Brexit Won't Impact Loans for Current, Incoming E.U. Students

Citizens of European Union countries who are currently enrolled in U.K. universities and those planning on entering in the fall will receive the loans and grants for which they are eligible for the duration of their courses of study, the Student Loans Company announced Monday. Last week’s vote in favor of Britain exiting the European Union has raised uncertainties about the status of current and future E.U. students, who currently pay domestic student tuition rates and are eligible for the same student loans as British students.

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Anthropological Group Censures Israeli Government

The American Anthropological Association has issued a statement censuring the Israeli government for what it describes as “policies and practices that threaten academic freedom and the human rights of Palestinian and Israeli scholars.”

The statement of censure is one of multiple actions the association pledged to make after the membership narrowly voted down a proposal to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The anthropological group also sent letters Friday to Israel’s minister of education seeking changes in Israeli policies, and to the U.S. Department of State asking it to exert pressure in bringing such changes about.

Specifically, the association is seeking changes to Israeli policies that it says result in the following: "restricted freedom of movement for Palestinian academics and foreign academics going to the West Bank and Gaza," "restricted access to publications among libraries at West Bank and Gaza universities," "disparities in internet access that restrict academic pursuits at West Bank and Gaza universities," "unjust denial of full accreditation for Al-Quds University" (a Palestinian institution in the West Bank), "unjust denial of freedom of expression to Palestinian and dissenting Jewish faculty and students at Israeli universities," "unjust denial of freedom to Palestinian students for gathering and action," and "undue delays of salary payments to West Bank and Gaza university faculty."

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More Reactions to Brexit

Academic leaders, scholarly societies and student groups sent out a flurry of statements on Friday reacting to the British vote to exit the European Union, which many in higher education oppose and worry could harm research and inhibit the movement of students and scholars to and from the U.K.

Statements from the British Academy, which represents scholars in the humanities and the social sciences, and the Royal Society, which represents scientists, stressed the importance of mobility and the need to maintain financial support for research, which benefits from E.U. funding sources.

In various statements, U.K. university leaders -- about 100 of whom had signed an open letter prior to the vote opposing a leaving the E.U. -- affirmed their institutions' international outlooks and sought to assure current European students and staff that they are welcome and wanted. They also stressed that major changes are not expected to happen overnight: the process of Britain negotiating the terms of a withdrawal from the E.U. is expected to take at least two years.

In one such statement, Michael Arthur, the president and provost of University College London, wrote, “This morning, I have reassured UCL staff and students that, barring unilateral action from the U.K. government, the vote to leave the European Union does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the immigration status of current and prospective E.U. students and staff, nor to the U.K. university sector’s participation in E.U. programs such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+," programs for research funding and student exchange, respectively.

The National Union of Students expressed disappointment in the vote outcome. Pre-election polling from YouGov showed that young people overwhelmingly supported Britain remaining in the E.U. -- among 18- to 29-year-olds, 73 percent supported remaining in the union -- and in the university towns of Cambridge and Oxford, more than 70 percent of voters favored remaining, according to local election results reported by the BBC.

“This is clearly not the result that many young people wanted or voted for, but most important now is to ensure that students and young people are involved in the decisions that have to be made that will shape their future,” Megan Dunn, the national president of the student union, said. “We have urgent questions about how the vote to leave will affect students, particularly E.U. students in the U.K. and U.K. students studying in the E.U., and call on the government to offer clear assurances to them about their situation.”

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$400 Million Gift to Ben-Gurion U.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Friday announced a $400 million gift that will more than double the size of its endowment. The university believes the gift, from the estate of Howard and Lottie Marcus, formerly of California, may be the largest ever bequest to an Israeli academic institution.

According to the university’s announcement, the Marcuses fled Nazi Germany in 1930s and lost most of their family members in the Holocaust. They met after immigrating to the U.S., where Howard worked as a dentist and Lottie as a secretary at a Wall Street firm. They made their fortune by investing early in what later became Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company chaired by Warren Buffett.

The Marcuses first encountered Ben-Gurion in 1997, after which they began supporting research in water, desalination and desert studies. Ben-Gurion President Rivka Carmi described the couple as "rare and special people" and as "Holocaust survivors who lived a simple and humble life and joined their fate and their legacy to that of the state of Israel."

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Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Blocking Obama Immigration Plan

Another Supreme Court ruling Thursday had much more direct relevance to higher education, but the justices also let stand a federal appeals court decision that blocked President Obama's 2014 executive actions protecting some adults who reside in the United States illegally. The court's 4-to-4 deadlock meant that the court upheld the state of Texas' successful challenge to the president's plan to expand his earlier "deferred action" rules that protected from deportation many young people brought to the country by their parents.

Among other things, the 2014 actions sought to expand the deferred action program by making deportation protections last for three years instead of two and allowing more young immigrants to qualify for the status. The orders would also “expand and extend the use” of a program that provides temporary work authorization to international students for 12 to 29 months postgraduation.

