November 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

2 - US developments

3 - Distance education, technology

4 - Students, faculty, education

5 – Employment

6 – Journals

7 – Meetings


1 - International developments

Reform in Russia – President Vladimir Putin has begun a campaign to trim Russia’s vast network of state-funded research institutions, according to an article by Andrey Allakhverdov and Vladimir Pokrovsky in the November 5th Science. Although there is general agreement that the current system is broken, no consensus exists on what is needed to fix it. In a recent speech Putin squelched rumors that he wanted to do away with the Russian Academy of Sciences, but he wants it to adapt to present realities. The plan that seems to have favor is to privatize, merge, sell off or close most of the academy’s roughly 5000 research institutions, while increasing support for the 100 to 200 institutes that would remain. Such drastic moves have drawn criticism from RAS trade unions, which fear that the academy would become a state department under the proposed plan. (See

“Secret” move afloat in Russia to merge state universities, labs Russia ’s minister of education and science recently announced that his country’s state universities and state laboratories would be merged in order to revitalize and rejuvenate research and stem brain-drain.  This information leaked from secret documents and has led to intense anxiety from academics who are worried that some of their institutions might be privatized or even disbanded, writes Bryon MacWilliams in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Viktor A. Sadovnichy, the rector of Moscow State University , has been enlisted by the government to help control rumors, and he states that the intent is to increase the effectiveness of the organizations.  (See

Canadian Science Academy Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has backed the formation of a Canadian Academy of Sciences (CAS), according to an article by Wayne Kondro in the October 22nd Science. He has promised that his budget next spring will include $27.6-million over 10 years for a new national level organization that would deliver independent assessments on pressing scientific questions. But its status is dependent on the survival of Martin’s minority government, which narrowly avoided being toppled in a procedural vote following the speech in which he announced his budget priorities. CAS would be run by the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Advanced Medicine. Concerned about the low level of funding projected, one prominent scientist described the plan as “scientific advice on a shoestring”. The Royal Society estimates that CAS could carry out no more than five studies a year – as compared with the 200 or so produced each year by the U.S. National Academies. (See

Unfavorable reports released on costs, standards, in Australian higher ed – Two reports presented at a higher education conference in Sydney , Australia , made waves recently.  One indicated that foreign students pay more to live and study in Australia than they would if they went to the US . Australia is now second in cost only to the UK as an English-speaking foreign study destination. The other report suggested that the presence of international students is putting pressure on institutions to lower their standards in order to retain those income generating students. This conclusion is not new, but it is the first time that the subject has been bolstered by concrete research findings, writes David Cohen for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

French protests seek reforms – French scientists meeting in Grenoble recently were single-minded about the need to reform government agencies and boost careers in their fields, according to an article by Barbara Casassus in the November 5th Science. They pressed for everything from cash to careers in the name of overhauling fundamental research, including proposals to create a single research and higher education ministry, an independent higher science council to advise the government on strategy, a new body to evaluate all researchers, a long-term jobs plan for researchers, and more crossover between agency and academic research. How much of that wish list will find its way into a parliamentary bill promised by the minister for education and research remains to be seen. (See

Merger in Tokyo involves engineering, technical institutions – The Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Technology and the Tokyo Metropolitan College of Aeronautical Engineering are two of the four Japanese institutions slated to be merged into one organization next April, in a move that the government hopes will substantially trim the $145 million it spends on the four individual colleges now.  As part of the merger faculty will no longer be civil servants and will have their tenure replaced with fixed term contracts.  The faculty have protested vehemently, but so far, to no avail, according to Alan Brender in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Mexico plans major change to support research, innovation – The Mexican government appeared to be well on its way to reforming the financial incentives available to industry and state universities and research centers by permitting the public agencies to retain all the profits they gain from research and inventions, and increasing substantially the tax benefits for companies that invest in research, says Marion Lloyd in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The changes are in reaction to Mexico ’s declining investment in research over the course of President Vincente Fox’s tenure in office, and the country’s declining position when compared with competitors such as China and Brazil .  (See

