international

Proposed Visa Vetting Changes Raise Concerns

More than 50 academic organizations signed a letter registering concerns about proposed changes to the visa vetting process that would subject a certain subset of applicants to enhanced questioning. The U.S. Department of State has proposed requesting from some visa applicants additional information “to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities,” including information relating to applicants’ travel history, address history and employment history -- all for a 15-year period – names and birth dates of relatives, and social media handles and phone numbers used over a five-year period.

The joint letter from 55 higher education and scholarly groups, dated Thursday, argues that the proposed changes to the visa vetting process are “likely to have a chilling effect not only on those required to submit additional information, but indirectly on all international travelers to the United States. The uncertainties and confusion regarding supplemental questions will have a negative impact, particularly on U.S. higher education and scientific collaborations. The notice also provides insufficient information regarding the criteria for identifying those required to complete the supplemental form, the impact of unintentional incomplete disclosure of information, such as social media presence, or remedies for correcting information initially provided. These additional questions could lead to unacceptably long delays in processing, which are particularly harmful to applicants with strict activity time frames or enrollment deadlines. Additionally, there is no information regarding the longer-term use, retention or privacy protections for the information provided.”

The notice from the State Department estimates that about 0.5 percent of all visa applicants -- about 65,000 people each year -- would be subject to the enhanced information requests.

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Data show international graduates of U.S. colleges are winning right to stay in country and work

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Study shows approvals have gone up for "optional practical training" of up to three years. Students from China and India account for more than half of those winning the prized approvals.

Two Study Abroad Students Killed in Copenhagen

Two American college students participating in a study abroad program were killed in a boating accident in Copenhagen’s harbor on Saturday, The Los Angeles Times and Massachusetts Live reported. Leah Bell, of Pomona College, and Linsey Malia, of Stonehill College, were killed after a motorized water scooter hit the boat in which they and five other students were traveling.

Pomona said in a statement that Bell was a psychology major with interests in neuroscience who wanted to be a neonatal nurse. The statement quoted psychology professor Patricia Smiley, who said that Bell had interned in a neonatal unit.

"Leah was a lovely young woman and very kind. She was a pre-health student who was delighted by working with children," Smiley said. "She found that she loved the experience of caring for premature babies, of helping families learn to bond with them and have hope for their future as a family."

Malia, a psychology major and sociology minor, had been one of four Stonehill students who dressed as the college’s mascot, Ace the Skyhawk, at athletic events. “We are a close community at Stonehill, and Linsey contributed to many areas of campus life -- as a peer mentor, a teaching assistant, a member of the Moreau Honors Program and a volunteer with multiple campus partners. Her death represents a deep loss for all of us and, of course, for her family,” said Stonehill’s president, the Reverend John Denning.

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French Scientists Pleased by Election Results

French scientists are pleased and relieved with the election of former economic minister Emmanuel Macron (at right) to the country’s presidency, Nature reported. While Macron has pledged to make cuts to public spending, Nature reports that he has said he will “ring-fence the budgets for research and higher education, areas that he wants to make the central plank of a program to boost innovation and cut unemployment. He has also pledged to invest in environmental and clean-energy measures.”

Many scientists and academic leaders in France had spoken out against the far-right party of Macron’s opponent, Marine Le Pen. Nature quoted Gilles Roussel, the head of France’s Conference of University Presidents, which in April had opposed Le Pen. "Unlike the Front National, Emmanuel Macron bears the republican and humanist values that we defend, and which constitute the DNA of universities," Roussel said.

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American Working at Pyongyang University Detained

North Korea has detained a second American citizen who worked at a university in Pyongyang, The Washington Post reported.

The Post cited a report from the official Korean Central News Agency saying that Kim Hak-song, who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of “hostile acts” against North Korea. His detention comes about two weeks after the arrest of another American citizen, Kim Sang-duk, who had been teaching a class on international finance and management at PUST.

PUST, North Korea’s only private university, has more than 60 foreign faculty members from Canada, China, Europe and the U.S., according to its website. The Post reported that the university is run by a Korean-American professor and funded largely by Christian groups.

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Asian Universities Alliance Formed

Fifteen universities from across Asia have formed a consortium called the Asian Universities Alliance. A joint statement from member universities identifies four objectives: to “promote mobility of students, scholars and staff among all members,” “strengthen research collaboration and joint innovation,” “establish high-level dialogues and forums to discuss higher education strategies and policies,” and “compile and publish annual reports on Asian higher education.”

“We believe that higher education will play an increasingly important role in future Asian societies and that economic globalization has made openness the trend of higher education,” the statement said. “AUA will embrace that trend by building closer ties both among member universities and with universities outside AUA. Together, we will play a more significant role in world higher education.”

The following universities are members of the alliance:

  • Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
  • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
  • King Saud University, Saudi Arabia
  • National University of Singapore
  • Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan
  • Peking University, China
  • Seoul National University, South Korea
  • Tsinghua University, China
  • United Arab Emirates University
  • Universitas Indonesia
  • University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • University of Malaya, Malaysia
  • The University of Tokyo, Japan
  • University of Yangon, Myanmar
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Comparative class at Grinnell focuses on migration and border policy in U.S. and Europe

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First-year Grinnell students travel to Germany, Greece, Mexico, Spain and the U.S. Southwest for comparative class on migration, borders and refugees.

4 Chinese Nationals Charged With TOEFL Fraud

Federal authorities on Thursday announced the arrests of four Chinese nationals on charges of engaging in fraud on admissions tests that allowed three of them to obtain admissions to American universities and visas to study in the United States. A Justice Department announcement said that one of the four, a student at the Hult International Business School, in Massachusetts, took the TOEFL exam and reported her scores as if they were the scores of the three others. TOEFL is among the tests taken by international students to demonstrate sufficient English language proficiency to succeed at American colleges. Based on those TOEFL scores, the Justice Department said, the other three were admitted to Arizona State University, Northeastern University and Pennsylvania State University's Erie campus. Then the three were able to get student visas.

The defendants could face prison terms of five years, followed by deportation.

In 2015, 15 Chinese nationals were charged in a similar scheme.

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Founder discusses plans for a transcontinental university for Africa

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Founder discusses his plans for a transcontinental university.

Mexican University Wants to Join NCAA

Cetys University is making a bid to become the first Mexican university in the NCAA, The New York Times reported. The private university based mainly in Mexicali and Tijuana has four men’s varsity teams – including a football team -- three women’s varsity teams and an annual athletic budget of $1.25 million. The California Collegiate Athletic Association is supporting Cetys’s bid, but the Times cites several obstacles, including the need for student athletes on opposing teams to have the required passports or visas to travel to Mexico for away games, and the political and practical issues at play in crossing the border, a process that is subject to delays.

The NCAA accepted its first international member institution, Canada's Simon Fraser University, in 2012. Last week it made permanent a pilot program that allows divisions to invite Canadian or Mexican universities to join.

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