Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E.

World Expertise LLC

Falls Church , VA , USA



Many faculty members at engineering schools in developing countries have difficulty in participating in professional development activities such as international conferences on engineering education, or conferences on their technical specialty areas. Often advanced graduates from engineering programs in developed countries, they are heavily constrained for resources upon return to teaching positions in their native countries – little funding for labs and research, limited access to current publications, and scarce if any funding for travel to professional and technical meetings. This paper describes efforts of the WFEO Committee on Capacity Building and other groups to address these problems, typically through electronic means.



In the global economy of the 21st Century, engineers play a key role in overall economic development for countries and regions. In the well developed countries, the role of the engineer is well understood and utilized. In much of the developing world, however, the available pool of engineering talent is typically below critical mass – and economic development and even important basic societal needs that rely on engineering – such as clean water supply and sanitation – lack the technical talent to address them. 

Indigenous engineering schools, and the faculty to effectively staff them, are key to the forward progress of developing countries. Technical capacity building efforts, such as those being pursued by the World Federation of Engineering Organization and UNESCO, rely heavily on local engineering educators to develop the necessary pool of well educated and certified engineers to allow developing countries to begin to be competitive in the global marketplace.

Faculty members in engineering schools in least developed countries often have had the advantage of high quality graduate educations, with master’s and doctoral degrees from well respected universities in the highly developed countries. Those who are dedicated to improving the situation in their native countries often return home after graduate study abroad, and take teaching position at local universities. They are then often beset by a multitude of problems – inadequate salaries, forcing them to have an additional job which detracts from their university effectiveness; lack of financial resources for teaching and research laboratory equipment, and for publications that could keep them abreast of developments in their technical and professional fields; and lack of funds for travel to conferences that could keep them technically and professionally up to date.

With developments in electronic tools and communications over recent decades, it is increasingly possible to provide resources to engineering faculty members in developing countries through the Internet, satellite transmissions, and digital media. Several organizations are pursuing such delivery systems to facilitate continuing professional and technical development opportunities for engineering faculty members in developing countries.

This paper is intended to provide a resource to engineering faculty members in developing countries, by outlining various options for their continuing professional development and providing pointers on how to access them. In addition, it is intended to call to the attention of providers of continuing education in the engineering field that a potential audience may be being underserved. It is hoped that such providers will advertise their offerings to engineering educators in developing countries, and offer them at prices that are affordable to that audience.


Capacity building

Economic development for developing countries can be effectively stimulated by building the technical capacity of their workforce, through quality engineering education programs. A competent technical workforce base can then provide several paths to economic development: attraction of technically oriented multi-national companies, who can invest effectively in the developing country once there is a cadre of qualified local employees available; effective utilization of foreign aid funds, providing a legacy of appropriate infrastructure projects and technically competent people to operate and maintain them; and small business startups by technically competent entrepreneurs. Both UNESCO and the World Federation of Engineering Organizations are currently actively engaged in technical capacity building in developing countries.

High quality engineering education is a necessary forerunner to such economic development; and technically competent and current faculty members are key to providing high quality engineering education programs. In addition, quality assurance systems such as peer review based accreditation are needed to promote such high quality education programs. Such quality assurance systems can then provide the basis for cross-border recognition systems, permitting the flow of services and goods across national boundaries.

Capacity building is a dedication to the strengthening of economies, governments, institutions and individuals through education, training, mentoring, and the infusion of resources.  Capacity building aims at developing secure, stable, and sustainable structures, systems and organizations, with a particular emphasis on using motivation and inspiration for people to improve their lives.

What outcomes are desired?

         Technical capability is needed for developing countries to engage effectively in the global economy.

         Indigenous science and technology capacity is needed to insure that international aid funds are utilized effectively and efficiently – for initial project implementation, for long-term operation and maintenance, and for the development of capacity to do future projects.

         In order to stimulate job formation, a technical workforce pool is needed, made up of people who are specifically educated and prepared to engage in entrepreneurial startup efforts that meet local needs

Two complementary approaches are being pursued in parallel to achieve these desired outcomes:

         UNESCO “Cross-sectoral activities in technical capacity-building” decision, to enhance engineering programs within that organization

         WFEO Committee on Capacity Building , to provide an action oriented program for forward motion

UNESCO plans for capacity building

In 2003, the United States of America rejoined UNESCO after an absence of 18 years. The US government indicated to UNESCO that it wanted a significant portion of the increased funds that it would provide to its budget to be allocated to enhancing its programs in engineering and engineering education. A major proposal on how to mount an enhanced program, entitled “Cross-sectoral activities in technical capacity-building”, was developed and submitted to UNESCO for consideration. This effort, to he housed in the science sector and reporting directly to the Assistant Director General for Science, will focus broadly on building personal and institutional capabilities in developing countries to address poverty reduction, economic development, and related issues. Presented by the US Ambassador to UNESCO at the April 2005 meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board, this approach has been adopted and referred to the UNESCO Director General for implementation.

