Arizona State, King's College, U of New South Wales Form Alliance

A new alliance between Arizona State University, King’s College London and the University of New South Wales will focus on cross-border research on issues related to health, social justice, sustainability and innovation. At a launch event in London next week, the universities plan to announce the inaugural group of more than 60 “PLuS Alliance” fellows, who will come from across the three institutions and who will receive stipends to cover travel and other costs. A pool of money will be available for research projects. The universities plan to announce the first joint research initiatives, on sustainability, at next week’s event.

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College of William & Mary Student Sick With Zika Virus

The College of William & Mary announced that one of its students "apparently" contracted the Zika virus while traveling in Central America during winter break. According to the university’s announcement, the student is expected to recover fully and there is no known health risk for others on campus.

The World Health Organization on Monday declared a public health emergency related to the spread of the Zika virus. Though the mosquito-borne virus usually causes mild symptoms, public health officials are concerned about a suspected causal link between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

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Study abroad alumni have better career outcomes, study finds

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Study abroad alumni have better career outcomes, according to two studies assessing the impact of Europe’s Erasmus exchange program.

Rhodes Statue to Remain at Oxford's Oriel College

The University of Oxford has decided not to take down a statue of Cecil Rhodes at its Oriel College despite alumni threats to withdraw millions in donations, the college announced. The statue, like a plaque about Rhodes elsewhere on the campus, has been caught up in the debate that has swept campuses in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere about honoring historical figures whose pasts included racist or other detrimental acts or statements.

Rhodes, the British imperialist whose bequest endowed the Rhodes Scholarships, has been at the center of the debate in Britain. In December, Oriel College officials said they had begun the process of removing the plaque honoring Rhodes and would review the status of the statue, describing the plaque's wording praising Rhodes as "inconsistent with our principles."

But in the announcement Thursday, Oriel officials said the "listening exercise" the college had undertaken in December had elicited an "enormous amount of input," overwhelmingly in favor of leaving the statue in place. "The college believes the recent debate has underlined that the continuing presence of these historical artifacts is an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today. By adding context, we can help draw attention to this history, do justice to the complexity of the debate and be true to our educational mission."

British newspaper reports indicated that Oxford and Oriel have received threats to withdraw millions of dollars in gifts if the statue was removed, though the college's statement dismissed the idea that financial considerations were a factor.

Rhodes Must Fall, the student group leading the opposition, said in a statement on Facebook that the college's decision "breached the undertakings it gave to all students in its December statement. In December, Oriel said that the plaque's display was 'inconsistent with' the college's 'principles.' It seems that Oriel no longer believes this to be the case. This recent move is outrageous, dishonest and cynical. This is not over."

'Divert Unprepared University Students,' Report Says

A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that about one in 10 university students in England have low basic skills in literacy or numeracy and suggests that many of these students should be diverted from university to shorter-term, professionally oriented programs.

“Those with low basic skills should not normally enter three-year undergraduate programs, which are both costly and unsuited to the educational needs of those involved, while graduates with poor basic skills undermine the currency of an English university degree,” the report recommends. “These potential entrants should be diverted into more suitable provision that meets their needs.”

“Such students need postsecondary alternatives that will address their needs and tackle basic skills. Such alternatives need further development in England,” the report said. “Resources diverted from university provision should be redeployed … to support this.”

An article in The Guardian includes varying perspectives on the OECD report, including critical takes from representatives of the United Kingdom's university sector.

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For-Profit College Execs Sentenced on Financial Aid, Visa Fraud Charges

Three senior for-profit college executives were sentenced Tuesday on charges related to student financial aid and student visa fraud, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced.

Suresh Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria and Anita Chabria were all executives at either Micropower Career Institute (MCI), a for-profit with five campuses in New Jersey and New York, or the Institute for Health Education (IHE), a New Jersey-based for-profit institution. They were charged with defrauding the U.S. Department of Education of $1 million in grants awarded to domestic students. “As part of this fraud,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release, “they falsified and manipulated documents to hide MCI’s failure to timely return financial aid money received by MCI for domestic students who had dropped out of MCI.”

The three executives were also charged with making more than $7 million in profits from a visa fraud scheme in which they collected tuition from international students who were not attending classes as required under the terms of their student visas. “Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria, Anita Chabria and others fraudulently portrayed MCI and IHE to immigration authorities as legitimate institutes of higher learning where foreign students carried full course loads,” the news release states. “In reality, the majority of foreign students at MCI and IHE did not attend the required number of classes.”

