A report released Friday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified a need for greater oversight of the optional practical training program (OPT), which allows international students to stay in the U.S. and work for between 12 to 29 months after completion of their programs. The report found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, does not maintain complete records on which international students are actively working and whether they are working in their fields of study, as required by ICE regulations. A GAO analysis of more than 126,000 records of students participating in OPT found that 38 percent did not include an employer’s name. GAO also found that the records did not contain the dates on which students began working.
"Collecting and monitoring complete information on foreign students approved for OPT would better position ICE to determine whether these students are maintaining legal status in the United States," the report says.
A new article in Educational Researcher develops a typology for government-sponsored international scholarship programs. The lead author, the University of Pennsylvania’s Laura W. Perna, and her co-authors identify 183 government-sponsored programs in 196 countries and find that 76 percent of these programs target graduate or post-graduate (rather than undergraduate) study, 78 percent focus on degree attainment rather than short-term exchange, and 85 percent limit the number of possible destination countries. Just 15 percent of programs allow scholarship recipients to pursue any field of study they wish. Thirty-eight percent of programs cover all expenses, and 59 percent require students to return to their home countries after completing their programs.
The authors divide programs into four main types, based on program characteristics (such as level of study, undergraduate or graduate) and the political and economic dynamics of the sponsoring nations: Type 1, “development of basic skills"; Type 2, “development of advanced knowledge in developing nations"; Type 3, “development of advanced knowledge in developed nations"; and Type 4, “promotion of short-term study abroad."
Tel Aviv University is introducing a new app that will provide almost immediate feedback for professors on their lectures, Haaretz reported. In the last five minutes of class, students will be questioned via the app on whether the class was interesting that day, how they would evaluate the professor's performance and how they rank the lecturer overall - on a scale of 1 to 100. A pilot of the app is about to start, used only in courses of lecturers who have volunteered for the project.
Shorelight Education, a new player in the growing business of developing pathway programs for international students, sought and won an injunction to prevent the release of its contract with the University of Kansas to the Lawrence Journal-World, the newspaper reported. Shorelight, which has teamed with Kansas to recruit international students and operate a first-year experience program combining academic and English as a second language coursework, argued that release of the contract -- requested by the newspaper under open records law -- would compromise proprietary information that could help other corporations replicate its business model. The newspaper reported that while administrators hope that the program will boost international student enrollment, some faculty are concerned about issues of academic oversight.
Noted scholars Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi jointly wrote a statement, signed by about 150 other academics and artists, condemning the intimidation and censorship of individuals who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“Whether one is for or against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a means to change the current situation in Palestine-Israel, it is important to recognize that boycotts are internationally affirmed and constitutionally protected forms of political expression,” the Butler-Khalidi statement reads. “As non-violent instruments to effect political change, boycotts cannot be outlawed without trampling on a constitutionally protected right to political speech. Those who support boycotts ought not to become subject to retaliation, surveillance, or censorship when they choose to express their political viewpoint, no matter how offensive that may be to those who disagree.”
The statement continues: “We are now witnessing accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS. We ask cultural and educational institutions to have the courage and the principle to stand for, and safeguard, the very principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas that make those institutions possible. This means refusing to accede to bullying, intimidation, and threats aimed at silencing speakers because of their actual or perceived political views. It also means refusing to impose a political litmus test on speakers and artists when they are invited to speak or show their work. We ask that educational and cultural institutions recommit themselves to upholding principles of open debate, and to remain venues for staging expressions of an array of views, including controversial ones. Only by refusing to become vehicles for censorship and slander, and rejecting blacklisting, intimidation, and discrimination against certain viewpoints, can these institutions live up to their purpose as centers of learning and culture.”
Earlier this year, critics of the academic boycott against Israel, including the former president of the American Association of University Professors, Cary Nelson, issued a petition expressing concerns about the various ways in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being used to undermine academic freedom: "Partisans on all sides of this conflict seem increasingly willing to sacrifice the principles of academic freedom and, more generally, of the free expression and exchange of ideas,” that petition states.
The best German scientists are leaving the country for research positions elsewhere, and too many of them don't return, according to a new report by the government's Expert Commission on Research and Innovation. Between 1996 and 2011, 19,000 researchers came to Germany, but 23,000 have gone abroad, the report found. Of particular concern, the commission said that the quality of those leaving the country (based on citations of work) was higher than those coming to Germany. "The best migrate, but rarely return to Germany. They remain attracted by research destinations abroad," the report said. The full report, available in German, may be found here.
Study abroad to Ukraine has been limited, and only 131 Americans studied there in 2011-12, according to information from the Institute of International Education. The Eastern European Study Abroad program, however, does have a program currently operating in Kharkiv, which is in eastern Ukraine. The program posted an update on Thursday saying that the students were doing well, that local universities were all operating, and that the program was "taking all necessary measurements to maintain a safe environment for all EESA participants." That update was posted before the Russian invasion of Crimea, however. The program did not respond to an email request for more current information on the Americans in Kharkiv.