WFEO Standing Committee on Capacity Building

Motivated by a renewed interest in engineering and engineering education at UNESCO, at least partially driven by the decision of the United States of America to rejoin UNESCO after an 18 year absence, the Word Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) Moved in October 2003 to establish a new Standing Committee on Capacity Building, with the United States as the host of the international organization.

Following is a list of the activities being pursued by the WFEO Committee on Capacity Building :

         Engineering for the Americas – capacity building throughout Latin America and the Caribbean , utilizing both a ‘bottoms-up’ approach involving initiatives for engineering educators and a ‘top-down’ approach with policy level decisions at the Ministerial level of government. The Ministers of Science and Technology of the Organization of American States have endorsed this program in their November 2004 “Lima Declaration”, and a major symposium of government, academic, industry and NGO leaders was held from 30 November through 2 December 2005 in Lima, Peru. 

         African initiative – development of programs for the enhancement of engineering education and its quality assurance in six countries which currently have major foundation grants to improve their overall higher education. Efforts include engineering education workshops, accreditation system development, teaching of entrepreneurship to engineering and business students, and internship programs with multi-national companies.

         Virtual exhibit, e-conferences – capturing of exhibits at a major engineering education conference (book displays, equipment demonstrations, hardware and software products, information services, etc.) to make available on a cd-rom to engineering educators in developing countries; planning and conducting of electronic conferences, such that engineering educators in developing countries can participate in virtual meetings even though typically unable to travel to live conferences

         Entrepreneurial conference – planning for an international conference on teaching entrepreneurship to engineering students

         Black Sea University Network workshop – planning for a workshop on best-practices in engineering education, to be held in Moldova for the dozens of engineering schools within the 100-member Black Sea University Network

         Gender issues – collaborating with two major international organizations concerned with gender issues in engineering education, to assist in getting more appropriate women into the engineering education pipeline, and on into engineering practice

         South-south interactions – collaborating with a moderately developed country to provide programs that have such countries utilize their expertise to assist lesser developed countries

         Engineers without borders – collaborating with younger engineers involved in the growing ‘engineers without borders’ movement internationally

         FIDIC collaboration – working with the international organization of consulting engineers to promote establishment of indigenous consulting firms in developing countries

         UNESCO/WFEO Expert Conference – Planning a major international conference on aspects of engineering education relevant to capacity building and poverty reduction, to be co-sponsored with UNESCO

“Cross-sectoral activities in technical capacity-building” is a call to action from the United Nations. The WFEO Committee on Capacity Building is the response of the engineering profession throughout the world in the form of a strategic action agenda.


Faculty updating

Given the importance of technically competent and current engineering faculty members in developing countries, capacity building efforts in those countries must address the needs of such faculty members as part of their overall strategies. Following is a list of mechanisms that can be utilized in such efforts.



Technical capacity building is a necessity in developing countries if they are to be able to join the technology-based global economy of the 21st Century. Engineering educators in such developing countries are key to such capacity building – preparing future generations of qualified engineers, providing research and development results to fuel local industries, and consulting for the productive sector and local governments on technical issues.

With the information and communications tools currently available, and becoming more readily available in the developing world, a wide variety of mechanisms are available to assist engineering educators in developing countries to update their knowledge and skills for lifelong effectiveness.

This paper has provided a resource to engineering faculty members in developing countries, by outlining various options for their continuing professional development and providing pointers on how to access them. In addition, it has provided rationale to providers of continuing education in the engineering field that a potential audience may be being underserved. It is hoped that such providers will advertise their offerings to engineering educators in developing countries, and offer them at prices that are affordable to that audience.



1) Jones, Russel C., “ Engineering Capacity Building in Developing Countries to Promote Economic Development”, Proceedings, SEFI 2005 Annual Meeting, Ankara , Turkey ,

European Society for Engineering Education, Brussels , Belgium    

2) Accreditation information: www.abet.org  

3) Distance education: www.open.ac.uk/ ;       www.allengineeringschools.com/?src=goo_eng_schools1

4) Exchange program information: www.iie.org

5) Free publications: www.nas.edu    

6) Research program information: www.nsf.gov

7) Open courseware: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html

8) Regional conferences: www.eng.monash.edu.au/uicee/

9) Research program information: www.nsf.gov

10) Online membership: www.asee.org/members/accounts/gom.cfm

11) Society continuing education: http://www.ieee.org/web/education/Continuing_Education/index.html



Russel C. Jones is a private consultant, working through World Expertise LLC to offer services in engineering education in the international arena. Prior to that, he had a long career in education: faculty member at MIT, department chair in civil engineering at Ohio State University , dean of engineering at University of Massachusetts , academic vice president at Boston University , and President at University of Delaware . Dr. Jones is President of the Capacity Building Committee of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations.