New Procedures for Verifying Student Visas

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has outlined new steps for verifying international students' visas at immigration checkpoints, according to an internal memo obtained by the Associated Press.

The changes are a response to the fact that a student from Kazakhstan charged with destroying evidence related to the Boston Marathon bombings was allowed to reenter the U.S. Jan. 20 despite the fact that he had been academically dismissed from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and his visa terminated. Currently, not all border agents have access to Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) data; information about visa status can only be verified when a student is referred to a second immigration officer for additional questioning.  While the department works to correct this problem, new interim procedures call for checking students’ visa statuses pre-arrival based on information from flight manifests. 

Australian study finds mismatch between degrees and jobs, but increasing job placement

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Australian graduates in the arts less likely than those in other fields to say that degree is linked to their jobs -- but IT graduates are next-lowest, report concludes.

Universities in Quebec Plan to Leave Regional Association

A majority of the 18 universities in Quebec have said they will leave the association that represents postsecondary institutions in the province, University Affairs reported. According to the publication, the institutions are unhappy about how well the group has represented their needs, partly because of its muted response to recent government budget cuts. 

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Singaporean Scholars Raise Concerns about Controversial Tenure Denial

The denial of tenure for Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has attracted criticisms from scholars around the world, as well as from his current and former students, who have praised George's strong record as a scholar and teacher and suggested that it could only be objections to the sensitive subject of his research – press freedoms and state power in Singapore – that have blocked his tenure bid. Now, following the rejection of George’s appeal, four of his colleagues at NTU – including two former deans of the school of communication and information -- have added their voices to the chorus.

“Both the two former deans, Emeritus Professor Eddie Kuo and Professor Ang Peng Hwa, are of the view that Cherian has been one of the most valuable additions to the School in teaching, research and service,” states the letter, which is addressed to the NTU president. “He has launched some of the most innovative programs that have brought fame and funds to the School.” (Those programs are outlined in some detail in the letter.)

“It is against this backdrop that we are perplexed as to what exactly NTU expects of its staff in order to earn tenure. Those of us who are not yet tenured need to know: what more than Cherian do we have to do? Those of us who are counselors to younger staff need to explain in clear and precise terms what Cherian has failed to achieve so they may do better when their turn comes. Those of us who have helped build the School’s reputation, and indeed NTU’s integrity, need to respond to the numerous critics with unimpeachable reasons why their suspicions are misplaced. The controversy that Cherian’s case has generated is unprecedented in the School’s history and one that is causing serious damage to our academic reputation and professional integrity. It also has serious repercussions on NTU’s ability to attract top communications scholars, coming at a time especially when the School has 10 faculty vacancies to fill.”

NTU has declined to comment on George’s case, citing the confidentiality of employment matters.

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UMass Students Arrested in Connection to Boston Bombings

Two men charged in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings on Wednesday were in the U.S. on student visas and classmates of the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, The New York Times reported. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19-year-old citizens of Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and destroy evidence, specifically a computer and backpack containing fireworks, both belonging to Tsarnaev. A third suspect, Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, Mass. and a former UMass Dartmouth student, was charged with making false statements to authorities.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are also accused of violating their student visas. Kadyrbayev is no longer enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, while Tazhayakov, a current student, has been suspended in light of the charges. 

Since the Boston Marathon bombings, there have been some signs of a backlash from the political right against the student visa system, despite the fact that, until Wednesday, there were no indications that international students were involved in the plot (the elder of the alleged perpetrators was a permanent resident and the younger a naturalized U.S. citizen). Most notably, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, issued a letter questioning whether student visas should be suspended, at least for students coming from “high-risk areas” of the world. 

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Instructor describes unsettling meeting with graduate student

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Instructor describes unsettling attempts by a graduate student to pass a master's defense.

Australian Academics Say Government Betrayed Them

An open letter from 1,000 Australian academics to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, published today in newspapers across that country, calls for an end to cuts in spending at universities, The Australian reported. "Universities have made by far and away the largest saving contributions of any federal budget line item," the letter says. "We feel betrayed and taken for granted. Your government's cuts fundamentally jeopardize the future of our sector."

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Singaporean Scholar's Appeal of Tenure Denial Rejected

Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has lost his appeal of the decision to deny him tenure, Yahoo! Singapore reported. George, who researches press freedoms and state power in Singapore, was denied tenure for a second time in February despite rave reviews from international colleagues and current and former students.  Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a journalism professor at Cardiff University and an external reviewer of George’s tenure application, told Inside Higher Ed that George’s teaching and research records are “stellar… so much so that he could easily get a full professorship elsewhere in my estimation.” Theodore L. Glasser, a professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and George’s dissertation adviser, wrote in a letter that George’s “studies of journalism in Singapore set an agenda – for himself and for others – for research that extends far beyond Singapore.”

“Finally, I want to be unambiguously clear about what I think is at stake here," Glasser's letter concludes. "Cherian George’s career is on the line, and that’s obviously very important to him and to his friends and colleagues. But just as important is NTU’s reputation as a university of international standing. Many of us view this case as a measure of not only NTU’s commitment to academic freedom but its commitment to apply its promotion and tenure standards fairly and equitably.” Although George was promoted to associate professor in 2009, the promotion was de-coupled from the awarding of tenure.

George did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. A spokesman for NTU declined to comment on George's case, "as it is NTU's policy to keep all employment matters confidential."

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Decline of French Studies in Canada

French studies is fading at many Canadian universities outside of Quebec, The Globe and Mail reported. Relatively few students are signing up for the programs, the article said, and budget cuts have led universities to close or shrink programs with low enrollments.


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U. of New South Wales to Accept Gaokao Scores in Admissions

The University of New South Wales has announced that it will accept scores from the gaokao, China’s national college entry examination, for direct admission to many of its undergraduate programs, The Australian reported. While the gaokao is commonly criticized for emphasizing rote learning, a 2009 Australian Education International report found that the use of gaokao cut-off scores in admissions could “produce students with outstanding ability.” Several other Australian universities, including La Trobe and Monash Universities and the Universities of Adelaide and Sydney, also accept gaokao scores for direct admission.

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