In comments Thursday, President Obama sought to reassure the hundreds of thousands of young people who benefited from the original deferred action program that Thursday's decision did not affect them. "These are students, they’re teachers, they’re doctors, they’re lawyers. They’re Americans in every way but on paper. And fortunately, today’s decision does not affect this policy. It does not affect the existing DREAMers," he said, referring to individuals covered by the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.

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Academic Acquitted of Terror Propaganda in Turkey

A British academic in Turkey accused of making propaganda for a terrorist organization was acquitted on Thursday, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Chris Stephenson, a lecturer in computer science at Istanbul Bilgi University, was taken into custody March 15 in front of an Istanbul courthouse for allegedly possessing a Nevruz, or Kurdish New Year, leaflet printed by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party. Stephenson was released the following day. He had gone to the courthouse to show support for three Turkish academics who’d been detained in connection with their support for a petition opposing the military campaign against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey.

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Netherlands starts major campaign against research misconduct

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Every researcher will be questioned. New funds will go toward replication of findings.

Students Upset Over Sydney Art School Merger Plan

Students have expressed outrage over the University of Sydney's plan to close its arts campus and move students to the University of New South Wales as part of a planned merger agreement between the two institutions scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the 2017 academic year, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Michael Spence, the vice chancellor of the University of Sydney, said that the strengths of the two institutions in the visual arts “can be enhanced through a greater concentration of students and resources, with the result being better visual arts education and research outcomes.” But some students have characterized the merger as "either a downsize or the end of visual arts at the University of Sydney."

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Universities face major challenges with Brexit (essay)

Behind the steel spire atop St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast rises a modern structure of gleaming glass and steel. Ulster University is building a new campus right in the heart of Northern Ireland’s capital city. The university, once known only as an access-focused regional institution with a predominant emphasis on preprofessional degree programs, now boasts an excellent business school, a top-tier school of pharmacy and an eye-catching urban campus devoted to the arts.

Ulster University is emblematic of a resurgence of Northern Ireland: once mired in sectarian conflict, Belfast and its environs are now destinations for both tourists and foreign investors. Much of the rise of this country of 1.8 million is due to extraordinary investment from the European Union -- investment that could soon end. Northern Ireland, like England, Scotland and Wales, is a constituent country of the United Kingdom and will take part in a referendum on continued membership in the E.U. this Thursday, June 23.

Polls on the potential British exit, or Brexit, have shown both sides running neck and neck, and the stakes could not be higher for Ulster and other universities in the United Kingdom. In fact, the results could also have a significant impact on American colleges and universities, as well.

British membership in the European Union has been exceptionally lucrative for Ulster University. The university received around 9.4 million pounds ($13.4 million) last year in E.U. funding. More than 1,700 students and around 400 scholars from other E.U. member states attend, teach and research at the university in some capacity. Its location around 45 minutes from the Irish border and only two hours from Dublin makes it a common collaborator with major universities to the south. The university’s Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Center, which was funded by a £1.6 million grant from the E.U., has generated 25 patents and three spin-off companies that are now valued at over $100 million.

Ulster, however, isn’t the only university in the United Kingdom receiving benefits from Britain’s E.U. membership. Higher education institutions received 16 percent of total E.U. research funding totaling £687 million ($1 billion) in 2013-14. People from other E.U. nations make up 15 percent of the academic workforce and 5 percent of the student bodies at British universities. Given the sheer impact of European support for universities in the U.K., it should come as no surprise that Ulster Vice Chancellor Paddy Nixon joined 102 university leaders, including vice chancellors from Oxford and Cambridge and the president of the London School of Economics, in an open letter in the Sunday Times expressing support for the European Union.

This expression of political support is emblematic of a change in university behavior. While university leaders chose to stay relatively silent on the two other recent major electoral events -- the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2015 general election -- they emphatically support the campaign to remain in the E.U.

Yet despite university support for the European Union, a large minority of government officials and policy leaders want to leave. The leave campaign is led by Nigel Farage, the charismatic leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party whom many in the United Kingdom have compared to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his bombastic style and anti-immigration stance.

Other major players include former London Mayor Boris Johnson, former Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and other right-wing members of the Conservative party. The majority of Parliament, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and leaders of most of the minor parties, all support continued membership in the European Union. Cameron and Osborne represent the moderate wing of the Conservative party -- constantly at odds with Gove, Johnson and the party’s right wing.

Brexit was a major political issue in the last general election, and leave campaigners argue that far-right Conservative gains in Parliament were a popular mandate for Brexit. Moderate Conservatives worked hard to renegotiate Britain’s responsibilities within the E.U. and believe that remaining in the European Union will be good for the United Kingdom. It should come as no surprise that both sides disagree on the impact Brexit would have on British universities.

The leave campaign argues that the European Union funds only 3 percent of all U.K. R&D spending and that money saved from not having to pay fees associated with E.U. membership could allow the U.K. government to expand domestic financial support for research. Furthermore, universities in nations outside of the E.U. are still able to apply for research funding; leave campaigners suggest that wouldn’t change.

