international

UNESCO Paper on Gaps in Global Completion Rates

While higher education participation rates are growing worldwide, and while women are closing the participation gap, students from low-income families and from ethnic minority and indigenous groups continue to lag behind, according to a new policy paper from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

An analysis across 76 countries found that 20 percent of the richest 25- to 29-year-olds -- and less than 1 percent of the poorest -- have completed at least four years of higher education. In the Philippines, 52 percent of the richest individuals, and 1 percent of the poorest, had completed four years of higher education. In Mongolia, 72 percent of the richest individuals, and 3 percent of the poorest, had completed four years of higher education. There are also big disparities by household wealth in certain Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Macedonia and Moldova.

“Looking at the average hides a lot of important information about who that average is made up of,” said Taya Owens, a research officer with UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report. “Even if you look at Ukraine or the United Kingdom, which are two countries that have high average attainment rates, there’s a pretty substantial disparity between the richest and the poorest.”

The policy paper makes a series of recommendations for increasing equity and access, including through a combination of low tuition fees, need-based scholarships and income-based loans with repayments capped at less than 15 percent of monthly income, and through the development of affirmative action policies “that put equity front and center in the admissions process.”

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Trump Directs Review of H-1B Visas

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that directs federal agencies to recommend changes to the H-1B skilled-worker visa program “to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

The H-1B visa program is important to colleges both because many international students look to it as a route to permanent residency in the U.S. and because universities use H-1Bs to hire postdoctoral researchers and others from abroad. Universities and other nonprofit or governmental research organizations are exempt from the cap on new H-1B visas, which are otherwise limited to 85,000 per year.

“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery -- and that's wrong,” the president said during a speech in Wisconsin. “Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans.” In a background briefing, a senior Trump administration official suggested that one possible change to the program would be to adjust the lottery to give an advantage to master’s graduates. Currently, 20,000 of the 85,000 total visas are earmarked for holders of graduate degrees from American colleges.

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British Student Killed in Jerusalem Stabbing

A British exchange student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was killed in a stabbing attack on a tram in Jerusalem Friday, the BBC reported. A 57-year-old Palestinian man who police said had recently been released from a psychiatric hospital was detained at the scene of the attack.

The student who was killed, Hannah Bladon, 21, came to Hebrew University in January as an exchange student from the University of Birmingham. In a statement Hebrew University condemned "such acts of terror that harm innocent people, and especially a student who came to Jerusalem to study and widen her academic horizons."

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Pakistani Student Killed by Mob on Campus

Police say a student accused of blasphemy against Islam was killed by a mob of fellow students at a university campus in northern Pakistan, the BBC reported. The victim, identified as journalism student Mashal Khan, was reportedly beaten and shot at close range. A second man was injured in the mob attack, which occurred on the campus of Abdul Wali Khan University. The campus has been closed, and "many" students have reportedly been arrested.

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New Developments for Central European University

The European Commission will investigate whether amendments to higher education law in Hungary that Central European University says would force it out of the country conflict with European Union rules, the Associated Press reported. The announcement of the investigation came on the same day that Hungary's education minister, László Palkovics, floated a possible compromise and suggested that CEU could continue to offer American degrees through its Hungarian sister school. (CEU, though a single university, has two legal identities, one American and one Hungarian.)

The legislative threat to CEU's continued existence in Hungary has attracted widespread condemnation and concern, including from the U.S. government. CEU has American accreditation and was founded in 1991 by the financier and philanthropist George Soros.

"We never wanted to close down CEU," Palkovics reportedly told the Hungarian website HVG.hu, according to Reuters. "The question is whether CEU insists on having a license in Hungary or having courses in Hungary honored with a CEU degree … [CEU's own] license has little significance."

In a statement, CEU said it was aware of Palkovics’s comments in the press and called for direct negotiations with the Hungarian government for a long-term solution that would allow the university to stay open while protecting its academic freedom.

"The solution evoked by State Secretary Palkovics in the press does not appear to be legally and operationally coherent and certain,” the university said. “CEU has not been approached directly by Secretary Palkovics with this information. Exchanges in the press are no substitute for sustained direct contact on a confidential basis. We look to the Hungarian government to initiate negotiations with CEU so that we can resolve this and go back to work, with our academic freedom secured, without limits or duration."

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To improve Ph.D. completion rates, Australian universities use metrics on their supervisors

The key may be tracking the performance of those who supervise doctoral students.

What do we know so far about changes to U.S. visa and immigration policies?

Since Trump came into office, questions have swirled around U.S. visa and border policy. What’s changed so far, what hasn’t, and what does it all mean for higher education?

New Law Imperils Central European University

Hungarian President János Áder signed into law Monday a bill that Central European University says could force it to close its campus in Budapest, Bloomberg reported. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Sunday in support of the university in what Bloomberg described as one of the largest anti-government rallies since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took office in 2010. The passage of the law, which was fast-tracked through Parliament in about a week, has been widely seen as part of Orbán’s project to end liberal democracy in Hungary in favor of what he calls an “illiberal” state.

CEU, which was founded in 1991 by the liberal financier and philanthropist George Soros, issued a statement on Monday promising it “will immediately seek all available legal remedies.” The university described the law as “targeted at an American institution in a flagrantly discriminatory manner” and as “a premeditated political attack on a free institution that has been a proud part of Hungarian life for a quarter of a century.”

The university says the legislation “seeks to make it impossible for CEU to offer American-accredited master's and doctoral degrees, as it has done with the full agreement of Hungarian authorities for many years.”

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China Lets Australian Academic Return Home

An Australian academic and permanent resident who had been barred from leaving China for more than a week while the government questioned him for unspecified national security-related reasons was able to fly home Sunday morning, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Chongyi Feng, a professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, who studies contemporary Chinese economics and politics, had traveled to China about a month earlier for a research trip during which he met with academics and human rights lawyers in several cities. Feng said it remained "a mystery" to him why he had been prevented from leaving but that he was told he "was requested to assist some sort of investigation."

The New York Times noted in its reporting on the subject that Feng, who has been researching China's human rights lawyers, has been a frequent critic of Beijing's crackdown on political dissent.

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More Data on International Applications

Preliminary results of a survey of nearly 300 American universities released earlier this month showed that nearly four in 10 universities were seeing application declines and that many universities were reporting concerns on the part of international students about a perceived unwelcoming climate in the U.S. and about visa policies. A more detailed breakdown of survey results released Tuesday provides further insight into how those concerns break down according to geographic region and the magnitude of the overall application declines.

Twenty-seven percent of institutions reported drops in international applications ranging from 2 to 19 percent, while another 11 percent reported more dramatic drops, of 20 percent or more. Another 27 percent said their application numbers remained the same, while 25 percent reported growth of 2 to 19 percent. Ten percent reported increases of 20 percent or more. The final report on the survey, which was conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers in conjunction with several other higher education groups, can be found here.

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