Three New York University scientists were charged Monday in connection with a conspiracy to accept payments from competing research entities in China in exchange for providing proprietary information about research funded by a National Institutes of Health grant. The three researchers, who were studying MRI technology, allegedly maintained undisclosed financial affiliations with United Imaging Healthcare, a Chinese medical imaging company, and the Shenzen Institute of Advanced Technology, a Chinese government-sponsored research institute.
“As alleged, this is a case of inviting and paying for foxes in the henhouse,” Preet Bharara, a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a press release. “These defendants allegedly colluded with representatives from a Chinese governmental entity and a direct competitor of the university for which they worked to illegally acquire NIH-funded research for the benefit of those entities, as described in the complaint. The defendants also allegedly deceived the university and others about their professional allegiances to competing Chinese interests. The acquisition of federally funded research for the benefit of these Chinese entities is a serious crime and will not be tolerated by this office.”
Yudong Zhu, Xing Yang, and Ye Li are each charged with one count of criminal bribery conspiracy. Zhu is also charged with one count of falsification of records in regards to the NIH grant. Zhu and Yang have been released on bail, as Reuters reported, but Li is believed to have returned to China before charges were brought. As Reuters noted in its report, the case against the three researchers comes at a time when there is increased concern about Chinese theft of U.S. trade secrets.
Zhejiang University has signed an agreement with Imperial College London in which the two will consider creating a new joint campus. The announcement from Imperial was brief on details. But The Telegraph reported that the new facility could include as many as 3,000 scientists, and the Zhejiang officials views it as a way to expand the reach of Chinese research.
A new preliminary report on the situation facing Syrian refugee students and scholars, based on fieldwork in Jordan, finds that displaced students are deterred from entering Jordanian universities by higher tuition, fees, and living costs that put the country’s universities “out of reach for all but a small elite of Syrian refugee students,” as well as by a lack of official travel documents or academic transcripts. Syrian academics also find few opportunities in Jordan’s universities. Recommendations outlined in the report include the mobilization of international donors in support of a consortium of Jordanian universities committed to educating Syrian students, the development of a program to support Syrian students continuing their studies in other Arab countries, and the creation of short-term research fellowships for scholars in Jordan and the greater region. (This would be in addition to scholarships and visiting academic appointments offered to Syrian students and scholars through organizations like the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund and the IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis. Many American and European universities have committed to provide funding to host Syrian scholars or students since the launch of the consortium last fall.)
“International higher education writ large, needs to begin to imagine regional solutions to the displacement of students and at-risk university professionals,” said Keith David Watenpaugh, a historian of the Modern Middle East and associate professor who directs the University of California, Davis Human Rights Initiative, which joined with the Scholar Rescue Fund to produce the report. Watenpaugh noted that while there is interest on the part of Jordan’s private universities in accepting Syrian students, capacity is limited: even if each took in 300 to 400 students that would only add up to about 5,000 at most – “and the need is much greater than that.” Whereas there is capacity – and lower living costs – in Egypt, as well as interest on the part of its government: “I think that the Egyptian government is very interested in reaching out to Syrian students as part of Egypt’s desire to assert a regional leadership role," Watenpaugh said.
The report also offers historical context regarding Syria’s higher education system, and an overview of the scale of the destruction since the beginning of the conflict between government and rebel forces in March 2011. The report documents that while universities remain open, safety conditions have deteriorated rapidly: “During our interviews, it became apparent that asking if a university remains open is the wrong question; rather the more important question is: can students come and go safely from the university?” the report states. Large numbers of faculty and students have been internally and externally displaced, and students and faculty are unable to safely pass through security checkpoints in order to get to campus. Estimates are that attendance rates at universities are around 30 percent.
“It's a slowly collapsing system, and it’s collapsing alongside the collapse of other institutions in Syria,” Watenpaugh said.
Florida State University has canceled a summer study abroad program to Israel due to concerns about "escalating military action between Israel and Syria," the Tallahassee Democratreported. A university spokesman, Keith Bromery, said the decision only affects this summer's program at this point, and that the university will reevaluate safety conditions for next year.
