Bucking a Trend, a University Plans to Keep Its Confucius Institute

Bucking a Trend, a University Plans to Keep Its Confucius Institute

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Hi, this is Karin Fischer, a longtime international education reporter. It’s a jam-packed week of news. Here’s what I’m following:

University Announces It Will Keep Confucius Institute
Bucking recent trends, Tufts University announced it would renew its Confucius Institute. In little more than a year, some 15 colleges have said they were shuttering their Chinese-government-funded language and cultural centers, in part because of a provision that forbids universities with the controversial institutes from receiving certain Defense Department funds. Tufts does not receive Pentagon funding for Chinese-language study. A committee appointed to review the relationship acknowledged that the university could face “potential reputational risk” by renewing the agreement. But the panel determined that there was no evidence of undue influence by Tufts’ Chinese partner or of censorship or limits on academic freedom.

“You’re Not Entering That Plane, Period”
He’d been admitted to his dream graduate school, to study engineering. But on his way to California, an Iranian student was blocked from boarding a connecting flight, and a U.S. customs officer scrawled “cancelled” across his visa in pen. I interviewed one of a dozen Iranian students whose visas were revoked abruptly and without explanation. I also spoke with one of his prospective professors who worries that visa issues could damage American higher education’s competitive edge. Her fears might be founded — just-released data from the Council of Graduate Studies shows new international enrollments have dropped again. The number of graduate engineering students coming to the United States fell especially sharply.

More Scrutiny for Higher Ed’s Foreign Ties
Another college is under investigation for foreign gifts and contracts. The U.S. Department of Education has asked the University of Maryland at College Park to provide records of revenue related to the governments of or businesses in China, Qatar, and Russia. Maryland is the fifth institution that’s been revealed to be under scrutiny for its foreign ties, joining Cornell, Georgetown, Rutgers, and Texas A&M Universities. A spokeswoman told The Washington Post that the university is working to rectify gaps in its reporting of overseas revenue.

Colleges Support Dreamers in Supreme Court Case
Among the major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in the upcoming term is one that will determine whether President Trump can end a program that shields young, undocumented students, or Dreamers, from deportation. A group of higher-education associations have submitted an amicus brief in support of the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Some 165 colleges signed onto a separate brief, writing of undocumented students, “They form a key part of our campus life and as institutions we benefit greatly from the energy and academic excellence they bring.” Check out my colleague Julia Schmalz’s photo essay on undocumented students who came to Washington to lobby for DACA in 2017.

Foreign Students Must Prove Link Between Study and Work
The Department of Homeland Security has quietly released visa guidance that says international students participating in Optional Practical Training will now be required to demonstrate a direct link between their field of study and the job they have through OPT, the work program for recent graduates. It will be up to college officials to review and confirm the relevancy of the work. Administrators are grumbling about the new responsibility, part of a trend of outsourcing the day-to-day operations of the student-visa system. But as I write in latitude(s), my weekly global education newsletter, the real concern is that this is one more hoop international students have to jump through.

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