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UPDATED: Hong Kong University says it Isn't Buying New Hampshire Campus

CORRECTION: THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED TO ACCURATELY REFLECT WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT THE IDENTITY OF THE BUYER.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong has disputed reports that it bid on the New Hampshire campus of the now-defunct Daniel Webster College, saying in a statement that it "has not bidden for or purchased" the site.

Inside Higher Ed first reported the $11.6 million purchase last Friday, citing reporting from The Concord Monitor. On Saturday, another New Hampshire paper, the Union Leader, said it had previously been told that the buyer of the campus is affiliated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong but had since been told by a university representative that is not accurate. A lawyer for the buyer, Sui Liu, told the paper: “All I can tell you is that my client intends to restore the college and reopen it as soon as we can.”

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Scientist Sentenced to Death in Iran

A researcher of disaster medicine has been sentenced to death in Iran on charges of spying for the Israeli government, Nature News reported.

Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish resident who earned his Ph.D. at the Karolinska Institute and teaches at the Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale, in Italy, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Belgium, was arrested in April 2016 during an academic visit to Iran. He was sentenced to death Oct. 21 and reportedly had 20 days to appeal his sentence.

An Amnesty International official described the trial of the Iranian-born Djalali as “grossly unfair.”

“No evidence has ever been presented to show that he is anything other than an academic peacefully pursuing his profession,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

A letter from the Middle Eastern Studies Association's Committee on Academic Freedom notes that a document circulated by contacts of Djalali "that claims to be a literal transcription of a handwritten text produced by Dr. Djalali inside [Tehran's] Evin Prison" states that Djalali believes he was arrested for refusing to spy on European countries on their critical infrastructures and counterterrorism capabilities. The document states that Djalali never spied for Israel or any other country.

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Data show global nature of academic collaboration

More than half of all research papers published by academics in France and Britain now have at least one international co-author. Share lags in U.S.

British Politician Criticized for Inquiry on Courses

British academics accused a Euro-skeptic member of Parliament of “McCarthyite” behavior after he wrote to university leaders asking for the names of professors who teach European affairs, “with particular reference to Brexit” -- Britain's planned exit from the European Union -- and for copies of syllabi and links to online lectures on this topic, The Guardian reported.

“The letter reflects a past of a McCarthyite nature,” Kevin Featherstone, the head of the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Politics, told The Guardian. “It smacks of asking: Are you or have you ever been in favor of remain? There is clearly an implied threat that universities will somehow be challenged for their bias.”

Chris Heaton-Harris, the conservative member of Parliament who sent the letter to university leaders, did not respond to The Guardian’s request for comment.

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Australian Academic Refused Entry to the U.S.

A professor at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said she was initially denied entry to the U.S. after the academic honorarium she was to receive from a U.S. university came under scrutiny.

The New Zealand Herald first reported on the case of Vicki Spencer, an associate professor of political theory at the University of Otago and an Australian citizen. In emails with Inside Higher Ed, Spencer confirmed the basic details of the account in the Herald and said she was traveling to the U.S. on the visa waiver program to spend two weeks at the University of Oregon conducting independent research in the library. She said her expenses at Oregon were being paid with a grant for her sabbatical from Otago and that she was not receiving any honorariums or expenses from Oregon.

Spencer also planned to travel to Northwestern University to give a one-day seminar. She said Northwestern had agreed to pay for airfare from Eugene to Chicago, two nights of accommodations and meal costs, and to provide a small honorarium.

Spencer said she was stopped at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance checkpoint at the Vancouver, Canada airport. She said the first officer who interviewed her "asked me angrily how many of these things I was being paid for. He didn't directly say I couldn't receive an honorarium but that was the implication when I later knew what the problem was -- I didn't really at that point. He took my passport, boarding passes and letters and told me to follow him." Spencer said a second officer interviewed her and, after speaking with a supervisor, told her she was being denied entry for engaging in paid employment. 

"I was told that it is not possible under any circumstances to be able to receive an honorarium as that constitutes paid employment," Spencer said via email to Inside Higher Ed. "Moreover, it was not possible to have any expenses paid as that was a benefit to me. He said I could certainly give lectures but that I had to pay the costs of doing so. If that were true, as I’m sure you know, it would have significant consequences for the way academics operate given how normal it is to have such expenses paid."

The law states that foreign nationals admitted as visitors “may accept an honorarium payment and associated incidental expenses for a usual academic activity or activities (lasting not longer than 9 days at any single institution)…if the alien has not accepted such payment or expenses from more than 5 institutions or organizations in the previous 6-month period.” Spencer said she had not been to the U.S. since 2016 -- when she attended a conference -- and had no plans for any subsequent trips within the next six months. 

