitiveness and Innovation,” and in it points out that other countries are now increasing their investment in graduate education in engineering and science, reports Andy Guess in Inside Higher Ed. The report says that more collaboration between government, industry and universities is needed to focus US efforts on enrollment of under-represented minorities, attraction of the best foreign students, interdisciplinary work, and growth in overall quality of programs.  At the same time, the Senate passed the America COMPETES Act, which calls for NSF funding to double in five years, and the House of Representatives passed bills in support of new researchers and the preparation of science teachers. (See; see also “Congress Gives Rousing Support To Cluster of Innovation Bills, Science, 4 May 2007, pp. 672-673,

A primer on branch overseas branch campuses – The American Council on Education has published a guide to institutions which aspire to expand into cross-border education.  Venturing Abroad: Delivering U.S. Degrees through Overseas Branch Campuses and Programs describes US program currently being offered abroad, and includes some issues which should be considered by institutions contemplating opening such programs. Drivers for engaging in off-short education include revenue generation, increased prestige, developing international involvement, and global service.  (See

Japan seeks to improve its competitiveness through higher ed reformKiyoshi Kurokawa, the government science advisor, was asked to chair the Innovation 25 Strategy Council, a task that has led to his taking leadership in proposing radical reform of Japanese higher education, which in his opinion has been stifling innovation.  His proposals suggest having 20% of courses taught in English, sending Japanese students to study abroad, and abolishing the traditional entrance exam. Even more challenging is his plan to change the hierarchical patterns which constrain intellectual activity in academic departments, writes David McNeill in the June 1 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. (See


6 – Journals

International Journal of Engineering Education – Volume 23 Number 2 contains a focused section on Educating Students in Sustainable Engineering, with guest editors Lynn Katz and John Sutherland. Some 12 papers in this section explore strategies for educating for sustainability in the engineering curriculum. A second section of the journal contains ten additional papers on a variety of engineering education topics. (See

Global Journal of Engineering Education – Volume 11 Number 1 contains ten papers on a variety of engineering education topics, including learning efficiency, balance of research and practice, performance-based evaluation, cross-disciplinary cooperation, and communication skills. (See

Chemical Engineering Education – The Spring 2007 contains a testimony to an outstanding faculty member, Duncan Fraser of Cape Town University ; it also contains some eleven papers on curriculum issues, laboratory developments, and classroom and homework interactions. (See

IEEE Transactions on Education – The May 2007 issue includes some seven regular papers on topics including collaborative teaching, web-based assessment, and learner satisfaction outcomes. 2006 IEEE Education Society Awards are also noted. (See




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