Swiss President Didier Burkhalter this week warned that his country's scientists and university students could be hurt because of the national vote that narrowly approved immigration restrictions, Europe Online reported. The referendum breaks with Swiss consistency with some of the free flow of people provided in the European union. Burkhalter said that he was concerned that his efforts to have Switzerland join EU science funding and student exchange programs will be halted.
GRE volume was up about 5 percent in the United States in 2013, and by larger percentages in some other countries. Among all countries outside the United States, GRE test-taking was up 30 percent, and the figure was up 70 percent in India, the Educational Testing Service announced.
The presidents of Israel's universities have issued a joint letter to the presidents of American colleges and universities that have opposed the boycott of Israeli universities endorsed by the American Studies Association and others. "We do not take for granted the solidarity and support of the heads of the leading, most important universities in the United States and throughout the entire academic world," the letter says. "We both thank you for your courage and for your steadfast adherence to the principles of free and independent scientific thought."
Britain's home office has suspended the administration of English language tests run by the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service after the BBC news program, "Panorama," uncovered “systematic fraud” at British test centers. As summarized in this BBC article, Panorama recorded instances of Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) examinees being replaced by “fake-sitters” who completed the test for them, and of a proctor reading the correct answers aloud to test takers. The news program followed a network of agents who help bogus students from outside the European Union pass the TOEIC, a government-approved English test for immigration purposes, and otherwise obtain student visa extensions fraudulently.
Thomas A. Ewing, an ETS spokesman, told Inside Higher Ed via email that the issues seem to involve two TOEIC testing centers and that the government’s suspension of TOEIC and Test of English as a Foreign Language exams within the U.K. will not affect test-takers elsewhere in the world. “When testing on a global basis, no test provider can claim 100 percent prevention or detection of fraudulent activity, but ETS does everything it can to detect and prevent rare instances of dishonest test administrators or test takers,” an ETS statement read, in part.
Xia Yeliang, whose firing by Peking University set off an international uproar, is starting today at the Cato Institute, a think tank, and he has cautions for American universities about their ties with Chinese universities, The New York Times reported. “They use the reputations of Western universities to cover their own scandals,” he told the Times. "Perhaps Western universities do not realize that Chinese universities do not have the basic value of academic freedom, and try to use Western universities to cover their bad side."
The rector of the University of Pristina, Kosovo's state university, has resigned amid student protests over reports of academic fraud by professors, Reuters reported. Students started protesting after local press reports that professors had been publishing work in fake academic journals to advance their careers.
In yet another illustration of the outrage stirred by the American Studies Association’s largely symbolic boycott of Israeli universities, U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) on Thursday announced the introduction of a bill that would amend the Higher Education Act to block federal funding for universities that boycott Israeli institutions or scholars. Student financial aid funds would be unaffected.
“This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts. It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea,” Rep. Roskam, the Chief Deputy Whip and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, said in a statement.
Anti-boycott legislation has also been introduced in the Maryland and New York State legislatures, in the latter case passing the New York Senate before stalling in the Assembly. The American Association of University Professors has argued that legislative attempts to squash boycotts pose a greater danger to academic freedom than boycotts themselves (which the AAUP also opposes).
A bill pending in the New York Assembly that would prohibit the use of state aid to fund or pay membership dues to academic organizations that endorse the academic boycott of Israel was withdrawn from consideration by that body’s Higher Education Committee on Monday, The Albany Times Unionreported. A spokesman for the bill’s sponsor, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, told the newspaper, “We are addressing some concerns with the bill." The spokesman did not elaborate further.
The move comes days after a similar bill passed the New York Senate by a wide margin. Similar legislation has also been filed in Maryland, prompting a renewed statement of protest from the American Association of University Professors on Tuesday.
“While it is the position of the AAUP that academic boycotts contravene the principles of academic freedom, the Association has nevertheless asserted that it is 'the right of individual faculty members or groups of academics not to cooperate with other individual faculty members or academic institutions with whom or with which they disagree,' the association said in the statement. “Legislative interference in academic decision-making and with the freedom of scholars to associate and exchange views with their peers is even more dangerous than the academic boycotts this legislation is intended to oppose. That is because this legislation undermines constitutionally protected academic speech and debate in order to promote a particular viewpoint.”
The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom has weighed in on the case of Emad Shahin, a prominent political scientist whose indictment on charges of espionage and subversion last month made international headlines. As The New York Timeshas reported, Shahin, who has taught at the American University of Cairo, Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame, was charged along with former President Mohamed Morsi and several other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders with conspiring with foreign organizations to undermine Egypt’s national security. He was the second scholar to be targeted in what The Times described as a crackdown on critics of last summer’s military take-over.
Shahin, the editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics, called the charges “baseless,” politically motivated,” and “beyond preposterous” and said he had never been a member or supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Dr. Shahin is well known in both Egypt and the United States as a critic of the authoritarian policies and practices of the Egyptian state. He has been a consistent voice for democracy, pluralism and the rule of law throughout the political tumult in Egypt since January 2011,” the Committee on Academic Freedom wrote in a letter to Egypt's Minister of Justice. “We agree, therefore, with Dr. Shahin when he surmises that his 'true offense' is that he has been vocal in his criticism of 'the course of political events in Egypt since last summer.' We are deeply concerned that his indictment signals a decision on the part of the Egyptian state to hound all of its political opponents—regardless of partisan or ideological affiliation — and thereby suppress political dissent.”