Middle East studies scholars are rallying to the cause of a Turkish professor who is being prosecuted for disseminating “terrorist propaganda” and praising “crime and criminals” based on an exam question he wrote asking students to compare two texts written by Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.
The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom has written a letter supporting the professor, Baris Unlu, a political scientist at Ankara University. The association wrote that the indictment against Unlu “conflates the use of texts for critical examination in an academic curriculum with engaging in terrorist propaganda. Further, if presenting Ocalan as a political figure is treated as a basis for criminal investigation, the government runs the risk of effectively criminalizing all academics, students, journalists and political organizers working on Kurdish issues.”
A British Council survey of 1,348 international undergraduate and graduate students studying in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States asked about factors affecting their decision making in choosing a country and course of study. The report found that undergraduates tend to choose U.S. universities with the goal of increasing their career prospects globally. Graduate students are drawn by perceptions of rigorous education and high-quality research, and affordability.
“The U.S. perhaps has the most well-rounded value proposition to international STEM students: it is a country where students perceive they can engage in high-quality education and gain skills and research experience to apply to work either there or in their home countries; poststudy work experience in the U.S. has expanded and STEM students can now spend 29 months working -- though there remains debate about the future sustainability of this policy,” the survey report states.
The survey found that while significant numbers of international students hope to stay in their destination countries to work after graduation, a comparatively small proportion (15 percent) hope to migrate permanently.
Radical Islamists have threatened to bomb a university in southern Yemen if it does not segregate the sexes on campus, Al Arabiya News reported. Students at the University of Aden said armed militants distributed leaflets signed by ISIS containing the threats. The authenticity of the leaflets signed by two Yemeni branches of the Islamic State has not been verified.
In an effort to prevent racial bias, university applications in the U.K. will be “name blind” starting in 2017, Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian. In his op-ed, Cameron argued that anonymized applications prevent reviewers from being influenced by the ethnic or religious background an applicant’s name might imply.
"Some research has shown that top universities make offers to 55 percent of white applicants, but only to 23 percent of black ones," Cameron wrote. "The reasons are complex, but unconscious bias is clearly a risk. So we have agreed with UCAS [the centralized application processing service] that it will make its applications name blind, too, from 2017."
South African police fired stun grenades at students protesting university tuition increases as they attempted to storm the Parliament, BBC News reported. The student protests have forced closures at universities across the country, with protesters arguing that proposed fee hikes of 10-12 percent could cut off access for poorer black students. Students have rejected a compromise proposal limiting fee increases to 6 percent in 2016.
A biology institute at one of Russia’s leading universities is requiring scientists to get their papers approved by the federal security service before submitting them to conferences or journals, Nature reported. Nature cites minutes from a meeting at the A. N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology at Lomonosov Moscow State University instructing scientists on how to comply with a recently amended state secrets law. The Russian government says the law is not intended to interfere with the publication of basic, nonmilitary research, but scientists believe that the Moscow State rule requiring manuscript approval is not unique.