House Passes STEM Jobs Act

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 245-139 on Friday in favor of the STEM Jobs Act, a Republican-backed measure that would make 55,000 visas available for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The bill is unlikely to progress in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Although there is bipartisan support for visas for STEM graduates, many Democrats oppose a provision of the bill that would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which allocates visas for  those coming from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The White House opposes the STEM Jobs Act, as does NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, which said, in a statement, “In the acrimonious political debate about immigration reform, we lose our way by embracing a mistaken, zero-sum approach to permanent immigration.”

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Controversial STEM Visa Bill Up for Vote

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote today on the STEM Jobs Act, a Republican-backed bill that would create up to 55,000 new visas for foreign graduates of American universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The bill would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which allocates spots to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

This is a second attempt: a motion to suspend House rules in order to consider the STEM Jobs Act failed 257-158 in September. (Such a motion requires a two-thirds majority.) Although there is bipartisan support for increasing the number of visas available to foreign scientists who have been educated at U.S. universities, Democrats have opposed eliminating diversity visas. The White House announced its opposition to the Stem Jobs Act earlier this week. NAFSA: The Association of International Educators is also opposed to passage of the bill, which, the association says, "perpetuates a divisive, us-versus-them approach to immigration reform.”

“NAFSA supports the goal of creating a direct path to green cards for graduates of U.S. institutions of higher education, including but not limited to the STEM fields. Talented, innovative people are found in all fields, and all who are prepared to become productive members of our society and to contribute to our economy should be welcome. We do not support creating a new path for international students by eliminating another immigration program,” the association said in a statement on Thursday.

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China May Regulate Recruiting Agents

Reports have been circulating in China that the government may impose new rules on agents who recruit students for colleges in the United States and other countries, Voice of America reported. Increasing numbers of American colleges have been hiring agents, but the use of those paid in part on commission remains highly controversial. Chinese media outlets have recently been reporting on unscrupulous agents who have taken advantage of students.


University in Scotland lets TV viewers in Ghana vote on a scholarship

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University in Scotland uses reality television to admit and provide a scholarship to a student from Ghana.


Australians debate prospect that Beijing will encourage Chinese student protests

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A former diplomat warns that the flow of Chinese students is a "two-edged sword" because it could lead to Beijing-inspired political protests -- a scenario others paint as farfetched.

Southern Utah Accused of Tolerating Plagiarism by Foreign Students

Southern Utah University is investigating allegations that some instructors in its English programs for international students have been ignoring widespread plagiarism, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. One instructor quit in protest over her sense that officials were unwilling to deal with the problem, and one instructor is on probation pending an investigation. The instructor who quit estimated that one-fifth of the assignments she graded included questionable material. The instructor said that there was little discipline of students she found engaged in plagiarism. She discovered some of the plagiarism when she noticed certain unusual phrases that she found turn up when passages are converted from Arabic to English through Google Translate.


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Britain Gains First For-Profit University

British authorities have granted the for-profit College of Law university status, and the soon-to-be renamed University of Law will be the country's first for-profit university, Times Higher Education reported. The institution trains 7,000 students annually in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Oxford debates the role of its librarians and libraries

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"Ask me" badges distributed at U. of Oxford raise hackles and draw questions as academics debate future of its library system.

Concerns about Conditional Admissions and Visas

Administrators of intensive English programs are concerned about guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that could change the way colleges make conditional admission offers to international students. Conditionally admitted students typically must complete English language coursework as a prerequisite for entering their degree programs.

In such cases, many colleges have made it a practice to issue an I-20 certifying admission to the degree program in question. Recent verbal guidance from DHS suggests, however, that the institution must issue an I-20 for admission to the English language program instead. Patricia Juza, director of global programs at Baruch College and vice president for advocacy for the American Association of Intensive English Programs, said this could complicate efforts to attract top foreign students. “In some countries it has been easier for a student to get a visa if they have conditional admission to a degree program as opposed to an intensive English program,” said Juza. She added that government scholarship bodies also generally prefer that students have an admission offer -- conditional or not -- to a degree program in hand.

Officials at DHS' Student and Exchange Visitors Program said there’s been no change in policy, but that the agency is simply enforcing current guidelines stipulating that colleges can issue an I-20 only after the student meets a number of conditions, including that “the appropriate school authority has determined that the prospective student's qualifications meet all standards for admission” and “the official responsible for admission at the school has accepted the prospective student for enrollment in a full course of study.” A spokeswoman for DHS, Ernestine Fobbs, said that the department is refining its policy on this subject. She said new draft guidance on conditional admissions and pathway programs – which blend intensive English and academic coursework – will be posted for comment soon, likely before the end of the year.

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NYU Suspends Study Abroad in Israel

New York University has suspended its study abroad program in Tel Aviv. Participating students were evacuated to London on Sunday and have the choice of completing the fall semester at the New York campus or the university’s academic centers in London, Prague or Florence.

“We did not think our students and personnel were in proximate or imminent danger,” John Beckman, a NYU spokesman, said in an e-mail. “We wanted to avoid a situation where the students would get [to] the end of the semester and have difficulties returning home. Given that consideration, the high priority we always place on student safety, and our confidence that we were at a point in the semester where we could ensure they would be able to satisfactorily finish out the semester's work, we thought this was the prudent course.”

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