Debate on Palestinian University's Treatment of Israeli

The expulsion of an Israeli journalist from an academic conference at a Palestinian university has set off a debate over academic freedom in Palestinian higher education, the Associated Press reported. The journalist in question -- Amira Hass -- wrote of being told by professors at Birzeit University that there were university rules barring Israelis like her from being there. Further, Hass wrote that one person told her she should leave for her own safety,  and she then did.

The comments from Hass are notable as her journalism regularly documents mistreatment by Israel of Palestinians, and she writes for Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper that is regularly criticized by hard-liners for its criticism of the Israeli government. Many in Israel are writing that if someone like Hass is kicked out of an event at Birzeit, then Palestinian universities are judging people by their nationality, not their views. Birzeit issued a statement that it "regrets the lamentable incident involving the apparent exclusion of Hass." The statement explained: "The university community takes pride in observing the academic boycott of Israel. However, this boycott applies to institutions, not individuals, let alone individuals who have distinguished themselves by being on the side of justice and humanity, as has journalist Hass."



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Report Forecasts Trends in Graduate Student Mobility

A new British Council report forecasting trends in mobility at the graduate (or post-graduate) level through 2024 projects that China and India will continue to fuel growth in the number of outbound graduate students, and that the average annual rate of growth in the number of outbound students from India will exceed that of China. "For destination markets, this [India] is likely to be the real opportunity for inbound student growth over the next decade," the report states.

Other countries that are forecasted to experience high rates of growth in the number of outbound graduate students include Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The report also predicts that the U.S. will remain the No. 1 destination country for internationally mobile master’s and Ph.D. students in 2024, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia. 

Ariel U. Denounces Treatment of Its Scholars

Ariel University, a controversial Israeli institution located on the West Bank, on Thursday denounced the European Association of Israel Studies for telling Ariel professors that they were welcome at the group's conference, but only if they do not refer to their institutional affiliation. The university is seen by many academics -- including many in Israel -- as a tool of of the country's occupation of Palestinian territories. Times Higher Education first reported on the association's action against Ariel scholars, and their decision to withdraw as a result from an academic conference in London. The Jerusalem Post reported on this statement issued by Ariel: "The event described is an extreme manifestation of hypocrisy and absurdity. While the conference organizers are interested in research and researchers of Ariel University, they are trying to ignore the existence of the institution where these studies have emerged."


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200 Anthropologists Endorse Israel Boycott

More than 200 anthropologists have signed their names to a statement advocating for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. “The recent military assault on the Gaza Strip by Israel is only the latest reminder that the world’s governments and mainstream media do not hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law,” the anthropologists’ statement says. “As a community of scholars who study problems of power, oppression, and cultural hegemony, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand accountability from Israel and our own governments.”

The statement from the anthropologists comes in the wake of a decision by the American Anthropological Association to convene a task force to consider in what ways, if at all, the association should address issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several academic associations have endorsed boycotts of Israeli academic institutions. 

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Germany increases size of student grants

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German students benefit from increased support at time when other nations are becoming more frugal.

Another Confucius Institute to Close

Pennsylvania State University is the second institution within a week to confirm that it will not be continuing its agreement to host a Confucius Institute, a center for Chinese language and cultural training funded by the Chinese government. In confirming that the university will be ending its Confucius Institute agreement at the end of this year (Dec. 31), the dean of Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts cited goals that are inconsistent with those of Hanban, the Chinese government agency that administers the institutes.

“Over the past five years, our Asian Studies has grown successfully from a program to become a full department,” Dean Susan Welch said in a written statement. “We worked collegially with our partners at the Dalian University of Technology. However, several of our goals are not consistent with those of the Office of Chinese Languages Council International, known as the Hanban, which provides support to Confucius Institutes throughout the world.”

A Penn State spokeswoman declined to elaborate on specific ways in which the university's goals differ from those of Hanban. 

One professor in the Asian Studies department and a former director of Penn State's Confucius Institute said he suspected that the institute might not have been providing enough of a return on the investment the university was putting into it. "I will say that in my experience as CI director one of the major frustrations with the relationship was that we consistently had more ambitious ideas for the ways CI funding could be used -- mainly to support research not only in the humanities or on Chinese culture, but also on science, politics, the environment, and a variety of other topics -- that the Hanban regularly rejected as too far outside the official CI ambit (which they would tell us was mainly 'cultural')," Eric Hayot, a professor of comparative literature and Asian studies, said via email. (Hayot said he was not involved in the decision to end the Confucius Institute relationship.)

"Because the CI did not provide much support for our very robust Chinese-language program -- we did not use Chinese teachers from the Hanban at Penn State, and did not use Hanban pedagogical material -- this meant that much of the work the CI could do was restricted to a fairly narrow range of activities within the university -- cultural activities and events by visiting Chinese troupes promoted by the Hanban, for instance -- and then some other activities outside the university (support for community events, and so on)," Hayot said.

Broadly speaking, the Confucius Institutes, which are located at about 90 U.S. universities, have been controversial for reasons related to academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Many have pointed to a lack of critical programming on politically sensitive subjects such as the Tiananmen Square massacre at the Confucius institutes, which are typically staffed, in part, by language instructors hired by Hanban and which often use Hanban teaching materials. The American Association of University Professors issued a statement this summer urging universities to cease their involvement with Confucius Institutes unless they can renegotiate their contracts to ensure certain terms are met. The AAUP statement said that in hosting the institutes “North American universities permit Confucius Institutes to advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate.”

Just last week, the University of Chicago announced that it was suspending negotiations to renew its Confucius Institute agreement, which expired on Monday. The university cited as its reason an article that appeared in the Chinese press that made it appear as if the university was being intimidated into maintaining the relationship. More than 100 faculty at Chicago signed a petition last spring calling for the Confucius Institute’s closure. 

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Interview with book author on roles of women's colleges around the world

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While women's colleges and universities are declining in number in the U.S. and Europe, they play a growing role in providing access and developing female leaders around the world, writes Kristen Renn.

Egyptian Academics Fear Impact of Legislation

Draft legislation in Egypt would give university leaders the power to fire professors and others without, critics say, anything resembling due process, Ahram Online reported. The proposed legislation follows a new law allowing the government to appoint university heads, and that law has added to concerns about the new legislation.


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Initiatives focus on retaining international students in the local economy

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Initiatives in St. Louis and Michigan aim to work within the existing immigration system to retain international students in the local economy.

Partnership provides sustainable agriculture research to Latin American farms, coffee to college students

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Colleges in Pennsylvania teach students about sustainable agriculture and keep the coffee brewing.


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