European Research Council proceeds – Barely two years after researchers first dreamed up a brand new funding agency, scientists and administrators are confident that politicians will seal the deal on the European Research Council in 2005. According to an article in the October 29th Science by Martin Enserink, scientists are filling in the details of how it should operate – how to organize peer review, whether it should fund big instruments like particle smashers, and whether it should hop on the open-access publication bandwagon. At a recent meeting hosted by UNESCO, some 150 people from around the continent showed widespread agreement: the council should be run independently by scientists, at arm’s length from Brussels , and should fund both the natural sciences and humanities. (See

Growth of foreign students in China on track toward Olympic goal – The number of foreign students enrolled in Chinese universities is up 11% this year over last – to 86,000 – with most of those being non-degree seeking language students from other Asian countries where universities are even more over-crowded and costly. The Education Ministry aims at enrolling a total of 120,000 foreign students in China by one year before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing , writes Paul Mooney for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Australia proposes putting all public universities under federal control – Australian Education Minister Brendan Nelson announced a plan to place all public universities, now operated under state control, under federal control, with the intent of upgrading quality and changing the system of tenure.  The universities affected are in an uproar.  The reality, however, is that by July 2005 the government will have an unassailable majority in the upper chamber of Parliament and can force the issue, says David Cohen in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Nobel Peace Prize awarded – A political activist from Kenya has been selected for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, according to an article by Gretchen Vogel and David Malakoff in the October 15th Science. Wangari Maathai, 64, is the first African woman to be awarded the prestigious prize, and the first to be honored for environmental work. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which since 1976 has organized local groups to plant an estimated 30-million trees across eastern and southern Africa . The Norwegian Nobel committee said that Maathai “combines science, social commitment, and active politics. More than simply protecting the existing environment, her strategy is to secure and strengthen the very basis for ecologically sustainable development”. (See

Nigerian university revokes thousands of its own degrees – The University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, recently revoked 7,254 of its degrees citing academic fraud dating back to 1996. Falsification of records, cheating on examinations and general corruption are wide-spread in the country, and the situation compelled Nimi Briggs, head of the university, to establish a zero-tolerance policy, writes Wachira Kigotho in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See

Corruption scores internationally – Transparency International has released its tenth annual corruption survey, according to a note in the November 15th Fortune by Oliver Ryan. The index used in evaluating 146 countries focuses on public-sector corruption – the abuse of public office for private gain. One hundred six of the countries scored less than 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, with the average of all countries being a dismal 4.2. Seven countries scored 9 to 10 ( Sweden , Singapore ,…), nine scored 8 to 9 ( Britain , Germany , …), and seven scored 7 to 8 (US, Chile , France,…). At the bottom end of the scale seven countries scored 1 to 2 ( Haiti , Nigeria ,…) and fifty-three scored 2 to 3 ( Indonesia , Russia , India , Argentina , Iran ,…). (See

Successful Ghanaian entrepreneur establishes a private college in Accra – A successful Ghanaian engineering and economics major who graduated from Swarthmore College (USA) has decided to show his gratitude for the education he received in the US by founding a similar institution in his homeland.  Ashesi University , located in the capital city of Accra , is a private institution and is already identified as one of the best in the country.  Mr. Awuah, the benefactor who also serves as president, says his goal is simply to graduate students who are ethical, who understand business, and who will be the next generation of leaders in the country.  To do that, his new college is exceptionally well-equipped, bases its curriculum on the liberal arts, and has faculty who work with students rather than lecturing down at them.  The curriculum was designed by US experts and contains a strong dose of ethics, writes Wachira Kigotho in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See


2 - US developments

US Fulbright program returns to its roots of public diplomacy – The US Fulbright Student Program has reexamined its mission and decided to refocus efforts on public diplomacy rather than academic work.  The intent is to reach out to institutions which have never submitted applications in the past, and to recognize the value of cultural exchange, according to Sara Lipka in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The Fulbright Program, begun in 1946, is one of the best known sources of support for international studies by US citizens.  (See