The Senate Judiciary Committee considering the comprehensive immigration reform bill approved an amendment proposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Grassley 69, which would crack down on fraudulent colleges and require accreditation for higher education institutions enrolling international students.
Other student visa-related amendments approved by the committee on Tuesday included Grassley 77, which calls for a temporary suspension of the issuance of student visas if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not promptly address problems of interoperability between the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and the database that is available to officials at border checkpoints. Meanwhile, Grassley 56, which would limit the authority of the Secretary of State to waive interviews for visa applicants, and Grassley 68, which would delay the implementation of certain provisions of the act related to international students until the full deployment of the long-delayed SEVIS II, both failed in 9-9 tie votes. (You can find all the amendments acted upon so far here.)
“We have learned time and again that there are holes in our student visa program,” Grassley said during the committee hearing. The program has come under particular scrutiny in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: although the suspected bombers were not foreign students, two citizens of Kazakhstan accused of aiding in the destruction of evidence were.
In a letter it sent to the committee on Monday, NAFSA:Association of International Educators urged senators not to approve amendments that could pose impediments to international students, arguing that this would undermine national security rather than enhance it. "Foreign students are an asset to our nation, not a threat," the association wrote. The committee will next take up the immigration bill on Thursday.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators is concerned about a series of proposed amendments to the comprehensive immigration reform bill that would, in the association’s words, place “unnecessary and counterproductive impediments in the way of foreign students who wish to pursue their educational and professional goals in the United States.”
“Although these amendments may be justified by their proponents as adding to our security, the truth is that targeting foreign students does nothing to enhance U.S. security, and in fact only accomplishes the opposite,” NAFSA wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to continue marking up the bill today.
Proposed amendments that NAFSA is concerned about include six put forward by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): Grassley 52, 56, 64, 68, 69, and 77. (All are available online here.) These amendments would, among other things, prevent students on F visas from participating in practical training opportunities until full deployment of the long-delayed Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) II and delay the implementation of provisions of the immigration reform bill until one year after completion of a report on the intelligence and “immigration failures” leading up to the Boston Marathon bombings.
Senator Grassley has raised a number of questions and concerns about the student visa program in the wake of the Boston bombings. Neither of the suspected bombers were on student visas, although two citizens of Kazakhstan accused of aiding in the destruction of evidence were. New protocols put in place to verify students’ SEVIS status since the bombings have already led to delays at ports of entry. Inside Higher Ed will have continuing coverage of which amendments, if any, are introduced and their potential implications.
The importance of collaboration with U.S. community colleges to realize India's goal of creating 200 such institutions was a major focus of a roundtable discussion on "Advancing U.S.-India Academic Partnerships" held at the Institute of International Education's Washington office on Monday. Governmental representatives participating in the discussion with college administrators included M.M. Pallam Raju, India's minister of human resource development, and Nirupama Rao, the ambassador of India to the United States, as well as several high-level U.S. Department of State officials.
The discussion portion of the meeting was closed to media (only the opening remarks were open), but participants reported that subjects of discussion included not only community college collaboration but also the role of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in increasing India's higher education capacity and the imbalance in exchanges between American and Indian students. (While there are more than 100,000 Indian students in the U.S., only 4,345 Americans studied in India in 2010-11, according to IIE data.) The subject of long-stalled legislation permitting the establishment of foreign branch campuses in India did not come up during the 45-minute discussion.
Monday's roundtable discussion was intended to inform the ongoing, governmental U.S.-India Higher Education Dialogue, a component of a larger strategic dialogue between the two countries.
A growing number of wealthy Chinese families are trying a new strategy to earn admission for their children to elite American colleges: enrolling them first in private high schools in New York City. The New York Times reported that there were 638 Chinese students with visas at high schools in New York City in 2012, compared to 114 five years earlier.
Gord Ferguson was dismissed last week as an instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design, a month after a student killed a chicken in the college's cafeteria as part of a performance art project, The Calgary Herald reported. While the college is not commenting on why Ferguson was dismissed, he said it was "absolutely" related to the student's unorthodox use of a chicken in art. Miguel Michelena Suarez, the student, said he is upset that his instructor lost his job and is trying to organize letters of protest.