Ecuador is not a top study abroad destination for American students, but the earthquake this weekend had a number of American colleges and universities reaching out to contact their students who are in that country. So far, the news is good and Boston University, Michigan State University and the University of Oregon were able to announce that all students were safe.
The University of Birmingham, in Britain, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign last week announced an unusual postdoc research program. The postdocs will work on one of six "global challenges" involving issues such as brain trauma, computational genomics and diversity in education. The first and third years of the postdocs will be spent at Birmingham and the second year at Illinois.
The president of Ireland said that universities are facing "a moment of intellectual crisis" in which their purpose is in question, The Irish Times reported. In an address to the European University Association conference, President Michael D. Higgins warned against the reduction of the purpose of universities to "narrow professional training" and said that future generations would see a withdrawal from the humanities as a “betrayal of the purpose of education."
“If we wish to develop independent thinkers and questioning, engaged citizens, our universities must, while providing excellence in professional training, avoid an emphasis that is solely or exclusivity on that which is measurable and is demanded by short-term outcomes," Higgins said.
The executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators is retiring at the end of December after an 18-year-tenure at the association's helm. Marlene M. Johnson, a former lieutenant governor of Minnesota, oversaw the growth of the association from approximately 4,000 members to more than 10,000.
Federal agents set up a fake university as part of a sting operation that on Tuesday resulted in the arrests of 21 individuals on visa fraud-related charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced.
The 21 defendants were arrested for their suspected involvement in a “pay to stay” scheme in which they allegedly helped foreign nationals enroll in the sham University of Northern New Jersey, which purported to be a for-profit college but in fact was created by Department of Homeland Security agents in 2013. The institution had no instructors and no curriculum and held no classes. It did, however, have a storefront location that was staffed by federal agents who posed as school administrators.
Federal investigators identified hundreds of foreign nationals, primarily from China and India, who initially entered the U.S. on F-1 student visas to attend other educational institutions and then in effect “transferred” to this fake school. “Through various recruiting companies and business entities located in New Jersey, California, Illinois, New York and Virginia, the defendants then enabled approximately 1,076 of these foreign individuals -- all of whom were willing participants in the scheme -- to fraudulently maintain their nonimmigrant status in the U.S. on the false pretense that they continued to participate in full courses of study at the UNNJ,” the government’s press release stated.
“Acting as recruiters, the defendants solicited the involvement of UNNJ administrators to participate in the scheme. During the course of their dealings with undercover agents, the defendants fully acknowledged that none of their foreign national clients would attend any actual courses, earn actual credits or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study. Rather, the defendants facilitated the enrollment of their foreign national clients in UNNJ to fraudulently maintain student visa status, in exchange for kickbacks, or ‘commissions.’ The defendants also facilitated the creation of hundreds of false student records, including transcripts, attendance records and diplomas, which were purchased by their foreign national conspirators for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities.”
In some cases the defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining work authorizations for their clients by issuing false documents that “created the illusion that prospective foreign workers would be working at the school … The defendants then used these fictitious documents fraudulently to obtain labor certifications issued by the U.S. secretary of labor and then ultimately to petition the U.S. government to obtain H1-B visas for nonimmigrants.”
The 21 defendants are variously charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, making false statements, conspiracy to harbor aliens for profit and H-1B visa fraud. The former two charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; the latter two are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A program that allows international students in Canada to work for up to three years after graduation is creating a low-wage workforce and encouraging the creation of low-quality university programs, says an internal Citizenship and Immigration Canada report obtained by the CBC.
The report found that the majority of international students employed through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program are employed in low-skilled, low-wage service jobs. The report also found that “low-quality education programs with minimal entry requirements” have developed to take advantage of the program in the wake of 2008 changes extending the possible duration of a work permit and eliminating a requirement that students find work in their field of study.
The availability of postgraduation work opportunities is widely seen as a way to increase a country’s competitiveness in recruiting international students. The United Kingdom experienced declines in international student enrollments -- and in enrollments from India especially -- after it eliminated a two-year poststudy work visa program in 2012. (Students who wish to stay and work in the U.K. still have the option of applying for a general visa if they can find a sponsoring employer paying a wage of £20,800 -- about $30,000 -- or more.) Meanwhile, the United States has issued a new rule, to go into effect May 10, extending the period that international students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields can work after graduation from 29 months to three years.