Bush cabinet changes – The re-election of George W. Bush as US President is leading to several changes in his cabinet – the latest of which is Secretary of Education Rod Paige, according to an article by Diana Jean Schemo in the November 13th New York Times. An informal announcement makes Dr. Paige the third cabinet official who will not stay for the second Bush term – following the resignations of Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans. Paige was the first black secretary of education. He has been key to implementing Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative. Speculation is that Margaret Spellings, the White House domestic policy advisor, will be nominated to replace him. (See

Results of local higher ed initiatives mixed in recent US voting – Even though eclipsed by the glare of the US presidential elections, many important higher education related ballot measures were submitted to voters on November 2.  In California , voters approved a measure to fund stem-cell research and provide money for facilities.  Human-reproductive cloning, however, would be specifically prohibited.  In Missouri , money will be taken, with voters’ approval, from higher education to fund road construction and maintenance.  Similarly, Nebraska voters aid it would be ok to take 5% of the Education Innovation Fund to support the Nebraska State Fair Board.  New Mexico voters approved a bond issue for higher education construction and repair, including equipment and technology.  The article was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

Scholar claims affirmative action limits number of black attorneys in US – The November issue of the Stanford Law Review will contain an article that has already generated heated controversy.  In it, University of California at Los Angeles law professor Richard H. Sander argues that affirmative action in law school admissions sets up black students for failure at ultra-competitive schools, and that ending racial preferences would actually increase the number of practicing black attorneys by placing black students in suitably competitive schools where they could learn more.  This, in turn, would permit them to pass bar examinations more successfully and increase their numbers in practice. Sander based his study on 1991 – 1997 data from the Law School Admission Council, which covers 27,000 students who began law studies in 1991.  While some noted scholars have said that the article is thought-provoking, others are vehemently objecting to the conclusions Sander draws.  The Stanford Law Review plans to publish rebuttals in its May issue, writes Katherine S. Mangan in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (See


3 - Distance education, technology

Nanotech forum addresses societal concerns – Stung by memories of bruising battles over genetically modified organisms, leaders in nanotechnology have met to launch a new forum for hashing out concerns over the nascent field of building materials up from the atomic scale. According to an article in the November 5th Science by Robert Service, the International Council on Nanotechnology has been established by leaders from industry, academia, and environmental organizations. Some environmental groups are wary of the new group, citing the fact that most of the funding comes from industrial members, and that some of the proposed projects seem aimed at convincing the public that nanotechnology is safe rather than addressing basic concerns over the revolutionary technology. Yet to be addressed at future meetings of the forum are important topics such as ensuring broad access to revolutionary technologies and promoting research that benefits poor people as well as rich. (See

@ Educause: futuristic warnings issued about IT and extinction of universities  The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the late October annual meeting of Educause and tapped into the ideas of many of the participants and attendees.  In one article by Scott Carlson and Dan Carnevale, Howard Strauss, a Princeton administrator, and James J. Duderstadt, the former president of the University of Michigan, ,both took speculative leaps into the future and by doing so, may have threatened the mind-set of today’s faculty members.  Strauss wondered whether it was wise for universities to pack their classrooms with high tech equipment, when most of the learning is taking place outside of the classroom.  Duderstadt warned that universities face extinction unless campus presidents take charge of the change that is going on in the learning society around the globe.  (See

Saving dying African languages – Across Africa, linguists are working with information technology experts to make computers more accessible to Africans who do not know the major languages that are programmed into the world’s desktops, according to an article in the November 12th New York Times by Marc Lacey. Hundreds of local languages in Africa are dying out, and the continent’s linguists see computers as one important way of saving them. UNESCO estimates that 90% of the world’s 6000 languages are not represented on the Internet, and that one language is disappearing somewhere around the world every two weeks. Experts say that putting local languages on the screen will lure more Africans to information technology, narrowing the digital divide between the world’s rich and poor – as well as preserving the use of the local languages. (See

