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 She said new draft guidance on conditional admissions and pathway programs – which blend intensive English and academic coursework – will be posted for comment soon, likely before the end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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Jewish Alumni of Queen's U. Criticize Honor for Jimmy Carter

Jewish alumni of Queen’s University, in Ontario, are distressed by the institution’s decision to award former U.S. President Jimmy Carter an honorary degree due to his critical views on Israel, the National Post reported. Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Carter Center for advancing human rights, wrote a 2006 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, that described Israel as an apartheid state.

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the organization has received about 50 complaints from Queen’s alumni. Of Carter, Fogel told the National Post, “He simply doesn’t meet the test of somebody that is seeking to offer a constructive contribution towards advancing peace. And it’s in that context that we’d express real disappointment that a leading institution like Queen’s would further legitimize or validate him by conferring on him this kind of award.”

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Fight in New Zealand Over a University's Priorities

New Zealand's government is threatening to force Auckland University to admit more engineering students, while the university asserts that it shouldn't be forced to expand some programs and not others, The New Zealand Herald reported. The government has provided more funds to the university for this year, and designated the funds for engineering programs. But the university said that spending all of the money on engineering and other government priorities would have resulted in cuts to other programs.

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NYU Will Close Arts Campus in Singapore

New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has announced it is closing its branch campus in Singapore. Tisch's dean, Mary Schmidt Campbell, cited “significant financial challenges that have required increasingly unsustainable subsidies totaling millions of dollars per year.” Tisch projects that its total subsidy for the Tisch Asia campus, which opened in 2007, will exceed 30 million Singapore dollars, or about $24.4 million, by September 2013 -- “and will continue to grow.”

“It was never contemplated that Tisch would need to subsidize Tisch Asia to the extent it has,” Campbell wrote. “Neither the leadership at Tisch, the leadership at NYU, nor the Economic Development Board of Singapore would have approved Tisch Asia going forward had it been clear it would have come to the financial state at which it has now arrived, requiring such a large and ongoing level of subsidy.”

The plan is to close the graduate-level campus at some point over the next couple of years, and no earlier than summer of 2014. Tisch has pledged that all students currently enrolled will be able to finish their degrees, either in Singapore or at one of NYU’s other campuses or overseas academic centers.

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Chinese Universities Fear Decline in Student Fitness

Many Chinese universities fear a decline in student physical fitness, Xinhua reported. More than 30 universities have called off traditional long-distance races because they fear that there are not students fit enough to compete. While students at many universities must pass a physical education test to graduate, they ignore fitness and sometimes beg their instructors to pass them.

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Contest examines higher education jargon

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Times Higher Education tries to identify best examples of academic jargon.

Obama Visit Results in Repairs at Yangon U.

President Obama plans to speak at Yangon University Monday, during a trip to Myanmar. The New York Times reported that the visit is leading to a major effort to repair the facilities at the university, which suffered damage and disrepair (not to mention repression) during years of military rule. While the university is being spruced up, the article suggested that there is only so much that can be done in a few days, and that Obama will see "something of a Potemkin campus."


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Latin makes a comeback in Australia

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Enrollments in the romance language are on the rise in Australia, driven by curricular changes -- and Harry Potter.

Filmmaker explores international students' post-graduation challenges

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A filmmaker explores the struggles of international students who try to stay in America after graduation.


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