Leave supporters also believe that, when it comes to U.K. universities’ ability to attract talented European faculty, a U.K. immigration policy absent of E.U. agreements on free movement of people could be devised in such a way that it would privilege scholars from other European countries traveling to Britain. Outside of the E.U., universities could raise fees on E.U. students, an action currently prohibited by E.U. laws that state universities in a given country must treat students from that country and other students from E.U. member states equally. There are also not enough spaces at universities to meet current demand. Leave campaigners argue that filling admissions spaces with domestic students could offset any drop in the E.U. student population.

University leaders and the remain campaign don’t agree. They note that a rise in E.U. student fees coupled with presumably more stringent immigration controls would result in an extremely decreased E.U. student population, as polls of E.U. students show that 80 percent would be less likely to pursue education in the U.K. E.U. students are some of the highest achieving in the U.K. system and are more likely than their British counterparts to pursue graduate degrees in the U.K. Brexit would raise fees on these students, limiting access to U.K. universities and potentially reducing overall institutional quality. It would also limit domestic student interaction with students from other countries. U.K. universities would become increasingly insular and homogenous in their student bodies as American competitors seek greater and greater diversity in their student populations.

Leaving the E.U., remain supporters argue, would also mean closing access to the Erasmus exchange program that allows students from E.U. member states to study in another member country as part of their academic program, further closing U.K. student engagement with their European counterparts. Students may also face adverse outcomes upon graduation should Brexit hurt Britain’s economy and job market. Leaders also fear that highly talented European academics seeking faculty or postdoc positions in the U.K. may seek positions elsewhere as uncertainty regarding their immigration and employment status over the next few years would grow exponentially in the days after a vote to leave. While long-term immigration reform might have some benefits, Brexit would decimate universities’ ability to recruit new faculty in the short term. Lastly, the remain campaign is quick to point out that, while U.K. contributions make up 11 percent of the total E.U. research budget, U.K. institutions receive more than 16 percent of total research grant funding.

What’s often overlooked in the debate between the leave and remain campaigns, however, is that if Britons vote to leave, there will be implications for American universities and students, as well. American universities might be the beneficiaries of Brexit when it comes to faculty recruitment. While emigrating to the United States might be difficult for European scholars when compared to an E.U.-member United Kingdom, stricter immigration controls in the U.K. may make the United States a more desirable location.

Furthermore, around 50,000 Americans study in the United Kingdom each year. A common language and history make the U.K. a top destination for American students, and neither will change with Brexit. The same could be said, however, for Ireland, an E.U. member with no plans on leaving any time soon. Google and other major American tech companies have built their European headquarters in Dublin, and if Brexit happens, many believe American companies with a major presence in London could move their operations across the Irish Sea to Dublin and into other major continental financial centers like Frankfurt and Luxembourg. Students who would have gone to the U.K. to study and intern in finance for a semester or two might soon find themselves more attracted to Ireland.

While American universities may be able to get their pick of scholars in the exodus of European faculty from British institutions that would follow Brexit, and American students may not recognize a tremendous difference between studying abroad in Dublin as compared to Edinburgh or London, the greatest influence Brexit could have on American universities is indirect, but hugely impactful. Most economist agree that a vote to leave would cause a British recession, at least in the short term, with some even saying the vote could trigger a global recession. David Cameron even warned that voting for Brexit would be like putting a bomb under the U.K. economy. For those American universities that are not in a position to compete for top European faculty or send students abroad, global volatility in the markets could cause significant damage to meager endowments and hurt fund-raising.

The cost of Brexit, therefore, is too high. Elite American universities would receive meager benefits, but the rest of the American higher education landscape could feel the effects of a recession too soon after emerging from the financial crisis of 2008. British universities will lose a major source of research funding, faculty and high-quality students. British students will feel the pinch of higher tuition and fees during a period of economic downturn. Brexit has the potential to significantly slow the growth of higher education at home and abroad and offers few benefits to postsecondary institutions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Along the banks of the River Foyle at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic lies Derry. The walled city is home to a branch campus of Ulster University, and on June 9, the campus hosted two former prime ministers to talk about the potential ramifications of Brexit. Tony Blair and John Major both warned against leaving the European Union, saying it would effectively close off access to the border with the Republic. What neither gentleman noted, however, is that voting to leave the European Union would also effectively cut off access to research funding, high-quality international students and stellar faculty. University students, faculty and staff overwhelmingly support the remain campaign. One can only hope that they turn out to vote in two days’ time. Their universities are counting on them.

Christopher R. Marsicano is a Ph.D. candidate in leadership and policy studies with a focus in higher education policy at Vanderbilt University.

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Professor Dismissed for Insulting Turkey's President

A professor in the communications faculty at Istanbul Bilgi University, in Turkey, was dismissed after allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a lecture, Turkish Minute and the Hurriyet Daily News reported. Zeynep Sayin Balikcioglu was dismissed from the university after pro-government media outlets reported alleged remarks she made criticizing the Turkish president as “vulgar” and “rude.”

Insulting the president is a criminal offense punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey. Balikcioglu's dismissal comes amid a larger crackdown on academics and free speech in Turkey.

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