New Zealand: Tertiary institutions given 10 years to end minority pass rate disparity

Of note (and the difficulty of change):

It’s the third time in the past decade the commission has set a deadline for achieving parity.

In 2012 the commission wanted to eradicate disparities in polytechnics by 2015 and in universities by 2018. But that didn’t happen. In 2018-19 the commission aimed to achieve parity within five years and fined institutions that failed to improve. But it quietly dropped that deadline and last year introduced the 10-year target.

Tertiary Education Commission deputy chief executive, Learner Success Ōritetanga Directorate, Paora Ammunson, said past attempts at tackling the disparities had failed because they were based on isolated interventions.

“One of the frustrations I guess is that our approach to equity has tended to be really well-intentioned but quite bespoke and disconnected piecemeal interventions and we’re at a stage in the TEC now where we realise that’s not going to close the gap, that’s not going to serve the learners well that we want to succeed,” he said.

Ammunson said the commission had been trialling a different approach requiring large-scale whole-of-institution changes.

“The solution is going to be about a whole-of-ecosystem approach in those institutions towards tackling the problem of attrition, really taking a holistic approach to that. Using your data intelligence, using your guidance systems, making sure that your leaders are setting the direction, making sure you’re doing it in partnership with the community groups and organisations that are important in your context,” he said.

He said the commission was confident its approach would work.

“We’ve been testing this model with tertiary partners. It will require us to work with them and it will require us to have sometimes hard conversations about parts of their delivery that aren’t achieving what they and the TEC would be expecting.”

Last year universities had a qualification completion rate of 52 percent and course completion rate of 82 percent for Māori students. For Pacific students the figures were 48 and 75 percent, while for non-Māori and non-Pacific students the figures were 66 and 90 percent.

In polytechnics Māori students had a 48 percent qualification completion rate and 70 percent course completion rate. For Pacific students the rates were 46 and 71 percent, and for non-Māori and non-Pacific students the figures were 57 and 84 percent.

The Tauira Pasifika National President of the Union of Students’ Associations, Jaistone Finau, said the time was right to tackle the disparities.

He said tertiary institutions were taking student wellbeing more seriously and were also moving to introduce a new code for pastoral care.

Finau said institutions should treat students as partners and use their insights to improve completion and retention rates.

Te Mana Akonga tumukai takirua (co-president of the Māori students’ association), Nkhaya Paulsen-More, said universities had not been doing enough to help Māori students achieve.

“University strategies seem to be aligning with Tiriti-led policies but on the ground we’re still getting complaints from students that they don’t see much of a change,” she said.

“Things like ‘my lecturer doesn’t understand me because I’m Māori and they don’t respect the fact that I’m not the person to go to automatically if they don’t understand anything that’s Māori’, so being referred to as the cultural trainer in formal settings or utilising their knowledge without reimbursing them for that knowledge.”

The organisation’s other tumuaki takirua, Renāta White, said if the commission used financial penalties against institutions that failed to make progress, it should require the institutions to spend the money on improvements.

“I would rather the funds go back into supporting the students. So if there is a fine they are fined needing to employ maybe more support and mental health or more support and peer mentorship rather than the funds going back to government,” he said.

Huhāna Wātene from the Tertiary Education Union said universities and polytechnics could make a big difference for Māori students by hiring more Māori academics and tutors.

She said students also needed more culturally-appropriate support.

“In institutes whether it be in schools, polytechnics, kohanga, kura, it’s the services that are wrapped round them [students] that really assist and allow them to flourish. If you put any students, not just Māori and Pasifika, in that kind of environment they can’t do anything but do well,” she said.

“We know for a fact that Māori students do exceedingly well when they have that support services around them or people who value and appreciate their cultural aspirations and the tikanga.”

Wātene said the commission should use incentives rather than penalties to encourage change.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/453303/tertiary-institutions-given-10-years-to-end-minority-pass-rate-disparity

Australia:University students will be trained to spot foreign interference

Will be interesting to see how the training works in practice and possible lessons learned for Canada:

University students will be trained to spot foreign interference threats on campus and report them to authorities under proposed new rules aimed at significantly beefing up universities’ responsibilities for countering Chinese government influence on campuses.

Academics and students involved in research collaborations with overseas institutions will also get specific training on how to “recognise, mitigate and handle concerns of foreign interference”, following security agencies’ concerns about critical research being stolen.

The measures are contained in new draft foreign interference guidelines for universities, which are being furiously debated among university leaders and government officials. The federal government has already been forced to review a key element of the guidelines, which would have required all academics to disclose their membership of foreign political parties over the past decade, following a fierce backlash from university chiefs.

Following growing concerns from Australia’s security agencies about the risk of research theft by China and other foreign actors, the guidelines state that students and staff are to “receive training on, and have access to information about how foreign interference can manifest on campus and how to raise concerns in the university or with appropriate authorities”.

The measures are also aimed at addressing reports of students and academics being harassed by pro-Beijing groups on campuses. They propose that orientation programs should be used to “promote to all staff and students ways to report within their university concerns of foreign interference, intimidation and harassment that can lead to self-censorship”. Universities will also be required to have policies that set out how reported “concerns are tracked, resolved and recorded and shared” internally and when they should be reported to outside authorities.

To oversee these measures, the guidelines state that universities must have an “accountable authority” – either a senior executive or executive body – that will have responsibility for research collaborations with overseas institutions, and reviewing security risks and communicating them with the government.