Hiranandaney, MCI’s president, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, as was Lalit Chabria, MCI’s chief executive officer and IHE’s president. Anita Chabria, MCI’s vice president and director of a MCI campus in Mineola, N.Y., was sentenced to six months of home confinement. U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken also ordered the three executives to pay $1 million in restitution for the financial aid fraud and forfeit $7,440,000 for the student visa fraud. Two other defendants in the case are scheduled to be sentenced later this year.

One of the two institutions, the Institute for Health Education, is still certified by the U.S. government to enroll international students.

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An American Shakespeare scholar, with new Ph.D. from British university, ends up detained over visa expiration

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Why is Britain trying to deport an American who just earned his Ph.D. at U of Birmingham?

Israeli Universities Get $100 Million for STEM Research

The businessman and newspaper publisher Mortimer Zuckerman has pledged more than $100 million over 20 years to fund science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related research at four Israeli universities, The Jewish Week reported. The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program is two pronged: a postdoctoral scholars program is intended to attract researchers from the U.S. and other Western countries, while a faculty scholars program is planned to bring back Israeli academics living abroad.

“We are pleased and grateful to have Mort Zuckerman as a partner in advancing two top national priorities in Israel -- reversing brain drain and deepening the Israeli-American friendship,” Joseph Klafter, the president of Tel Aviv University, one of the four participating institutions, said in a statement.

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Documents Show U of British Columbia Board's Displeasure in Ex-President

Newly released documents show tensions between the University of British Columbia's Board of Governors and former President Arvind Gupta. Gupta resigned suddenly last August just one year into a five-year term.

The independent news outlet UBC Insiders first reported on the documents, unredacted versions of which were included, seemingly by accident, as attachments to an otherwise heavily redacted records release made by the university earlier this week.

In one of the documents, a letter following up on a meeting that occurred May 18, John Montalbano, the former board chair, describes Gupta's first year as president as "an unsettled one. Relationships with key stakeholder groups, notably your senior executive, the faculty deans and the Board of Governors, are not at functional levels to allow you to move forward in a confident manner -- unusual even for an organization undergoing strategic shifts in vision and key personnel."

The letter continues: "The Executive Committee of the Board has identified key aspects of your leadership style and management skills which require a 'course correction' in order for you to lead the university effectively." Among the issues identified in that letter was a lack of trust between Gupta and other senior leaders.

"You are rarely seen to solicit or seek advice from those best positioned to support you," Montalbano wrote to Gupta. "You are deemed too quick to engage in debate in a confrontational or dismissive manner, which is demoralizing to a group of executives in fear of their employment security. Members of the Board of Governors have also experienced similar interactions in and out of formal settings."

In a June 8 letter, Gupta affirms the importance of creating "an atmosphere of professional trust among decision makers and stakeholders" and stated his objective of making UBC among the top 10 public universities in the world.

"Moving UBC into the top 10 will take time, focus and energy," Gupta wrote. "This includes honest dialogue with attentive listening to a wide variety of UBC stakeholders, of which the board, senate, executive and other senior leadership are clearly an essential part. Also important are staff, students, faculty, alumni and donors. I have had regular meetings with student leadership groups, as well as with staff in various fora including, most recently, a staff lunch," Gupta wrote.

"As you know, I have also been meeting with faculty (and will continue to do so) in every department across the two campuses, a first for a recent UBC president. With over 70 percent of departments and units visited to date, I’ve been encouraged by the enthusiastic support I have received from many faculty for a dedicated refocusing of resources on the core academic mission of the university: research, teaching and learning."

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Judge Grants Extension of Work Program for International Students

The current rule governing a popular postgraduation work program for international students will remain in place until May 10.

The regulation governing the STEM OPT program, which grants students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields the right to spend an additional 17 months working in the U.S. on top of the 12 months available to all international students, was set to expire Feb. 12 after a federal judge ruled the regulation invalid on procedural grounds. In a decision issued Saturday, however, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the Department of Homeland Security’s request that the ruling be stayed for an additional 90 days, which the agency argued would give it time to implement a new proposed rule for the program and prevent disruption or hardship for participating students and employers.

“The significance of that hardship cannot be overstated,” Judge Huvelle wrote. “According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM OPT participants, 2,300 dependents of STEM OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT extensions and 434,000 foreign students who might be eligible to apply for STEM OPT authorizations … If the stay is not extended, many of these people would be adversely affected, either by losing their existing work authorization, not being able to apply for the OPT extension or not knowing whether they will be able to benefit from the extension in the future. And of course, the U.S. tech sector will lose employees, and U.S. educational institutions could conceivably become less attractive to foreign students.”

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