"It was after all that when I was back on Canadian solid and after I had changed my flights etc. that I got back onto the U.S. Department website and had it reconfirmed that I had done nothing wrong," Spencer said. "The people on the desk at Alaska Airlines told me there was a Canadian immigration service. They then gave me a number to ring the U.S. side. I spoke to a woman who assured me the officers know the rules and I said I was reading them directly from the website. She spoke to her supervisor and then she informed me he said for me to rebook my flights and to come back through." 

"The only reason I did not go through after the supervisor fixed the issue was that I had already changed my flights to come home at some expense, and I would have lost that money," Spencer said. "Plus it was going to cost more to get my original flight back. Then, my Airbnb accommodation which I had cancelled had been rebooked for much of the time. It was all going to cost me quite a bit of money as I could not cover it with my research grant. I also had to decide very quickly not to miss my flight back home -- I had about 10 minutes before check-in was going to close. As I could barely think at that point, I gave up and decided to come home.”

The U.S. embassy in Wellington told the Herald it could not comment on individual cases.

Spencer told Inside Higher Ed that she concluded that the border agents she encountered were “were not properly trained in the regulations” governing honorariums. “And my advice for anyone traveling to the US, who is being paid an honorarium or having their expenses paid, or just going as a researcher, is to take a hard copy of the visa waiver regulations with them. That is the message I would like others to know so they do not face similar issues.”

In a similar case, Henry Rousso, a French Holocaust scholar, was detained at the Houston airport and nearly deported in February seemingly due to confusion on the border agent’s part about whether he could accept an honorarium. Rousso was allowed to enter after the intervention of officials at Texas A&M University, where he was to speak at a symposium.

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Overhaul Planned for China's College Entrance Exam

China is overhauling its national college entrance exam, the gaokao, with plans to be finished by 2020, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, and Sixth Tone, a state-funded English-language media outlet, reported.

Minister of Education Chen Baosheng announced the changes to the exam at China’s 19th Party Congress Thursday. The changes, which aim to make the gaokao fairer and more accessible, give students more chances to take the high-stakes exam -- which traditionally has been offered only once, at the end of a student's third year of high school -- and greater selection in subjects.

Sixth Tone reported that the changes to the gaokao have generated debate, with some students and parents complaining about the pressure that comes with taking tests earlier and more often. Under the changes, students can begin taking sections of the college entrance exam starting in their second year of high school.

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Oxford, Cambridge Criticized for Lack of Black Students

Ten of the University of Oxford’s 32 colleges, and six of the University of Cambridge’s colleges, did not admit a single black British student with A-level qualifications in 2015, The Guardian reported, prompting a former education minister to accuse the universities of “social apartheid.”

“Difficult questions have to be asked, including whether there is systematic bias inherent in the Oxbridge admissions process that is working against talented young people from ethnic minority backgrounds,” said the former minister, David Lammy, a member of Parliament from the Labour Party.

Lammy said that “there are almost 400 black students getting three A’s at A-level or better every year,” the A-levels being subject-based qualifications that are used as admission criteria by U.K. universities. About 3.5 percent of the U.K. population is black.

Spokespeople for Oxford and Cambridge both said that more work needs to be done to address inequalities in education.

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Educators consider Macron's vision for a new type of European university

Section: 

As people wonder how it would work, a campus run jointly by French, Swiss and German universities offers insights.

Federal Judge Blocks Third Trump Travel Ban

A federal judge in Hawaii on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of a new iteration of the Trump administration’s travel ban. The ban, which was scheduled to go fully into effect today, would block all would-be travelers from North Korea and Syria in addition to prohibiting all immigrant travel and imposing various restrictions on certain types of nonimmigrant travel for nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Venezuela, and Yemen. 

The injunction blocks the new travel restrictions for six of the eight countries -- all except for those affecting nationals of North Korea and Venezuela, which were not at issue in the suit filed by the state of Hawaii and other plaintiffs.

President Trump's previous two versions of travel bans were blocked by various federal courts before the Supreme Court permitted a modified version of the second to go into effect.  In issuing a nationwide order blocking implementation of the third ban, Judge Derrick K. Watson of the District Court of Hawaii found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their argument that Trump overstepped his authority in issuing the new proclamation restricting travel, which, he wrote, "suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor." Watson wrote that the executive order “lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States.'" Further, Judge Watson found that the order “plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit [Court of Appeals] has found antithetical to both Section 1152(a) [of the Immigration and Nationality Act] and the founding principles of this nation.”

The White House said in a statement that the restraining order "undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States."