The guidelines have been drafted by the Universities Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT), a collaborative body that includes university vice-chancellors and government officials. The final version will replace existing guidelines, which are far less prescriptive. The proposal has prompted considerable concern among academic leaders about the mandatory language underpinning the new requirements, and what consequences, if any, universities will face from government if they fail to implement them.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has declined to comment on “what is and isn’t in the draft guidelines”, but said earlier this year he was deeply concerned by a Human Rights Watch report that revealed accounts of Chinese international students being surveilled and harassed by their pro-Beijing classmates.

The report found that students were self-censoring in class out of fear comments critical of the Chinese Communist Party would be reported to authorities, with several students saying their parents in China had been hauled into police stations over their campus activities. Academics interviewed by Human Rights Watch also reported self-censorship practices, saying sensitive topics such as Taiwan had become too difficult to teach without a backlash from pro-Beijing students.

The report’s author, Sophie McNeill, said the draft guidelines indicated the government had taken the report’s findings into account.

“This focus had been missing from the previous guidelines, so it is very welcome these issues are now being recognised and addressed. It is critical the final guidelines include practical measures to safeguard academic freedom and address issues of harassment, surveillance and self-censorship faced by international students and staff,” Ms McNeill said.

Some universities have already taken steps to respond to the issues highlighted by Human Rights Watch. The University of Technology Sydney, for example, updated its orientation program for international students this semester to include guidance on acceptable behaviour and how students could report intimidation or surveillance by other students.

“We have certainly made it clear to students that what is discussed in classrooms is not something that should be reported on to the embassy,” Mr Watt, UTS deputy vice-chancellor, said.

“We’re not encouraging students to spy on each other. But rather, it’s saying: if you get doxxed or bullied or feel unable to express your views in a lecture here is the support available to you and here’s what you should do.”

The university’s misconduct rules allow for a range of penalties in response to unacceptable behaviour, including potential expulsion in serious cases.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/university-students-will-be-trained-to-spot-foreign-interference-20210830-p58n3s.html

Burton: Time for transparency in China’s dealings with Canadian universities

Indeed:

Canada’s free society is based on cultural expectations of reciprocal fairness and goodwill in our dealings with fellow citizens. This is what makes Canada a great place to live, and so attractive to immigrants. But our trusting nature is also vulnerable to being exploited by foreign actors with agendas that threaten our security and sovereignty.

In the case of China, its intricate manipulation practices have had enormous success in transferring research data from Canadian universities in strategically sensitive areas that serve PRC purposes. According to former CSIS director Richard Fadden, these areas include avionics, space technology, nuclear science and high-level optics research.

The fact is, China’s interference and espionage activities are hiding in plain sight in our open institutions. We need transparency about what these activities comprise, which Canadians are receiving benefits from agents of foreign states, and what form these benefits take.

Recent and troubling media reports reveal that, in 2018, the China Institute at the University of Alberta accepted a major donation from Hong Kong-based billionaire Jonathan Koon-Shum Choi, but refuses to disclose the size of Mr. Choi’s gift, the purposes to which the money has been allocated, and who are the de facto beneficiaries of this largesse.

Choi is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), whose main mission is to gain outside support for Beijing’s political agenda.

As the U of A is a public institution, surely Alberta taxpayers deserve transparency regarding any money that supports or influences the university’s research.

Under an agreement with China’s Minister of Science and Technology, U of A researchers have had access to at least 50 state labs in China since 2005, while upward of 60 professors have received funding for more than 90 joint projects with state and national labs in China. Likewise, at the University of British Columbia, more than 300 professors have significant professional interest in China, and faculty have partnerships with over 100 Chinese institutions.

But agreements through China’s Ministry of Science and Technology are not like those with partners in democratic societies. These are not simply benign, mutually beneficial collaborations between autonomous scholars seeking to expand the frontiers of science and human understanding, as much as the UFWD would have us believe.

In China, professors are cadre-ranked state employees, their research dictated by the state ministries to which their universities and labs are subordinate. Their ultimate goal is to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s five-year plans for domestic development and global geo-strategic advantage.

China would not be funding Canadian researchers if there were no ability to access the data which the professors generate. This is about obtaining information or intellectual property that could serve the PRC’s economic and military objectives. Indeed, some Canadian participants over the long term appear to derive significant Chinese income streams beyond their university salaries, through lucrative PRC-associated board appointments and commercial inducements.

The money is an effective device. Chinese grants help Canadians pursue research projects that might not have been so well funded by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The profs gain prestige from undertaking work in important and sensitive areas, enjoy wonderful hospitality in China, and benefit from considerable talented Chinese research assistance — providing they hand over their work to the Chinese state to develop. The strategy spends years cultivating a Canadian target, with the recipients often not fully aware of what they’re getting themselves into.

It is reassuring that Alberta government officials have promised to protect Canada’s national interest by curtailing U of A collaborations with China in strategically sensitive science and technology, but will Ottawa initiate federal legislation such as requiring transparency in reporting of foreign sources of income? There is a powerful pro-PRC lobby in Ottawa, mostly retired politicians who are on China-related boards, including Canadian companies and law firms that benefit from the PRC. In taking China’s money, they are expected to support the interests of the PRC in Canada in return.