Seashore fight over wind energy -  A private company is proposing to build a major wind energy farm in Nantucket Sound, according to an article by Cornelia Dean in the November 14th New York Times, causing discussion of whether such a development would be a hideous blot on the landscape or a significant step toward clean power and energy independence. Environmental groups praise the project as a safe, nonpolluting and desperately needed alternative to fossil fuel power plants. But opponents say that it would be just too ugly – an industrial development that would wreck pristine vistas in a major tourism area. A preliminary Corps of Engineers review is generally positive about the proposed project, saying that the 130 support towers would not negatively impact boat or aircraft operations in the area, nor damage local marine mammal and shellfish life. (See

Microsoft sharpens up its elbows – Software giant Microsoft is trying to elbow aside rivals that have pioneered new markets, according to an article in the November 22nd Business Week by Jay Greene. It is producing products to compete with TiVo in digital-video recording and with Google in Web searching. It will work with Comcast Corporation to offer new digital cable set-top boxes loaded with Microsoft software, and will launch a test version of its new Web-search engine. While neither push will likely add much immediate growth to Microsoft’s profit, both are strategic efforts to stake ground in important growth markets. (See


4 - Students, faculty, education

Foreign students turn away from US – Visa delays, fear of government red tape, and competition from universities elsewhere are keeping thousands of international students from studying in the US, according to a note by Greg Toppo in the November 10th USA Today. Citing a recent survey of 480 colleges, nearly two-thirds of the schools enrolling the most foreign students have fewer new graduate students this fall. Last year US colleges enrolled 572,509 foreign students, down 2.4% from 2002 – the first drop since the 1970’s. (See From another survey, statistics reported in the November issue of IEEE Spectrum provide information on the decline of applications to US institutions from abroad: 28% overall decline in applications for US graduate programs between 2003 and 2004; and 36% decline in applications to US graduate programs in engineering. It is also reported that the US State Department has been taking an average of 67 days to conduct security checks for non-US science and engineering students seeking to study “sensitive technologies” in the US . (See

New guide for US studies abroad students   Five advertising majors who graduated from Southern Methodist University (USA) have published a handy “World Citizens Guide” for US study abroad students.  The guide tells students how to think and conduct themselves in order to combat negative impressions that people all over the world have of Americans.  Information was gathered from returning students, existing print resources and others, and is presented in a conversational tone.  PepsiCo supported the project with $200,000 which will allow the guides to be sent free to member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, says Sara Lipka in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

How to seriously irritate your students – An article by Jeffrey R. Young in the Chronicle of Higher Education lays it on the line about the bad use of instructional technology.  There are three dominant failings among professors, Young writes: reading their PowerPoint slides; wasting time fumbling with equipment; and not moderating chat rooms they set up. What is clear is that high tech classrooms do not automatically make a faculty member a better teacher, and may actually make the person worse, or at least more irritating to students.  What are the solutions? They range from paying faculty to attend workshops, to outfitting all classrooms with basic IT equipment, to avoiding putting everything on slides that are then posted on a website.  (See

Contingent faculty trends – Bucking the trend in higher education, engineering departments have yet to employ nontenured, contingent faculty in significant numbers, according to an article by Thomas Grose in the November ASEE Prism. An accounting of engineering teaching faculty members shows 10,793 full professors, 5920 associate professors, 4868 assistant professors, and 2129 nontenure-track teaching personnel (full-time equivalent of 1253). Outside the classroom, however, many engineering schools have significant numbers of full-time, nontenured researchers. (See

New test of computer and information literacy released – The US Educational Testing Service is releasing a new test of computer and information literacy that redefines the computer skills university students need.  Rather than just testing a student’s ability to use software packages, this new test will assess whether the student can evaluate information and use technology for problem solving and creativity, writes Jeffrey Young in the Chronicle of Higher Education.   The new test will be released on a trial basis in January 2005, with aggregated results provided to institutions for their use in program evaluation and improvement.  Once a baseline is established, individual test results will be provided to exam takers. (See