"The entry restrictions in the proclamation apply to countries based on their inability or unwillingness to share critical information necessary to safely vet applications, as well as a threat assessment related to terrorism, instability, and other grave national security concerns," the White House said. "These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation. We are therefore confident that the judiciary will ultimately uphold the president’s lawful and necessary action and swiftly restore its vital protections for the safety of the American people."

Opponents of Trump's actions say he is using national security as a pretext for banning Muslims from entering the U.S., a step the president called for during the campaign (the original travel bans exclusively affected Muslim-majority countries, though two countries that are not Muslim-majority, North Korea and Venezuela, were added to the latest one). Universities and higher education groups have been among those who have criticized Trump’s various travel bans, which they argue will deter talented students and scholars from coming to U.S. campuses. 

In finding that the state of Hawaii had standing to sue, Judge Watson specifically cited harm to the University of Hawaii. “The University has 20 students from the eight countries designated in EO-3 [the third executive order], and has already received five new graduate applications from students in those countries for the spring 2018 Term,” Judge Watson wrote in his Tuesday order.

“It also has multiple faculty members and scholars from the designated countries and uncertainty regarding the entry ban ‘threatens the university’s recruitment, educational programming, and educational mission,’” Judge Watson wrote, quoting from a declaration from a university administrator.  “Indeed, in September 2017, a Syrian journalist scheduled to speak at the University was denied a visa and did not attend a planned lecture, another lecture series planned for November 2017 involving a Syrian national can no longer go forward, and another Syrian journalist offered a scholarship will not likely be able to attend the University if EO-3 is implemented.”

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Central European Seeks Resolution to ‘Legal Limbo’

Leaders of Central European University held a press conference Tuesday where they called on the Hungarian government to sign an agreement that would enable the university to continue to operate over the long term in Budapest.

Administrators at CEU, which is accredited in the U.S. and chartered by New York State, said they have complied with all the requirements of a new higher education law passed in April. The law requires foreign universities that operate in Hungary to be governed by a bilateral agreement between the host and home governments and to operate educational activities in their country of origin. In order to satisfy the latter requirement, CEU has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Bard College to offer joint educational activities in New York, including joint degree programs.

CEU administrators say all that’s left to resolve the situation is for the Hungarian government to sign the draft agreement it has negotiated with New York State. But the Hungarian government has not yet done so, and the Parliament recently extended the deadline for complying with the new law by a year -- leaving CEU in what its president, Michael Ignatieff, described as “a state of legal limbo.”

“This is unacceptable but it’s also unnecessary. There’s an agreement with the state of New York that the government could sign if it actually wants to solve this matter. A draft text agreed by both sides has been in place since early September,” Ignatieff said at the press conference, which was broadcast online.

Ignatieff said a university needs legal stability in order to operate. “There’s simply no question that a university that’s deliberately kept by the government in a state of legal uncertainty to suit their political convenience is a university that is in danger,” Ignatieff said.

He added, “No university in Europe -- let me make this very clear -- no university in Europe has been put through what we’ve been put through. It’s just unacceptable. I’m here having this press conference because we want a solution. But a solution is on the table. And every time we get within reach of a solution, the goalposts get moved. The criteria get changed.”

Hungary's new law on foreign universities has been widely seen as a targeted attack by Hungary's government on CEU and its founder, the liberal financier George Soros. The Hungarian government has denied CEU was specifically targeted and said in April that the university "will be able to continue its operation as soon as an international agreement has been reached." In July, the Hungarian government signed an agreement with the state of Maryland allowing for the continuing operation of McDaniel College, another American institution with a campus in Budapest.

Asked why the government has not yet signed the draft agreement, the press department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary said in a statement that the Ministries of Justice and Human Capacities "are examining whether the functioning and operation of the Central European University, based on the documents submitted by the CEU, would be in accordance with Hungarian law."

"There was great international pressure on the government of Hungary with the objective that the university of George Soros should be exempt from Hungarian regulations," the government's statement said. "However, Hungarian laws apply to all schools in the same way and manner, and these rules and regulations guarantee the transparent operation of foreign higher education institutions in Hungary. The amendment of the Hungarian Act on Higher Education extends the deadline, by which the foreign higher education institutions have to meet the requirements in order to be able to operate in Hungary. When the government of Hungary submitted the current bill, it also took into consideration the fact that negotiations with certain foreign higher education institutions, including the CEU from the United State[s] of America, have not been concluded. In doing so, the government of Hungary also took under consideration and accepted the recommendation of the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference to extend the deadline to meet the requirements. This recommendation of the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference was explicitly welcomed and appreciated in the report of the Venice Commission," a body of the Council of Europe that recently issued a report on Hungary's new law on foreign universities.

The Venice Commission report found the imposition of stringent new requirements on Hungary's existing foreign universities to be "highly problematic."

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