Beijing seems confident that, once Canadian public outrage fades over the latest reports of China’s shameless flouting of the norms of international relations, the Canadians on the PRC gravy train will resume quietly lobbying for Ottawa’s restraint in any new measures. This United Front work is a sophisticated engagement of Canada, and the PRC always seems to end up on top.

Charles Burton is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, and non-resident senior fellow of the European Values Center for Security Policy in Prague. He is a former professor of political science at Brock University, and served as a diplomat at Canada’s embassy in Beijing.

Source: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-time-for-transparency-in-chinas-dealings-with-canadian-universities/wcm/d6768c22-f35e-4eea-849c-8b41e2bf4191

After a Year of Turmoil, Elite Universities Welcome More Diverse Freshman Classes

Of interest:

Jianna Curbelo attends a career-focused public high school in New York City, works at McDonald’s and lives in the Bronx with her unemployed mother, who did not graduate from college.

So when her high-school counselor and her Ph.D.-educated aunt urged her to apply to Cornell, on her path to becoming a veterinarian, she had her doubts. But she also had her hopes.

“It was one of those, ‘I’ll give it a shot, boost my ego a little bit,’” she said, laughing infectiously, of her decision to apply.

Then she got the unexpected news: She was accepted. She figured she was helped by the fact that Cornell, like hundreds of other universities, had suspended its standardized test score requirement for admission during the coronavirus pandemic. She also said she believed that protests kindled by the death of George Floyd had caught the attention of admissions officers, inspiring some to draft essay questions aimed at eliciting students’ thoughts on racial justice and the value of diversity.

“Those protests really did inspire me,” she said. “It made it seem like the times were sort of changing, in a way.”

Whether college admissions have changed for the long haul remains unclear. But early data suggests that many elite universities have admitted a higher proportion of traditionally underrepresented students this year — Black, Hispanic and those who were from lower-income communities or were the first generation in their families to go to college, or some combination — than ever before.

The gains seem to reflect a moment of national racial and social awareness not seen since the late 1960s that motivated universities to put a premium on diversity and that prodded students to expand their horizons on possible college experiences.

“I would say the likelihood is that the movement that arose in the wake of George Floyd’s murder has exerted some influence on these institutions’ admissions officers,” said Jerome Karabel, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a historian of college admission.

“But I think an equally important factor may be the effect of the pandemic on the applicant pool — they had a much broader range of low-income and minority applicants to choose from.”

Consider Jaylen Cocklin, 18, of Columbia, S.C., the son of a retired police officer and a state worker. Jaylen, whose two older brothers attend historically Black institutions, decided in middle school that he wanted to go to Harvard, but the events of the past year were a part of his thinking as he weighed his opportunities.

“It was just another thing driving me to go to Harvard and prove everyone wrong, and defy the common stereotype placed upon so many African-American males today,” he said.

He also suspected that Harvard might be thinking it had some duty to young men like him “because of the social outcry.” And, now he says, it appears that he was right.

He finds himself deciding among Harvard, Emory, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Wake Forest, Davidson and Georgetown.

The growth in minority admissions at top schools, both private universities and state flagships, has been driven in part by an overall explosion in applications there. Although the total number of students applying to college this year increased only slightly (though slightly more for Black, Hispanic and Asian students than white ones), the number of applications to top schools increased drastically across the board — by 43 percent to Harvard and 66 percent to M.I.T., for example.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, freshman applications rose by 28 percent, and even more for racial minorities — by 48 percent for African-Americans, by 33 percent for Hispanic students and by 16 percent for American Indian students.

The easing of the reliance on standardized tests, which critics say often work to the advantage of more educated and affluent families who can afford tutors and test prep, was most likely the most important factor in encouraging minority applicants.

Only 46 percent of applications this year came from students who reported a test score, down from 77 percent last year, according to Common App, the not-for-profit organization that offers the application used by more than 900 schools. First-generation, lower-income, as well as Black, Hispanic and Native American students were much less likely than others to submit their test scores on college applications.

Schools had been dropping the testing requirement for years, but during the pandemic a wave of 650 schools joined in. In most cases, a student with good scores could still submit them and have them considered; a student who had good grades and recommendations but fell short on test scores could leave them out. 

Most schools have announced that they will continue the test-optional experiment next year, as the normal rhythm of the school year is still roiled by the pandemic. It is unclear whether the shift foretells a permanent change in how students are selected.

Gabriella Codrington, 17, a Black student at Bard, a selective public high school in New York City, submitted her SAT score only to her “safety” schools, like the University of Delaware and Temple University, where she thought it would help her application. She withheld it from more selective schools like Harvard, Michigan, Stanford and N.Y.U., emphasizing her grades and resilience in the face of cancer, now in remission. “It definitely gave me a bit more relief,” she said of the test-optional policy.

Neither her father, a doorman, nor her mother, a sales associate, went to college. She has been admitted to N.Y.U.

Jaylen Cocklin’s family (his father went to a historically Black college and his mother to a Christian one) encouraged him to aim high. 

He “just grinded” for the SAT, he said, using a free online program, books and lessons on YouTube, and drove 45 miles because of the pandemic to take the first of two SAT tests. His score was high enough that he felt it would help him stand out at top schools, so he submitted it.

In his application essay, he wrote about the “struggle to be who I was” at A.C. Flora High School, in suburban Columbia, S.C. “I’ve been quite stereotyped by being African-American, the common stereotypes — thuggish, hoodish, looking down on what African-Americans can do,” he said.

