No to China edition

Wesleyan won’t open a joint campus, plus readers on advocating for international ed

Passing on a Chinese Campus

Wesleyan University is taking a pass on opening a campus in China. The liberal-arts college had been approached by potential partners who were especially interested in its film program, but on the heels of a trip to China, Wesleyan’s president Michael Roth announced the plan was a no-go. The reason? Disagreements over the role of the liberal arts.

In a campus email, Roth wrote:

“In considering this possible campus in China, we needed to be sure that the academic work would be in line with the distinctive pragmatic liberal education at the core of Wesleyan’s mission. Further conversations with those who proposed the partnership have made it clear that our respective goals could not be sufficiently aligned – not to mention the questions we had around issues of academic freedom and the implications for our home campus.”

The joint venture – which had been proposed in partnership with a Chinese company and Shanghai Theatre Academy, a public university – had been viewed critically on campus: Students had held a rally decrying the plan, and the student government had passed a resolution calling for more transparency in negotiations.

Online, the consensus seemed to be that university administrators had made the right choice:

Some expressed their reaction in all caps…

...while others praised Roth for appearing to make a decision based on how well the program did – or didn’t – fit with the college’s liberal-arts mission:

As the Wesleyan president notes in his blog, most potential high-level international partnerships never advance past preliminary conversations. (Claremont Colleges-Singapore anyone?) So perhaps it is unsurprising that Wesleyan’s work never got beyond the getting-to-know-you stage. 

Still, when Wesleyan announced its decision the other day, I couldn’t help but feel it was inevitable. Given the blowback to the NBA’s handling of China and the controversy around a canceled program on dissent at Yale-NUS, is now the right moment for a new liberal-arts outpost in an authoritarian country? And will it ever be?

To share your thoughts, drop me a note. I’m at

Parents’ Part in College Search

Parents and students aren’t always on the same page when it comes to studying overseas. Surveys of prospective students and their parents by IDP Connect, a global student recruitment firm, found that parents are more concerned about safety, while students prioritze the ability to gain work experience after graduation. Both groups, however, care about affordability.

Still, decisionmaking about going abroad remains a family affair for many: Students reported that parents took the lead in choosing which country they should study, but more than three-quarters said they were the primary decider when it came to selecting an institution and a major. 

The important role that parents play in college choice in many parts of the world is not news to many who work in international admissions. So, tell me: What does your college do to reach whole families, not just students, in the recruitment process?

Words of Encouragement

Last week I told you about some of the requests I’ve received from students and early-career educators dismayed by the current environment for global engagement and wanting to do more. How can I make a difference, they asked. 

Naturally, I threw the question to you. Here are some of the replies I’ve gotten from readers over the last week:

I also received a long and comprehensive note from Erica Stewart, NAFSA’s new director of advocacy. In it, she urged students to write to their members of Congress and to encourage their colleges to join the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign. “For those who want to take it one step further,” she added, “young people with an interest in international education policy and how Congress works are encouraged to email us at to explore if there may be an opportunity for them to offer a testimonial in support of international students and scholars or to engage their Congressional delegation in person on this issue. They do not need to be of voting age to have a voice.😊”

Thanks to Erica and to everyone who reached out with suggestions. If you have more ideas for making an impact, let me know. I’m at and on Twitter @karinfischer.

Around the Globe

The U.S. has fallen to 28th among major industrialized countries in government funding for university research as a share of GDP, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Just 3 percent of graduate students at American universities study, conduct research, or do other academic activity overseas. The Institute of International Education found that business students are the most likely to study abroad.

After she spoke out in support of the Hong Kong protests, an Emerson College student asked administrators to make a statement condemning the threats against her. None was issued.

Listen to this NPR story on how the travel ban disrupted the world’s premier conference on brain science.

The leaders of research universities pledged to work against academic espionage but reiterated that higher ed’s “openness and inclusivity is itself our greatest strength.” 

Three-quarters of international students in Australia used recruitment agents.

The Chinese government issued new guidelines meant to improve the quality of college graduates.

A dozen professors in South Korea listed children or other underage relatives as co-authors on academic papers.

Campus activists criticized Harvard’s student newspaper for seeking comment from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in response to a student protest. Meanwhile, Penn canceled a controversial speech by a former director of the agency.

At Duke, demonstrators shouted down former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

For-profit education provider Adtalem Global Education – formerly DeVry – is selling off its Brazilian portfolio.

A German university commission found evidence of “extensive and severe scientific misconduct” by a researcher who claimed to have developed a blood test to detect breast cancer.

And finally…

They are top students but ineligible for most financial aid. Their parents brought them to the United States as children, and they consider themselves as American as apple pie, no matter what their passport says. No, I’m not talking about Dreamers but about holders of H-4 visas, the children and spouses of people on H-1B work visas.

Strict caps on the number of such workers who can get green cards puts their children in legal limbo – American colleges count them as international students and they can’t legally work here. Yet, they see little future in home countries where they have no recollection of ever having lived. A legislative fix that would provide a pathway for them to stay seems unlikely.

’Til next week – Karin

For the best international education news and analysis, please subscribe to latitude(s). In this startup phase, I’ll be making the newsletter free; in the future, I’ll ask for a small fee to support quality journalism.

Who is deserving edition

When it comes to visas and immigration, is higher ed’s advocacy too narrow?

Colleges’ Role in the Immigration Debate

I was speaking on a panel at Duke University last week when a question from a student in the audience left me and my two co-presenters, professors of public policy and law, momentarily flummoxed. Our session was on universities as global actors in an increasingly nationalistic, fractured world, part of a forum on immigration. 

The student, whose name was Emma, stepped to the mic. What role, she asked, should universities play in advocating for the rights of campus workers – staffers who serve food in the dining halls and keep the grounds lookbook-ready – who are immigrants?

We speakers had been expounding on the travel ban and DACA and how STEM departments would be decimated without talented international graduate students. We’d talked about OPT and FBI warnings about universities’ vulnerability to espionage and whether the Fulbrightian ideal of academic exchange could withstand the assault orchestrated by a Duke graduate, President Trump’s chief immigration adviser Stephen Miller. But challenges facing janitors? None of us had considered such a thing. A couple of days later, I’m still thinking about why.

Colleges inhabit a curious corner of the broader immigration debate. That’s in part because much of the advocacy they do is for students who, after all, have to explicitly promise that they’ll not immigrate but return home after earning a degree. 

Many of these students would like to stay, of course. With delays for processing OPT work authorization, it’s getting tougher to do so even in the short-term – never mind the difficulty in securing an H-1B or green card. Many colleges would also like students to remain here; a group of prominent business deans recently took out an ad in the Wall Street Journal calling for immigration reform. And higher ed has many foreign-born employees on its payrolls, as professors, researchers, scholars – and maintenance staff.

The current pull-up-the-bridges attitude affects outsiders of all stripes. Just as asylum seekers are being turned away at the Mexican border, students have had their visas revoked as they returned for the fall semester. Enhanced vetting and social-media searches affect all those who come to the U.S., whether for a degree or forever.

Over dinner at the conference’s end, I sat with Josie, a student from Texas and the daughter of two immigrants from Mexico. Her father can barely read at the third grade level in his own language. But he helped with her math homework, and he worked long and hard every day. Was he not worthy of coming to this country, she asked.

I thought about the way higher ed talks about the importance of maintaining open borders. How I talk about it. Earlier that day, I’d reeled off statistics about the economic impact of international students and their dominant numbers in certain graduate programs. When I wrote about Peyman, an Iranian student whose visa was suddenly canceled, I emphasized that he won a highly competitive fellowship. Profiling Bushra, who made it to Northeastern after being stuck in visa limbo, I highlighted her work tutoring young students during the Syrian civil war. 

Are we – I – unconsciously feeding into the narrative that there are people who deserve to be in the United States, the model immigrant, the good visa applicant? And in doing so, are we inadvertently furthering the idea, ascendant in the current political discourse, that some people aren’t as deserving?

These are half-formed thoughts, so I’d welcome your reflections about higher education’s role in this broader debate. As always, you can find me on email at or on Twitter @karinfischer. For some related reading, check out this Emma Petit piece on professors and graduate students who volunteered to work with migrant children in federal custody.

China’s First Daughter in the U.S.

China’s Ministry of Education has warned Chinese students about the “risk” of going to the United States. But Taiwan News reports that President Xi Jinping’s daughter is studying for a graduate degree at Harvard.

Xi Mingze earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard in 2014. She majored in psychology and English and used an assumed name; only a few faculty members and close friends knew her true identity. She reportedly studied a lot.

Xi Mingze’s American degree always seemed incongruous with her father’s China First stance and attempt to restrict the teaching of western ideas in Chinese university classrooms. Nonetheless, a decade ago, when she would have been applying for college, it wasn’t uncommon for Chinese government officials to send their children abroad. More recently, though, there have been rumors that Chinese authorities enacted a secret order forbidding the children of high-ranking Communist Party officials from studying in America. 

As you might imagine, there are lots of theories about Xi Mingze’s studies – a sign of political intrigue at home? a conciliatory message to President Trump? My bottom line: As we debate the future of Chinese enrollments, it’s an interesting development.

A Bucket Full of Drops

After my talk at Duke, a student stood up: “All these developments are so frustrating and scary,” she said. “What can we do as students?” Her question echoed an email from a graduate student that had landed in my in-box a few days earlier: “I was particularly upset about the latest news of the Iranian Ph.D. student,” he wrote. “I am a doctoral student in education, and I wonder what I can do. I know the forces are great and unmoveable by one person, but how might I be useful?”

I’m a realist, and I don’t want to suggest to the students there are any magic bullets. But the words of another speaker at the Duke event have been ringing in my ears. “Yes, certain actions might be drops in a bucket,” said Nicholas Kristoff, the New York Times columnist, “but that’s how we fill buckets.”

So, I turn to you, my thoughtful, enterprising readers: What should we tell the next generation? What small steps do you suggest they take? What are some of the drops that can help fill the bucket and make positive change? Send me your ideas, big and small, to, and I’ll share them next week.

Around the Globe

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been named to the Fulbright Program board.

Chinese diplomats in the U.S. will have to notify the State Department before they meet with educational or research institutions. 

This housing agency preyed on international students and almost got them evicted.

An American student abroad in Egypt got caught up in a government crackdown. He spent four days in jail after police found emailed news articles on his phone.

If colleges won’t close their Confucius Institutes, then governments should bar the Chinese-funded language and culture centers from operating on campuses, argues this piece in Foreign Policy.

European universities are starting a new network to help scholars at risk due to discrimination, persecution, or violence in their home countries.

South Korea’s justice minister has resigned as his wife goes on trial for allegedly forging documents to help get their daughter into a top medical school.

Quebec’s government wants to limit the number of international students who can take part in a popular program that accelerates the path to immigration.

No students showed up when universities in Kashmir reopened after a two-month lockdown, part of an effort by India to strip the region of its autonomy.

A university lecturer in Indonesia was arrested as authorities foiled a bombing plot.

Both France and Israel unveiled campaigns to attract more foreign students.

As their college-aged populations drop, universities in Canada and Britain will likely try to recruit more international students, Moody’s Investor Services said in a new report. The credit rating agency predicts Canada will have greater success.

Think a friend or colleague might enjoy latitude(s)? Share this newsletter with them!

And finally…

Ron Vara thinks you’ve “got to be nuts to eat Chinese food.”

He warns, “Only the Chinese can turn a leather sofa into an acid bath, a baby crib into a lethal weapon, and a cellphone battery into heart-piercing shrapnel.”

His observations are often cited in books by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s chief China adviser and a virulent China critic. The thing is? Ron Varra doesn’t exist. Tom Bartlett uncovered the crazy story

’Til next week – Karin

For the best international education news and analysis, please subscribe to latitude(s). In this startup phase, I’ll be making the newsletter free; in the future, I’ll ask for a small fee to support quality journalism.

Hot water edition

Why higher ed should pay attention to professional basketball’s China problem

Learning from China’s Favorite Pastime

It was just seven words: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

But the tweet, since deleted, by the Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of pro-democracy protestors has landed the NBA in hot water. Chinese broadcasters declared they wouldn’t air pre-season coverage, the league’s Chinese partners suspended ties, and on social media, there were calls to boycott exhibition games in Shanghai and Shenzen. The NBA, meanwhile, struggled to respond, first distancing itself from Morey, then standing up for free speech.

Are you watching, higher ed?

Each introduced by Christian missionaries before the turn of the last century, basketball and college degrees are two of America’s most-enthusiastically embraced exports in China. Even as relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent years, Chinese families have continued to watch basketball games over breakfast and stay up late at night planning how to send their children to study in the United States. NBA China, the league’s arm there, is worth $4 billion. Chinese students contributed at least $12 billion to the American economy last year.

Listening to an excellent podcast by The Daily about the NBA incident, I couldn’t help but be struck by the way reporter Jim Yardley talked about China and basketball: It was outside politics. It crossed cultures. It built bridges between China and America, established a bond with young Chinese. Sounds awfully familiar.

Every sort of business and organization that operates in China or seeks to reach a Chinese audience has to contend with trade-offs, of course. But for higher education, the balancing act seems especially consequential. Freedom of expression and critical thought are, after all, at the heart of what colleges do.

Indeed, there is already evidence that displeasing China can come with a price. After the University of California at San Diego invited the Dalai Lama to be its 2017 commencement speaker, the Chinese government canceled state-funded academic exchanges with UCSD.

I don’t want to make too much of the comparison with basketball. Buying a jersey or tuning into an NBA game isn’t the same kind of commitment as paying for a college education. More than 360,000 Chinese students study here, and there remains a strong desire on the institutional and individual level to nurture and maintain educational partnerships between the two countries. And in no way am I making the argument that American colleges ought to disengage from China. 

Still, navigating these waters is tricky, as the NBA learned this week. Its response to the controversy satisfied neither Chinese nor American critics. That’s a lesson for colleges.

Have a reaction to this, or anything else in the newsletter? Email me at or hit me up on Twitter @karinfischer.

This College Didn’t Close Its Confucius Institute

It’s gotten so that if I hear a college is reviewing its Confucius Institute, I pretty much assume that in six weeks or so, I’ll get notice of its closure. Imagine my surprise when I read the announcement that Tufts University is renewing its Chinese-government-funded language and cultural center. 

Unlike most of the 15 universities that shut down their CIs over the last 18 months, Tufts didn’t have the threat of losing Pentagon grants hanging over its head. Congress forbid colleges with institutes from receiving Defense Department money for Chinese-language study, but Tufts didn’t participate in the program.

Still, the university didn’t arrive at its decision lightly. A committee of faculty and administrators spent several months reviewing the center before concluding that there was no evidence of undue influence by Tufts’ Chinese partner or of censorship or limits on academic freedom. Even so, the panel acknowledged that the university could face “potential reputational risk” by renewing the agreement.

Now that most, if not all, of the institutions faced with the Pentagon-funding ultimatum have made their choice, I’m curious whether we’ve seen the end of Confucius Institute closures. Wagers, anyone?

Message to Chinese Students: Come or Go?

“I can give them my word. I want them coming here.”

That was President Trump’s response when asked during a press conference on Sino-U.S. trade negotiations about how he’d reassure Chinese students that he wants them to study at American colleges. The president denied his administration is making it more difficult for Chinese students to obtain visas:

“We’re not going to make it tough, we’re going to make like for everyone else,” he said.

Since taking office, his administration has placed limits on visa validity for Chinese students in certain sensitive fields, and Chinese students and scholars have complained about increased vetting and longer wait times for visas.

Meanwhile, members of the president’s own party favor restrictions on Chinese students. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans think the U.S. should curtail the number of Chinese students studying here, according to a new survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Just 35 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Independents do.

Over all, 40 percent of Americans approve of limits. To be frank, I’m unsure whether to be shocked by that number or surprised it’s not higher.

Relatedly, read SAIS’ Madelyn Ross on why more colleges need to take a stand in support of students and professors from China:

“Everyone on campus has a part to play in protecting the legitimate rights of Chinese and other foreign students and scholars. That effort is at the core of American higher education and squarely in the larger national interest.”

Around the Globe

The Association of American Universities considered restricting its membership to U.S. institutions in order to focus on federal policy, which would have expelled its two Canadian members, McGill University and the University of Toronto. After pushback, it pulled the idea.

First-time international graduate enrollments are down 1.3 percent, according to the Council of Graduate Schools. In engineering, the drop was 8.3 percent.

An Australian professor complained about poor treatment and lax admissions standards for international students. After he aired his concerns on TV, his university sued him.

In the wake of a contested decision to cancel a program on dissent at Yale-NUS, Singapore’s minister of education gave a speech on limits to academic freedom.

The U.S. Department of Education said it will fund a Middle East studies program it had accused of misusing government money. But grantees should expect scrutiny.

College presidents across New York signed a letter to their congressional delegation, asking members to address problems facing international students and to advocate for their needs.

An explosion in a university classroom in Afghanistan injured 19 students.

MIT is reviewing a partnership with a Chinese artificial-intelligence company that was included on a U.S.-government blacklist.

Students spray painted “Free Hong Kong on a campus wall at Indiana University. Mainland students then covered it up with a Chinese flag.

AFS announced it would offset carbon emissions for all students it sends on overseas exchanges. ICYMI, I wrote the other week about tensions between international education and climate change.

A recruiter that placed international students in high schools across Massachusetts abruptly shuttered amid lawsuits and financial problems.

Readers tipped me off to several items in today’s edition. Send suggestions of news you think I ought to cover to

And finally…

Peyman Rashidi’s family and friends tearfully hugged him good-bye at the airport, thinking they wouldn’t see him for at least five years while he completed his Ph.D. in California. But changing planes in Qatar, he was pulled out of the security line. “You are not entering that plane, period,” a U.S. customs official told him, and wrote “cancelled” across his American visa.

I talked with one of a dozen Iranian students who had their visas revoked at the last minute without warning.

’Til next week – Karin

For the best international education news and analysis, please subscribe to latitude(s). In this startup phase, I’ll be making the newsletter free; in the future, I’ll ask for a small fee to support quality journalism.

Getting wonky edition

Student-visa news, more scrutiny of foreign ties, and the latest on Yale-NUS

What’s Too Much?

I know you guys love it when I get all wonky about visa policy. 

So, let me tell you the latest news out of the Department of Homeland Security: Under new visa guidance issued quietly last week, students participating in optional practical training will now be required to demonstrate a direct link between their field of study and the work they are doing on OPT. And it will be up to college officials to review and confirm the link, a new responsibility.

In and of itself, the new charge isn’t that big of a deal. Much of the grumbling I’ve heard is that it’s one more task colleges and schools are being asked to shoulder, part of a trend of outsourcing the day-to-day operations of the student-visa system.

At the same time, educators are getting the sense that the federal government is increasingly looking over their shoulder. Colleges are being asked to certify the relevance of students’ OPT positions, but, they wonder, will they be second-guessed? Will they be penalized if federal officials later dispute the connection? What, too, about students in majors, like general studies, in which there isn’t a job that neatly corresponds with their degree? Many academics would argue that the critical reasoning and communications skills that are the core of the liberal arts prepare graduates for any number of fields. Will the government see it that way?

Beyond the additional responsibility, though, is the feeling that this is yet another hoop that colleges – and more importantly, students – have to jump through. Look, OPT as conceived was meant to give students hands-on experience related to their classroom learning, and the government has every right to set the rules of the road. But as I’ve written before, the accumulation of new regulatory requirements and expectations can begin to feel onerous. 

In the past month, the British government announced plans to make it easier for international students to stay longer and work after graduation. From America, the headlines have been about students turned back at the border, visa backlogs, and tightening rules. Could the next one more thing become one more thing too much?

To go really wonky, NAFSA dives deep into the implications of the new policy guidance. Meanwhile, did someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up to get latitude(s) in your inbox every Monday morning.

A Global Debate on Academic Freedom

I weighed in a couple of weeks ago on the controversy over a canceled short-term course on dissent at Yale-NUS college, the liberal-arts institution jointly founded by Yale and the National University of Singapore. Since then, Yale has released the results of a review that found no violations of academic freedom in the decision to shut down the course. “The evidence does not suggest any violations of academic freedom or open inquiry,” Peter Salovey, Yale’s president, said in a statement.

It’s probably fair to say that Yale’s decision didn’t necessarily end the debate. In a series of Facebook posts, the playwright who organized the course accused Yale and Yale-NUS of “scapegoating” him. Professors back in New Haven, however, remained critical. One of them, Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science, emailed me: 

People have been a bit slow to understand that what worries faculty critics of the Yale-NUS venture most isn’t a likely clash of Singapore’s values and ours but – with the U.S. Department of Education’s repressive investigations of universities – an all-too-smooth convergence.

A faculty member at Yale-NUS also reached out with an on-the-ground perspective:

All of the activities that were planned – except for three hours of sign-making, which has no educational benefit – are done all the time at Yale-NUS. The dissident activists and intellectuals who were scheduled to be part of the program have spoken numerous times at our college – in fact, our college is often the only institution in Singapore that will host them....I was dubious about Yale-NUS when I came here, but it’s proved to be an incredible institution. As such, it’s sad to see this fake “controversy” besmirch its name.

More broadly, I heard from a number of people who questioned whether it’s appropriate to apply American notions of academic freedom to institutions abroad.

From Richard Edelstein, who has studied cross-border institutions:

As you know, the issue of academic freedom has been at the center of debates about Yale-NUS since the very beginning and rightfully so. This issue is fundamental for universities in most western countries and for those universities modeled after the historically great European and American universities. What is less clear is the actual meaning of academic freedom as it has been defined in different times and in different national contexts. 

Former president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers (and fellow baseball fan) George Pernsteiner picks up the theme:

I am trying to understand a distinction between academic freedom (defined here as the freedom to choose and explore any topic or direction in instruction and research) and freedom of speech/expression. I think we (I?) often conflate the two in discussions of academic freedom.

The United States doesn’t have unfettered academic freedom, Pernsteiner continues:

Despite our protestations to the contrary, the U.S. even now is restrictive both legally and practically. The bans on using federal funds for research into gun violence or stem cell research are perhaps the most well known of the legal restrictions. In an academic environment whose quest for new knowledge is fueled largely by federal grants and contracts, those kinds of restrictions matter. 

Ben Waxman, the CEO of Intead, an international-education marketing company, asked at what cost do American colleges not engage:

This is sounding a lot like the West’s vaunted, open-minded and culturally inclusive academic leaders are anything but. Bridging cultural gaps is hard and requires perseverance in the face of the challenges. Those challenges don’t just melt away based on smiley handshakes and good intentions. And inclusiveness doesn’t happen without sustained efforts to build bridges in foreign environments. Let’s not take our ball and go home because others won’t play by our rules. For goodness sake, let’s keep working at this and maintain the dialogues with those who are different from us. These cross-border partnerships and the thorny challenges they bring are so very important.

I want latitude(s) to be a place for conversation and dialogue. Have a response to a piece I’ve written here? Think I’ve missed something? Send me an email at or find me on Twitter.

Another University’s Foreign Ties Under Review

Yet another college is under investigation for foreign gifts and contracts. The U.S. Department of Education has asked the University of Maryland to provide records of revenue related to the governments of or businesses in China, Qatar, and Russia.

Maryland is the fifth major university that’s been revealed to be under scrutiny for its foreign ties, joining Cornell, Georgetown, Rutgers, and Texas A&M. A spokeswoman for the university told the Washington Post that the institution was working to rectify gaps in its reporting of overseas revenue:

“Once the university learned that we were not reporting this information, we worked quickly to come into compliance...We plan to work with federal officials in a transparent and timely manner to fully resolve these issues.”

The heightened scrutiny has alarmed some in higher ed, who say the government has not been fully clear about what needs to be reported, and how.

Around the Globe

Higher-ed associations have submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, backing the continuation of a federal program for undocumented students brought here as kids.

Some international students are considering deferring their enrollment in British universities to try to take advantage of expanded post-study work benefits.

More than 60 faculty members at Duke University have joined the chorus of voices expressing concern that a federal investigation into a joint Middle East studies program with the University of North Carolina could chill teaching and research.

Clear your electronic devices of sensitive or confidential research before crossing international borders, a Canadian faculty association warns.

In an editorial, UCLA’s student newspaper says the university needs to do a better job meeting the needs of international students.

Two Indonesian university students have died in protests over a new law that limits the powers of a commission to curtail corruption.

A Turkish scientist was sentenced to prison for publishing a study that linked pollution to higher rates of cancer in the western part of the country.

Oxford cut ties with Huawei earlier this year, but the controversial Chinese company has bought a stake in a firm that commercializes the university’s research.

Read this insightful thread on Chinese students studying abroad and nationalism:

And finally…

The Syrian civil war could be robbing an entire generation of an education: The Christian Science Monitor on how lack of funds and few spots for young refugees are keeping even top Syrian students from earning a college degree.

And if this report seems disjointed, apologies. I’m writing from Los Angeles – or more precisely, from LAX, amid endless flight delays – where I came to watch the Washington Nationals play the Dodgers. This has absolutely nothing to do with international education, but here’s why this playoff game carried so much sentimental weight for me. 

Have a great week...and go Nats!

’Til next week – Karin

For the best international education news and analysis, please subscribe to latitude(s). In this startup phase, I’ll be making the newsletter free; in the future, I’ll ask for a small fee to support quality journalism.

Existential crisis edition

Why climate change may be the “elephant in the room” for international education

The Climate Threat

Millions of people around the globe, many of them young, have rallied in recent weeks for action on climate change.

American colleges, meanwhile, welcomed more than 1 million international students for the start of the fall semester. They sent another 330,000 students to study abroad. You have to ask: Is the very nature of international education, putting people on planes, at odds with mounting concern about the climate crisis?

“It’s the huge elephant in the room,” Ailsa Lamont says. Lamont, a veteran of Australia’s international education sector, started the Climate Action Network for International Education, or CANIE, a group that’s trying to raise awareness of the environmental impact of international education – and to come up with solutions to mitigate it.

In her last job, as the head of international programs for an Australian university, Lamont was on a plane “practically every day, certainly every week.” She became aware of the unsustainability of such practices.

A professor at the University of Bath estimates that global student mobility generates carbon emissions of 14 megatons a year, roughly equivalent to the emissions of Croatia or Jamaica. And that figure doesn’t taken into account the impact of other forms of academic travel, to conduct research, attend conferences, build overseas partnerships, and recruit international students.

Higher education as a whole is becoming more environmentally conscious. Times Higher Education for the first time began ranking universities globally on “climate action,” as part of its new rankings for university impact on United Nations sustainable development goals. (The University of British Columbia topped the list.) But while institutions have focused on making campus buildings greener and some have divested from fossil fuels, few efforts have focused on international education.

Today’s students are deeply worried about climate change. Nine of 10 prospective international students surveyed by QS, a British higher-ed consulting company, said universities should do more to reduce their environmental footprint. What would happen, says Lamont, if those concerns led students to stop studying abroad? 

“This is a huge risk for us,” she says. “It could be an existential crisis.”

I asked Lamont what international educators can do to be more environmentally friendly:

  • Be a smarter traveler. Lamont believes in the value of cultural exchange, so she doesn’t think students and educators should stop traveling. But they can be more intentional, by clustering visits or meeting partners at conferences.

