Manchester, England, August 19, 2002


Dr. Win Aung, Secretary-General, iNEER/ICEE-ISC 



Good morning!  It’s great to have so many of you here this morning.  On behalf of the iNEER Board, the ICEE-ISC and myself, I extend a special welcome to all of you.  By being here, you are on a noble journey to elevate the quality of engineering education and the education experience for the next generation of engineers, by sharing experience and learning from your colleagues from around the world.  I thank you for being here.  Thank you also for your support for iNEER and for ICEE.


I also thank you for sending me your e-mails last year right after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  Some of these e-mails have been posted on the iNEER website.  It was a tragedy that affected many people worldwide, and your words of encouragement were greatly appreciated.  Many of you said to me at the time: We need to work together now more than ever.  I agree, and I believe that those words ring true to many of the people of iNEER who read your messages.


Crisis and Opportunity


In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy said: “United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do.”  In this spirit, I am doubly glad to see you here in these unusual times.  The American writer John Steinbeck once said during the height of the Cold War: “Humanity has been passing through a gray and desolate time of confusion.”  It looks to me like this quote is appropriate for our time as well.


If the world seems to generate a crisis a day, let me remind you about a Chinese saying, which my good friend, Professor Chang-Lin Tien of the University of California at Berkeley, likes to quote.  The saying goes that, crisis and opportunity always go hand in hand.


That’s a good way for us to face the challenges today.  We cannot afford to hesitate in the face of crisis and confusion, whether political or economic.  We must seize the moment offered by the vast opportunities opening in front of us in the global education enterprise.  Today, there are opportunities offered to the world community through political imperatives such as Europe’s Bologna Declaration.  Opportunities are also abound through advances in scientific and engineering disciplines such as bioengineering, nanotechnology and information technology.  There are also increasing funding opportunities for international cooperation announced by countries like the United States.  Finally, more and more nations and regions are also instituting sweeping education reform, the latest nation being Morrocco.  As more and more nations become more competitive in science and technology because of increased funding, there are more opportunities  for international cooperation.  




As some of the most intelligent members of this family of nations, we have an obligation to address many of the problems facing us in our profession.  The immediate need is to define the next steps for what we do for the betterment of our students and the faculty.  The time is past to debate whether we should cooperate. The fact that we are here means we have put that question behind us.  We must take concrete steps forward to circumvent the problems posed by differences in language, cultures and status of economic development, or by geographic separations.  We must also find ways to share education materials.


There are those who are worried about copyright; copyright laws must be respected, but that does not mean we cannot share information.  One of the questions that confront many of us is: Should we follow the example of MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and make courses available freely on the Web?


Beyond the respect for copyright, the idea in sharing is doing it in such as way as not to inhibit creativity and innovations on the part of any individual. 


I recently heard someone say that, “knowledge is a collective social product and so it is desirable to make it a social property.”  Please think about this in your deliberations during the next few days.


Another issue, and a corollary of the last one, is: How can we help make it more of an even playing field in terms of students receiving a high quality engineering education in both industrialized and developing countries?


There is also a need to expand the networking outreach of the iNEER community to get the message out to more regions of the world concerning our work.


It is also our collective duty to get more of our colleagues, and the top administrators of universities to be more engaged in international activities.  Not only must we get the leadership in academic institutions to support faculty involvement in international cooperation, but also to get them to personally attend conferences such as the ICEEs.  The dedication of faculty and students is necessary in international collaboration, but the commitment of the top administrators is also essential.   


Many of these issues are beginning to be tackled at ICEE conferences, this one included, and I congratulate you for your broad vision and outlook.




With 484 abstracts submitted to this conference from 47 countries, interest in international networking and collaboration remains high.  Following peer review and also because of limitation of conference facilities, about 380 papers were accepted and invited.  Following the usual 20%-25% attrition, we have here about 300 final papers.  325 attendees registered for this gathering.  Including accompanying persons and invited guests, there are about 400 of us at ICEE-2002.  This is not the biggest crowd as ICEE goes, and we are really not so much aiming at large attendance as at making sure we get the people who are dedicated to developing international connections.  As you know, large crowds can actually inhibit intimate dialog. 


We live in a very challenging time, and this gathering is already much biggest than we dared to hope for right after September 11.  Yet, small as we are, we can be a potent force in forging a true partnership of nations for engineering education. 


There is much that can be done, and much that we can do together.  Engineering education is the driver of technological innovations through the generation of new knowledge and the production of new generations of engineers.  Successful technologies must feed successfully into the global marketplace; therefore, to be done well, the education of engineers must be an international enterprise, and requires an international perspective that you all can provide by working together.   


Together, we represent 34 countries.  Many of us are sacrificing our vacation time.  Instead of relaxing at some beach or holiday resort, we have chosen to meet here to talk about how we can work together to improve our engineering education system.  We have traveled to Manchester at the height of the tourist season, paying a premium for airfares, not to mention conference fees that are by no means the cheapest as engineering education conferences go.


As our hosts John Garside, Peter Hicks and their colleagues here in Manchester will tell you, the city has just played host to the Commonwealth Games.  Over a period of 10 days, from July 26 – August 4, over 1 million athletes and spectators came to be a part of sports competitions ranging from swimming to track and field. People came from around the world.  Over 1 billion television viewers saw the games from all corners of the world.


Of course, our number at ICEE-2002 is significantly lower.  Instead of a million people attending over 10 days, we are only in the hundreds, and instead of a billion people watching worldwide, there may be only a few thousand educators around the world who take note of what we are doing here.


Yet, if we do it right, what seems like a torch that is lit here can eventually light up the whole world.


The French writer Alexander Dumas, Jr. once said: “I am one of those who believe that all is in little. The child is small, and he includes the man; the brain is narrow, and it harbors thought; the eye is but a point, and it covers miles.”


Therefore, dear members of the family of iNEER, be bold in your thinking and in your work.  Share your experience with each other.  Greet old friends and make new ones.  Sample some of the exquisite local cuisines.  Soak in aspects of the local culture and heritage.  Above all, have some fun while you are here!


Thank you!