But he also had to deal with being stereotyped as “whitewashed.” He wrote about his efforts to find a balance.

As students like Jaylen and Gabriella told their stories, admissions officers listened.

“You could tell the story of America through the eyes of all these young people, and how they dealt with the times, Black Lives Matter, the wave of unemployment and the uncertainties of the political moment, wanting to make a difference,” said MJ Knoll-Finn, senior vice president for enrollment management at New York University.

At N.Y.U., this year’s admitted class is about 29 percent Black or Hispanic students, up from 27 percent last year, and 20 percent first-generation students, up from 15 percent.

At Harvard, the proportion of admitted students who are Black jumped to 18 percent from 14.8 percent last year. If all of them enrolled, there would be about 63 more Black students in this year’s freshman class than if they were admitted at last year’s rate. Asian-Americans saw the second biggest increase, to 27.2 percent from 24.5 percent, which could be meaningful if a lawsuit accusing Harvard of systematically discriminating against Asian-Americans is taken up by the Supreme Court.

The percentage of Black students offered a spot at the University of Southern California rose to 8.5 percent from 6 percent, and Latino students to 18 percent from 15 percent.

Stu Schmill, dean of admissions at M.I.T., said the school did not release the breakdown of the admitted class because it was not the final enrolling class. “But I can tell you that there is a higher percentage of students of color this year than last,” he said.

A number of schools did not report admissions figures by race, instead reporting nonwhite “students of color” (including Asians) as a group, which generally showed an increase.

Once students actually accept an offer of admission and enroll, the diversity tally may look different, reflecting the difference between students admitted and where those students choose to enroll.

Some admissions experts worry that making standardized tests, like the SAT, optional will make it more difficult to select top students, especially at a time of widespread grade inflation. But when tests were required, “students were taking themselves out of the running,” said Cassie Magesis, director of post-secondary access for the Urban Assembly, a network of small schools that includes the one that Jianna Curbelo attends.

Admissions directors said that in the absence of test scores, they drilled deeper into not only high school grades, but also the rigor of courses taken in high school as well as personal essays and recommendations from teachers and guidance counselors.

Some hired a small army of application readers, like N.Y.U., which added 50 new readers, more than doubling its regular reading staff.

Even some admissions directors who think that standardized tests have been misused have mixed feelings about eliminating them altogether

“In some ways, I would say good riddance to the SAT,” said Joy St. John, dean of admission and financial aid at Wellesley College. “It feels like we just can’t stop gaslighting disadvantaged students.”

Still, she said testing could identify students who rose above their environment, or who excelled in certain subjects, like math and science. “There are aspects I will miss if we don’t have it,” she said. As imperfect as the process is, the admissions directors said they welcomed students taking a chance on challenging schools.

Ms. Knoll-Finn of N.Y.U. said. “Why not reach for the stars and see what you can get?”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/us/minority-acceptance-ivy-league-cornell.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Dependent on foreign students, Canada universities risk revenues as vaccines lag

More on the impact on university revenues from COVID-19 travel restrictions and a reference to how Canada’s currently lower vaccination rate may affect Canada’s relative competitiveness in attracting international students:

Public universities have become increasingly dependent on foreign students, who pay far higher tuition than domestic students, to boost their profits. International enrollment jumped 45% over the last five years, advocacy group Universities Canada said, but it fell 2.1% this year amid coronavirus restrictions.

Reuters Graphic

That decline, coupled with a sharp fall in revenues from campus services like conferences, dorms, food halls and parking, has hit the schools hard. Canada’s slow vaccine campaign – it currently lags well behind global peers on inoculations – and the emergence of new variants, could extend the slump in enrollment and campus revenues into the next year school, experts warn.

“Overall, we are expecting universities to post consolidated deficits this year,” said Michael Yake, a senior analyst with rating agency Moody’s.

It is still too soon to know the final impact of COVID-19 on the current year. The University of British Columbia, for example, is projecting a deficit of C$225 million ($177.2 million) this year compared with a C$60 million surplus budgeted pre-COVID-19. And the uncertainty will continue.

“We’re not assuming the vaccine is going to be in place for the fall,” Yake added. “Even if in Canada the vaccines are available, that doesn’t means it’s going to be available for the international students.”

BIDEN EFFECT

While most of Canada’s universities are well positioned to weather the COVID-19 storm, an unexpected move by Laurentian University in Ontario to file for creditor protection this month has sparked concerns. Experts says that while Laurentian’s situation is unique, other schools also face cost pressures and some may be too reliant on foreign tuition.

International students brought in almost C$4 billion in annual revenue for Canadian universities in 2017/18, the most recent data from Statistics Canada showed. On average, they pay five times the tuition of domestic students and account for nearly 40% of all tuition fees.

Reuters Graphic

At Canada’s top three ranked universities, foreign students make up at least a quarter of the student body. Many stay in Canada after graduation and contribute to economic growth.

Canada did stave off a feared enrollment plunge this year, in part because the federal government made it easier for international students to get work permits after graduation, but the huge gains in foreign students of the previous five years are likely over.

Indeed a trend that saw many international students choose Canada over the United States in recent years could reverse as U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration overhauls the U.S. immigration.

“Something that’s benefited Canada for some time is the political environment in the U.S., as it drove more international students to Canada,” said Travis Shaw, a senior analyst at rating agency DBRS Morningstar.

The change of administration “probably means we’ve got more competition for those international students in the years ahead,” he said.

An increase in domestic students could offset some of the need for new foreign students, but their lower tuition fees will create a significant financial gap. Other cost-saving alternatives might include reducing course offerings and consolidating smaller schools.

And while international enrollment is expected to stabilize as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the longer the pandemic drags on, the greater the risk that more international students will go elsewhere to study, particularly if competitor campuses are able to safely reopen before those in Canada.

“Most students want to come to Canada for the student experience. If a student experience does not seem viable over the term of the course, it is sure to be a deterrent,” said Aditi Joshi, an analyst at DBRS Morningstar.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-education/dependent-on-foreign-students-canada-universities-risk-revenues-as-vaccines-lag-idUSKBN2AF189?rpc=401&

David Feldman: The UK government should not impose a faulty definition of antisemitism on universities

On the risks of universities applying the IHRA definition of antisemitism:

We all know how the path to hell is paved. But it is a warning worth repeating for Gavin Williamson. The secretary of state for education intends to rid universities in England of antisemitism, but his intervention not only threatens to provoke strife and confusion – it also places academic freedom and free speech on campus at risk.

In October, Williamson wrote to all university vice-chancellors “requesting” they adopt a particular definition of antisemitism: the “working definition” promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Williamson is not the first ministerto write to universities on this matter, but he has been more forceful than his predecessors. His letter demands action by Christmas, and threatens swingeing measures against refusenik institutions that later suffer antisemitic incidents. He threatens to remove funding and the power to award degrees from universities that do not share his faith in the efficacy of the IHRA working definition.

This is misguided, for a number of reasons. First, it misconceives the task universities face. As shown in a report released last week by Universities UK – Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education – structural racism in universities is profound, and racial harassment on campus is widespread. These are problems that universities must address. The imposed adoption of the IHRA working definition will not meet this challenge. It will, however, privilege one group over others by giving them additional protections, and in doing so will divide minorities against each other. For this reason alone, Williamson should pause and consider how best to protect students and university staff from racism broadly as well as from antisemitism.

Foreign students start gradual return — along with their much-missed tuition

Will continue to watch application and admission statistics to assess the return:

Canada will begin allowing international students into the country on Tuesday, but it may take weeks before they arrive in significant numbers.

Travel restrictions are being lifted on Oct. 20, allowing foreign students to enter Canada if their post-secondary institutions’ COVID-19-readiness plans are approved by a provincial or territorial government. Universities, colleges and language schools are required to have a plan to quarantine students for 14 days.

Since March, international travel restrictions have limited entry into Canada for most non-essential travellers.

The return of foreign students is a relief for Canada’s post-secondary schools, with universities potentially losing as much as $3.4 billion this year, due mainly to the drop in international students, Statistics Canada reported earlier this month.

Tuition fees paid by foreign students have become an ever-bigger source of revenue for universities. The average tuition paid by an international student this year is $32,041, almost five times what a Canadian student pays. And the number of foreign students in Canada has tripled in 12 years to more than 640,000, generating roughly $22 billion a year in economic activity in Canada, according to federal estimates.

“This could be in the billions of dollars of loss this year alone,” said Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, which represents 135 post-secondary institutions.

Amyot said the return of international students will benefit rural colleges, in particular, where there are seldom enough domestic students to fill classes. Foreign students are also important because many decide to settle in Canada and are often trained for occupations that are short of workers, she said.

“Those are potential immigrants for our country,” Amyot said. “If they know the language, they have studied here, and they have Canadian experience, they make really well-prepared Canadians.”

With the fall semester well underway, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson Shannon Ker told iPolitics that amendments to travel restrictions that kick in Tuesday “should result in a gradual movement of international students to Canada.”

Many foreign students are arranging to arrive before the winter semester starts in January, said Bryn de Chastelain, chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

“I’m not sure if we’ll see a huge influx starting tomorrow, but I think, over the next few months, we will start to see kind of a slow trickle begin to pick up,” de Chastelain said.

Ker said it’s too hard to guess how many students will arrive in the weeks ahead, but it would depend on how many decide to study online from their home countries and the number of institutions that have their readiness plans approved. But a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities says it has given 12 publicly funded schools the green light so far.

IRCC has yet to publish the list of schools — known formally as “designated learning institutions” — whose plans have been approved, although its website says it will be available by Oct. 20.

Students arriving in Canada must undergo the same screening and quarantine as any other traveller.

But the students’ arrival may be delayed because Canadian visa-application offices abroad are short-staffed due to the pandemic, Amyot said. That includes those in India, where most foreign students attending Canadians colleges and institutes come from.

International students require two stages of permits in order to study in Canada. Stage 2 includes biometrics, a medical exam, and a criminal background check that often require physically going to a visa office.

“That will become a barrier, because they need those biometrics to travel to Canada,” Amyot said.

The IRCC’s Ker said that, since March 15, more than 121,000 study permits have been issued, of which 10,000 are initial study permits and 111,000 are study permit extensions. In most cases, applicants approved for an initial study permit are abroad, whereas applicants approved for a study permit extension are already in Canada.

According to de Chastelain, foreign students have received “next-to-no financial support” from Ottawa during the pandemic. He said the federal government should help students struggling financially, and cover some expenses for digital technology as most classes move online. One idea de Chastelain proposes is reallocating unspent funds from the $9-billion student-aid package announced in April.

Despite the pandemic, most international and out-of-province students still prefer to live near the schools they’re attending, he said.

Source: Foreign students start gradual return — along with their much-missed tuition

Protecting academic freedom in international partnerships

Some valid suggestions to reduce foreign government influence:

We live in an age of academic internationalisation, especially pronounced in the United Kingdom. This has in many ways been a good thing. 

It has become more common for research institutions across the globe to establish collaborative research and joint degree programmes, often hugely benefiting research and teaching. Individual scholars and students travel more easily and frequently today, too, and their ideas and arguments travel with them. 

Moreover, even when physical travel is interrupted, as it is at the moment, academic communities can interact and stay connected remotely. 

But internationalisation has also produced new risks, especially in the context of engagement, exchange and collaboration with non-democratic countries. 

In an age of ‘democratic retrogression’ and deepening authoritarianism affecting many countries, many members of the global academic community face growing challenges – including censorship and travel restrictions, disciplinary measures and dismissals, criminal prosecutions and even physical attacks, as has been well documented by Scholars At Risk and other groups. 

Such repression has become increasingly internationalised, not only because repressive governments can extend threats and censorship across borders, but also because marketised funding structures, the casualisation of academic work and an opportunistic approach to building global ties have made academic actors within liberal democracies more vulnerable – and sometimes less willing to stand up for academic freedom and integrity. 

This is the case, for example, when universities take funding that comes with strings attached or raises concerns about the donor’s political goals or when academic publishers decide to accept censorship instructions from autocratic governments, apparently for commercial reasons. 

Exporting repression

Against this background, we must be concerned about the terms of our engagement with academic institutions abroad, as well as about repressive governments and institutions’ ability to ‘export repression’ in the field of academia.

At a time when the global pandemic has changed academic life beyond recognition for many of us in the UK and globally, and as we are already overburdened with the challenges arising immediately from COVID, we may feel reluctant to engage with further, more long-term challenges. 

Yet, as members of the recently established Academic Freedom and Internationalisation Working Group (AFIWG) in the UK, we feel that the challenges posed by academic internationalisation must be dealt with without delay – and, indeed, that the pandemic has exacerbated some of these challenges, for example, by making us more dependent on online communication.

Universities could respond in several ways. Denial – such as that by the Chair of Million Plus group of universities, Bill Rammell, in his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of the House of Commons in 2019 – is no longer tenable. 

An auditing response of generic and top-down reporting requirements, which spread like viruses through UK higher education, are also unlikely to touch conditions on the ground. 

Similarly, the notion that universities must “sensitively balance the need to uphold academic freedom with the importance of internal academic collaboration”– as suggested by then Universities UK president Janet Beer in her letter to the FAC – is equally inadequate and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of academic freedom. 

Faced with such inertia, the UK government, including its security agencies, have pressed British higher education to develop security guidelines and risk management strategies. In guidance just released, Universities UK finally addresses these concerns with academic freedom considered among a range of objects and values to be defended, including intellectual property and “national security”.

A new code of conduct

However, while there may be a need for draconian measures in rare cases, a national security approach is largely inappropriate as it is founded on false premises. 

UK universities are not national institutions under threat, but global institutions so thoroughly internationalised that any attempt to cut them off from foreign influence may make the problem worse. 

It would feed the narrative of some authoritarian states that they are vehicles of British ‘soft power’ against their values and even Trojan horses for spying researchers. 

A far better response is for a bottom-up process led by academic staff, supported by students, civil society and unions. 

The AFIWG has composed a Draft Model Code of Conduct for UK higher education institutions to bestow duties on them to protect their academic communities at home and abroad and be transparent and accountable to their members. 

It is a draft and a model so it can be revised in the coming months of consultation and adapted from the minimum standards enshrined in the model.

These minimum standards include a stipulation that universities must undertake meaningful risk assessment and due diligence when transnational collaboration is being considered before any agreement or arrangement is begun. 

In particular, they must ensure memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on international partnerships, including foreign campuses and the affiliation of foreign education or research institutions to UK higher education institutions within the UK, are subject to consultation across the university.

With regard to protecting their staff and students overseas, universities must evaluate academic freedom and the risks associated with its absence, as when planning fieldwork and field trips abroad, and make available enhanced travel insurance to cover politically motivated or arbitrary detention by state authorities.

On campuses at home, universities should ensure that academic freedom requirements, including personal data protection for these members of the academic community, are incorporated within all MoUs with state scholarship programmes. Vice-chancellors and their gifts committees must make all MoUs and summary information on all foreign donations public.

A system of confidential and public reporting is required to enhance protection and accountability. UK universities should establish a confidential and independent internal reporting mechanism to a designated individual on campus for cases or issues of concern, while serious cases and issues, including all those involving a threat to the welfare of the complainant, should be passed to a new, independent ombudsperson.

An academic freedom model in authoritarian times?

This is a model and draft which may have relevance far beyond the UK. It is designed to be revised via debate on campus among staff and students and adopted according to minimum conditions. The duties it imposes are on universities’ leaders – not on staff and students who may be vulnerable themselves. 

But there is a risk. If vice-chancellors pass down the code of conduct in the form of new and onerous auditing requirements for staff, or if governments make them matters of national security, academic freedom will be weakened, not strengthened. The way to protect academic freedom is for universities to be held to account by their academics and students. 

We must use our freedom before we lose it. 

John Heathershaw is professor of international relations at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. Eva Pils is a professor of law at King’s College London, UK.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20201015062104681

Chinese families shun Western universities as coronavirus, strained ties are ‘scaring middle-class families’

Will have major impact on universities who have counted on this revenue source:

After being inundated with news about the worsening coronavirus pandemic and rising tensions between China and the West for months, Beijinger Joe Gao was compelled to make a difficult decision regarding his six-year-old daughter’s future education.

Rather than pay 300,000 yuan (US$44,000) in annual tuition for her, as he does for her nine-year-old brother who is studying at an international school in the capital, Gao has had to change his plans and is now looking to send his daughter to a public school in mainland China.

“Until this summer, I had been working hard with the aim of earning enough to send both of them abroad for secondary school. But things change so fast, and so we must, too,” he said. “I’m not that rich like a tycoon with strong anti-risk capabilities. I think the economic uncertainty, the pandemic and the growing negative perception of China are actually scaring many middle-class families of my kind.”

Gao, who runs an investment and services start-up, said he is still going to send his son abroad for schooling, but now prefers that be in an Asian country such as Singapore, instead of the United States or Australia, in case China’s relations with the West continue to deteriorate in the coming years.China’s overseas graduates return in record numbers to already crowded domestic job market21 Sep 2020

“If China and the West face a long-term confrontation into the future, trade between China and the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] will increase, and studying in developed Asian areas would be safer for, and more friendly to, Chinese,” he said.

Gao is not alone in his rationalisation. A large and growing number of Chinese parents are cancelling or at least suspending plans to send their children to study abroad – a strong signal that wealthy and middle-class Chinese families are becoming less interested in sending their kids to study overseas.

About 81 per cent of affluent Chinese families whose children study foreign curriculums and take foreign examinations have decided to postpone plans to send them abroad for undergraduate or graduate studies, according to a survey released last month by Babazhenbang, an education start-up with a database of more than 400 schools preparing Chinese students for overseas high schools and colleges.

Among 838 respondents, the survey found that worries about the pandemic (82.6 per cent) and possible discrimination due to political tensions (60.9 per cent) were the top reasons for the postponements, followed by personal financial difficulties (43.5 per cent) and the fading advantages for overseas-trained talent in the domestic job market (21.7 per cent).

When all is said and done, the pandemic and increasingly rigorous visa checks could end China’s overseas schooling boom end much earlier than expected, according to Cao Huiying, founder of Babazhenbang.

“A lot of parents, especially among those middle-class families in second- and third-tier cities in China, have reconsidered and put their children back into the domestic education system,” she said.

Liu Shengjun, head of the China Financial Reform Institute, a Shanghai-based research firm, also pointed to the combination of factors leading to a rethink about overseas education options for Chinese families.

“Under the impact of the epidemic and the deterioration of Sino-US relations, which may last for years, there is expected to be a decline in both the number of Chinese students studying overseas and Chinese shopping abroad,” Liu said. “But the size of the decline cannot be predicted at this time.

“I think this trend will contribute to China’s domestic education market, but not sufficiently enough to offset weak domestic spending.”

According to a 2017 report by Union Pay International, Chinese students abroad spent more than 380 billion yuan (US$55.7 billion) annually — 80 per cent of which was on tuition and daily expenses.

Public concern among wealthy and middle-class mainland Chinese increased after the US confirmed last month that it had revoked more than 1,000 visas held by Chinese graduate students and research scholars. Escalating tensions between China and Australia have also fuelled concerns.

The two countries had been among the top overseas schooling destinations for Chinese students until recently.

“Last year, more than 90 per cent of our graduates applied only to American universities, while all graduates this year applied to more universities outside of the United States than American ones,” said Lion Deng, a counsellor with the international department of the Affiliated High School of Guangzhou University.

“All parents think the current conflict between China and the US is a direct and intense head-on collision that cannot be resolved in the short-term. Risks such as visa checks, as well as political and diplomatic uncertainties, are very likely to affect [students’] lives in college. It will definitely have a big impact on curbing their desire to educate their children in the United States,” Deng added.

“The number of students from our school applying for admission to high schools in the United States this year has dropped by 75 per cent compared with last year.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/JXH-zllz-Q0

Jade Zheng, who owns several flats in Shenzhen and runs a cafe, originally planned to send her seven-year-old son to Canada for school next year or the year after, and she had hoped he would adapt to the Western environment at an early age.

“In March, we decided to keep him in Shenzhen to study until at least high school, and currently we are going to delay the plan until he is an undergraduate,” she said. “The news is getting worse and worse, and we are feeling increasingly insecure, and [we feel] that things are getting out of control with regard to investing and living outside of China.”

Zheng’s brother and his wife sold their only apartment in 2018 and raised 5 million yuan (US$733,400) to send their son to high school and college in the US. “They were very happy back then but now are very worried about the safety of the 16-year-old boy,” Zheng said. “Additionally, the apartment they sold is now worth 8 million yuan.”

“Even if my son studies abroad, I hope he will return to Shenzhen to live in the future, because in the next 10 or 20 years, Shenzhen will definitely have more vitality and better prospects than any other areas, in terms of economic development,” Zheng added. “Maybe it would be a good idea to just go to college in Shenzhen in the future.”

Similar sentiment was echoed by Alice Chen, whose 18-year-old daughter started this autumn at a US Ivy League university but is studying remotely from Beijing due to the coronavirus.

“Our children born after 2000 are very different from us,” Chen said. “They feel that New York and London are not much different than Beijing and Shanghai. And they are satisfied with China’s economic development with a strong Chinese national identity.”

For many rich Chinese families and their children who have no plans to stay in the US or to visit for an extended period in the future, negative sentiment in the US about China is no longer important to them, Chen said.

“Their generation believes that China’s economy and society are better than most other countries,” she said. “When a company or a country becomes very strong, it will definitely be contained by competitors.”

Source: https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3103722/chinese-shun-western-universities-coronavirus-strained-ties

Cross-country forum of professors, students aims to tackle anti-Black racism on campuses

Will be interesting to see what practical recommendations they come up with:

When Binta Sesay was accepted into the University of British Columbia, the international student was thrilled.

She didn’t think that being Black would play a major role in her life at university, but over the past few years at UBC’s Okanagan campus, Sesay said, she has been strongly affected by negative stereotypes and misconceptions of Black people and the racism she’s encountered.

From receiving little school support to mark Black History Month to a false accusation of theft against a Black students’ organization on which she served, Sesay said she has felt frustrated with anti-Black racism on campus.

“I’m so sick and tired of people … being ignorant of the Black experience or just choosing not to be educated about the Black experience, because if people say they don’t know what’s going on, then they choose not to know what’s going on,” the third-year international studies student said from Kelowna, B.C.

Sesay and hundreds of other Black students and faculty, along with community members, staff and senior administrators from more than 50 Canadian post-secondary institutions, are meeting virtually this week for a national forum on anti-Black racism and Black inclusion in higher education.

The cross-Canada forum comes after a summer that saw renewed attention on the Black Lives Matter movement and identifying anti-Black racism across many sectors of society, including academia.

“The university years are a huge part of a person’s life. Imagine if you go through university and your experiences are not good at all. It’s also going to affect your frame of reference when you go out into the world,” said Sesay, who is originally from Gambia but lived in Britain and Jerusalem before coming to Canada.

“It’s going to affect how you see the world. It’s going to affect how you interact with the world and it’s going to affect how you carry yourself as well.”

Organized by the University of Toronto, the two-day conference, which began Thursday, is expected to attract more than 3,000 participants. Nine different sessions tackle such topics as ensuring accessibility and success for Black students, staff and faculty; addressing the lack of Black representation in leadership and in the curriculum; mentoring and support networks; and collecting race-based data to combat inequities.

The goal is for a co-ordinating committee to turn these conversations into a charter of principles and actions that the participants can then adopt and employ as they address anti-Black racism on their own campuses.”We can do things individually, but it’ll be much … stronger if the whole ecosystem is working in tandem, where we are mutually reinforcing our individual commitments,” said co-organizer Wisdom Tettey, vice-president and principal of the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, in the city’s east end.

“How do we make sure that we create pathways for people to come into the institutions?… How do you create a sense of belonging? How do you make sure that support systems are responsive to their needs?”

Students, faculty speak out about racism

The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May galvanized attempts on school campuses in North America and beyond to seek justice and address anti-Black racism. Students are shining a light on the racism they experience on campuses across the country, scholars have held protests against police brutality and alumni have called on their alma maters to address their racist legacies.

“There’s no unified policy across Canadian campuses to deal with racism, so [this conference] is a first step in actually getting universities together in one place,” said Toronto-based journalist and author Eternity Martis.

“Students have been demanding accountability, have been persistent in wanting something like this to happen.”

In her recent memoir They Said This Would Be Fun, Martis revisits her undergraduate years at Western University in London, Ont., as a jumping-off point for exploring the reality and experiences of myriad young Black women on Canadian university campuses today. What she’s most interested in seeing from this week’s conference is what real-world actions and change will be enacted by the institutions participating.”Considering what’s been happening in the world with the renewed anti-Black racism movement, there’s been a lot of saving face,” Martis said.

“Schools have been doing town halls and putting reports together for a long time. I’m hoping at this time, it actually sticks, that there are some regulations around it.”

Dozens of Canadian post-secondary institutions are holding a two-day national dialogue on anti-Black racism in academic spaces and how to break down barriers. Barrington Walker, a professor of history at Wilfrid Laurier University, is addressing the group Thursday.  7:31

Conference co-organizer Tettey said it is critical that definitive commitments and mechanisms to hold institutions accountable come out of this week’s sessions — the first of what will be a series of national forums addressing equity and inclusion in Canadian post-secondary education.

School leaders have ‘obligations’

We have to have some concrete actions, and we recognize that those actions will vary from institution to institution, because we’re all at different levels of progress,” he said.

“But there’s some broad kinds of actions that we can all identify as important … guidelines that we can pursue. It allows us to focus on particular areas where we’ve got challenges, where we’ve got barriers and say, ‘Let’s address these things together.'”It won’t be easy challenging the structures of post-secondary education, Tettey said, but he considers it an obligation for the sector’s leaders to have these tough conversations and make difficult decisions leading to fundamental change.

“People have had to fight for the rights and freedoms that we have. And we cannot renege on our obligations as this generation of educators [and tell] the next generation to do it. We need to do it now. And it’s imperative that we don’t waste any more time,” he said.

“If we are indeed a mature democracy or if we aspire to be one, one of the fundamental pieces of that is to have citizens who are treated equitably or seen as equals.”

Source: Cross-country forum of professors, students aims to tackle anti-Black racism on campuses