  • Look for offsets. New Zealand’s Massey University purchases carbon credits to offset emissions for staff travel, while study abroad provider API matches students’ $15 offset contribution. Middlebury offers $500 grants to students going overseas to do sustainability projects or research. And Gothenburg University, in Sweden, levies a fee on staff members’ air travel and uses the funds to support projects to reduce the institution’s environmental impact.

  • Use technology. Technology isn’t a substitute, but holding remote meetings with international partners can help limit travel. Collaborative online courses, such as the State University of New York’s COIL program, link American students with classrooms overseas.

  • Raise visibility. Universities are siloed places, so international educators need to speak up to become part of the broader campuswide conversation on sustainability, Lamont says. CANIE also hopes to get climate change on the agenda at international education conferences, through panel discussions, poster fairs, and meetups.

Let’s continue the conversation. Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn and share your perspective.

Global Aspirations But a Crackdown at Home

China has world-class aspirations for its universities. Yet, its Communist government has asserted ever-tightening control of higher education, imposing a more ideological curriculum, cracking down on dissident students and scholars, and trampling on academic freedom. A new report from the Scholars at Risk Network shines a light on the effect of threats to academic freedom under President Xi Jinping, detailing tactics to silence and intimidate students and professors and a climate of surveillance and self-censorship.

SAR, an international group that protects scholars and supports academic freedom worldwide, offers recommendations for academics, foreign universities, and others who work in China or with Chinese students and scholars: advocate for the academic freedom of Chinese students and researchers, both in China and abroad; ensure that partnerships with Chinese universities include safeguards for academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and other core educational values; and demand that academic freedom be factored in to international higher-education rankings.

“To be a world-class university, you have got to have the widest notion of academic freedom,” Robert Quinn, the group’s founder and executive director, told me. “I don’t think that should be debatable.”

Speaking of academic freedom, I been collecting reader responses to the piece in last week’s edition on the role of academic freedom in international partnerships, sparked by an incident at Yale-NUS. I’ll share some next week.

Around the Globe

A Chinese government official has been charged with trying to convince American colleges to sponsor visas for Chinese citizens who claimed to be research scholars but who were really coming to the U.S. to recruit scientists to a Chinese talent program.

The U.S. embargo against Cuba is hurting research, preventing Cuban universities from purchasing cutting-edge technology and even textbooks.

A Canadian university has revoked recognition its Chinese student association as an official campus club after group memebers allegedly coordinated with the consulate to protest a Uighur activist’s talk.

Wesleyan University is considering opening a new campus in China

The U.S. Department of Education criticized a joint Duke-UNC Middle East studies program of misusing government funds. But neither of the activities the department singled out are supported by government monies. Meanwhile, scholarly associations expressed concern over the “unprecedented and counterproductive intervention” into academic programs.

Latin American and Caribbean countries are trying to encourage student mobility within the region and greater international recognition of their degrees.

“On certain issues, different values were not in question, but different realities.” A student at a prestigious international program in China on why it’s so difficult to build bridges between China and the West.

Tell Me! International Students

When it comes to international students, a lot of the conversation revolves around those who aren’t coming: those scared off by the political climate or frustrated by OPT headaches, those turned away at the border or shut out by the travel ban or priced out by the dollar. (Yeah, yeah – guilty.)

But now I want to hear from you about who is coming – and who will be. Are there places from which your institution is suddenly getting applications? New markets that seem promising? Majors that are seeing fresh interest? Strategies and approaches to recruitment that you think will pay off? Tell me about the New International Student. Send a couple of lines of your observations and predictions to, and let me know the best way to follow up. 

And finally…

Each day he took them to school. But the bus driver was a leading force behind the backlash against immigrant students in a small Minnesota town, helping defeat ballot measures to expand public schools to meet the surge in enrollment. “They can call it whatever they want,” said a supporter of the students, “but the bottom line is that it is racism.” The bus driver said: “I wish they would have another ICE raid. They need to get rid of the illegals.” A dispatch from the frontlines of the immigration debate.

On a lighter (and delicious) note, the New York Times went into kitchens from Lima to Lagos to capture a portrait of dinnertime around the globe. Try not to drool on your computer.

’Til next week – Karin

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