Teaching the small stuff – Nanotechnology offers great promise for improving health and cleaning up the environment, and schools are scrambling to figure out how to teach it, according to an article by Corinna Wu in the October ASEE Prism. Ethicists, philosophers, ecologists and economists are providing perspectives on nanotechnology, in addition to the technical base provided by scientists and engineers. So programs currently being developed often include courses in management, science policy and ethics as well as hard-core science classes. Approaches at various universities cover the spectrum from a brand new College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering at SUNY Albany to a minor in nanotechnology at Penn State . (See

CEO salaries for university presidents – The earnings of many top university presidents are spiraling up toward $ 1-million a year, according to a survey reported in the November 15th New York Times by Sam Dillon. Forty-two presidents of private universities were paid more than $500,000 in the 2003 fiscal year, compared with 27 presidents in the previous year, and only two in 1994. The highest paid is William Brody of Johns Hopkins University , who earned $897,786 in university compensation – and an additional $100,000 or more for serving on corporate boards. The presidents of public universities too are earning salaries that would have been inconceivable a few years ago.  At public universities, 17 presidents earn more than $500,000 a year, compared with 12 the previous year and 6 the year before that. Mark Emmert of the University of Washington is the highest paid public university president, earning $762,000 this year. An official of the American Association of University Professors observed that “these huge salaries feed into the ongoing corporatization of the academy”. (See

Canadian magazine uses input from graduates in annual ranking of colleges Maclean’s magazine again published its annual ranking of Canadian colleges and universities, but this time included a satisfaction survey of recent graduates.  Graduates were overwhelmingly satisfied with the education they received, but all noted that shortage of funding meant shortfalls in resources.  Public funding of Canadian higher education has fallen 20% since 1980.  In addition to the graduate satisfaction survey, the measures used to rank institutions include such things as student retention, percentage of courses taught by tenured and tenure-track professors, campus resources, class sizes, etc., writes Karen Birchard in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  (See

How smart is AP? – As ambitious students load up on Advanced Placement classes, critics question their quality, according to an article by Claudia Wallis and Carolina Miranda in the November 8th Time. High school overachievers thirst to stand out in the brutal college admissions game. Last May 1.9-million AP exams were taken by 1.1-million US high school students – more than double the number in 1994, and more than six times the number 20 years ago. During the past decade the number of high schools offering AP classes has grown by a third, to 14,904, or 60% of all US high schools. There are 34 different AP tests today, ranging from music theory to computer science, compared with 11 when they were introduced in 1995. All this growth is generally viewed as good news by parents, college-admission officers, school administrators, and politicians. But some educators are worried that the AP is turning out to be an alternative high school curriculum that teaches to the test instead of encouraging the best young minds to think more creatively. (See

Gift to support commercialization in engineering college – The University of Southern California received a $22 million gift from a venture capitalist, earmarked to help move inventions out of the lab and into the market.  Mark and Mary Stevens, the donors, will endow the Mark and Mary Stevens Institute of Technology Commercializing in the USC engineering school.  New courses in commercialization will be developed and new staff added to work on patents, licensing and marketing.   The institution hopes to greatly increase its success in commercializing the outputs of its research labs, writes Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle of Higher Education.   (See

Curing campus blues – Nearly one in two undergraduates will become severely depressed at some time during college, according to surveys reported in the November 1st U.S. News and World Report by Anne McGrath. And recent research indicates that a much higher proportion than in recent years will contemplate suicide. This article reports on an interview with Richard Kadison, chief of Harvard’s mental health services. He explains the surge in depression among college students and suggests what parents can do to inoculate their kids against such problems. (See

Harvard to expand engineering faculty – Engineering is one discipline likely to get a boost under a planned Harvard University hiring boom, according to a brief note in the November 5th Science by Andrew Lawler. As part of a push to improve its faculty-student ratio, engineering and applied sciences could grow from around 60 to 100 professors. (See


5 – Employment

Infrastructure problems in Bangalore India ’s IT center at Bangalore has exploded, and so have its infrastructure problems. According to an article by Josey Puliyenthuruthel in the November 1st Business Week, the success of the high tech industry there has increased Bangalore’s population by a third since 1995, resulting in choked roads, power outages, an erratic water supply, and poor sanitation. Crowded roads mean that tech workers arrive at work spent and frustrated, leading to less productivity. A $1.1-billion metro system is far  behind schedule, and a long-overdue new airport may be delayed beyond its 2010 target date. Tech companies have petitioned state officials for change, but have not had much success. Given that the city contributes to a third of the country’s software products, a crisis in Bangalore could turn into a traffic jam India can do without. (See

Off-shoring seen as holding promise for both rich and poor countries – Ben Edwards, writing a lead article in the November 11th issue of The Economist, examines “the global deployment of work,” aka “off-shoring.” While the history of industrial production has always been characterized by continuous reorganization, only recently have technology and transportation provided a means of turning to outside suppliers for white-collar work, and breaking the link between the geography of production and the geography of consumption. Although some companies say, in secret, that about half of the work they do in-house could be outsourced, thus striking fear in the hearts of workers, the author believes that in the long run, the dynamics that brought about the boom of the 1990s are still in play, so the outlook for the world economies is positive. (See

Dell to build US factory – The number one pc maker, Dell, has announced plans to build a factory and hire 1500 workers in an economically hard-hit part of North Carolina . According to an article by Michelle Kessler in the November 10th USA Today, Dell’s domestic growth comes as most other large tech firms are moving work overseas to save costs. But according to CEO Kevin Rollins, outsourcing is not a good thing for Dell. He says that Dell’s international facilities mainly serve local markets, and that it is better for business “to stay very close to our customers”. Keeping pc-making local gives dell several advantages, including huge tax breaks, lower shipping costs, and government contracts. (See

Women seen as underutilized economic resource – A UK expert sees the low numbers of women in science and engineering as a concern for national economies, according to an article in the November MentorNet News. Nancy Lane , a cell biologist in the UK who directs Cambridge ’s Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative, says that it is a great waste not to use 50% of the population – women -- who need to be encouraged to see that they can have interesting careers in SET. Lane stresses the need for gathering data so that employers can benchmark their progress, educating women for the SET workforce, and utilizing the media to raise public awareness of the issue. (See


6 – Journals

Journal of Engineering Education – The October 2004 issue of ASEE’s Journal of Engineering Education contains seven articles, including a pair on the Intellectual Development of Science and Engineering Students. Other articles deal with an entrepreneurship program, teaching evaluations, graduation rates, design tools, and cooperative education. (See


7 – Meetings

World Engineering Convention 2004 – Hosted by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, and sponsored by the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, UNESCO and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, WEC2004 was held in Shanghai in early November. Some 3000 engineers and engineering students gathered for several days of technical sessions on network engineering and information society, biological engineering and health care, transportation and sustainable mega-cities, environmental protection and disaster mitigation, agricultural engineering and food security, resources and energy, power and energy, and ecological material and green manufacturing. Other highlights included a project show for future engineers, a women in engineering forum, and a plenary session on WFEO and the United Nations. (See

OAS Ministerial meeting – The Ministers and High Authorities of Science and Technology of the Organization of American States met in Lima , Peru in mid-November to address the incorporation of science, technology, engineering, and innovation as a major driving force behind the economic and social development of the countries of the Western Hemisphere . In a “Declaration of Lima” and associated plan of action, the ministers adopted policy statements that encourage OAS countries to enhance their efforts in the technological fields in order to create jobs and combat poverty, while dealing with environmental and gender issues. One important hemisphere initiative in the plan for action promoted the development of “Engineering for the Americas ”, citing the need for a well educated and highly qualified technical workforce as a key component in facilitating social development and economic growth in developing countries in the hemisphere. (See 



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