WENR, March 2017: The Americas

U.S.: President Signs New Executive Order Barring Travel From Six Muslim-Majority Countries and Suspending Refugee Program

On March 6th, the president signed a revised executive order restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries. The order also places a temporary ban on refugees from around the world. The order, which will be go into effect on March 16th, is based on a hastily executed version published in January. The earlier order barred travel from seven counties, and was blocked after the Ninth Circuit Court of Repeals refused to lift a Washington court’s stay on the bill.  The new executive order bans travel for 90 days for for residents of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. (Iraq was removed from the original list of seven countries.) Other groups excluded in the revised executive order are dual nationals, green-card holders and individuals who have already been granted asylum or refugee status. The refugee program will be suspended for 120 days. Another key change is the removal of the controversial religious test, which prioritized Christian refugees. While the new order addresses some of the most controversial elements of its original iteration, it has already been deemed discriminatory by critics.

Washington Post
March 6, 2017

U.S.: Higher Education Administrators Respond to Updated Travel Ban

The higher ed response to the March 6th travel ban was swift and decisive. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities released the following statement: “While we understand and respect the president’s stated goal of securing our homeland, we also believe that a categorical ban on the entry of individuals based purely on national origin will undermine the ability of our public institutions to attract the best minds to teach and study at our state colleges and universities.” This sentiment was echoed among other groups and higher ed professionals. The Association for International Education Administrators vowed to stand in solidarity with students affected and underscored the importance of building global alliances and a fluid exchange of students and information. Others fear that the damage of the original ban has been done. Higher ed expert Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of InterEDGE, lamented “it is difficult to go back to fix the perceptions of prospective international students and families who are concerned about safety at the very basic level and a possible increase in discriminatory experiences in the communities, while George Burke, international admissions and recruitment specialist at the University of Albany, said “international students will definitely turn away from the US”. The effects on student mobility into the U.S. remain to be seen.

The PIE News
March 6, 2017

Canada: Number of International Students To Exceed Rental Vacancies

Thanks to a concerted effort to internationalize its universities, British Columbia has seen the number of international students rise by nearly 45 thousand over the past five years. While this is a boon for the institutions, the city of Vancouver is now facing a housing shortage as vacancies are quickly disappearing. This problem is compounded by the fact that most universities and the local government are not tracking how internationals students locate housing, making it difficult to implement future housing strategy. In light of the new U.S. administration’s immigration policies, Canada is expected to see a spike in international students, which will further complicate the already budding crisis in Vancouver.

SI News
March 1, 2017

Mexico: Easing Pathway to Higher Ed for Dreamers

Mexico’s Senate education committee is developing a plan to help ease pathway to higher education for returning Dreamers (undocumented children who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, lived there for at least five years and attend/are attending school).  President Enrique Peña Nieto has assured those hoping to study at Mexican universities an “almost automatic revalidation” of their qualifications, as the current process is particularly complicated. Dreamer applicants currently face “both bureaucratic indifference and laws requiring a wealth of paperwork from back in the U.S.”; evaluating university credits from U.S. undergraduate programs is especially tricky.  Reform of the evaluation system has been a focal point for activists over the past several years, some of whom argue that the recent move to streamline the process is a political ploy, citing the hasty development of the proposal and efforts to fast-track approval, without proper analysis and dialogue as evidence. With 2018 elections around the corner and growing anti-Trump sentiment, there could be merit to this argument. There is also evidence that the number of inbound Dreamers will rise over the next few years in light of recent immigration developments in the U.S.

The Christian Science Monitor
February 24, 2017

Costa Rica: Moves to Strengthen Partnerships with Korean Universities

Costa Rica has been actively looking to expand higher education international partnerships and boost their STEM programs, offering more science-based curricula and improving related infrastructure, according the rector of the University of Costa Rica. The University of Costa Rica has over 100 partnerships worldwide, including 10 in South Korea. In a recent visit to Seoul, the rector praised the country’s advances in the STEM field and highlighted his desire to increase collaborations in this area. UCR’s interest in Korea goes beyond STEM, though. In 2012, the university created a Korean Studies program, which focuses on Korean language, culture, politics, economics and the arts. The program’s popularity has prompted the university to develop plans for a Master’s program in Korean studies.

The Korea Times
February 15, 2017

U.S.: First-Time International Graduate Enrollments Up, Number of Applications Down

While first-time international graduate enrollments at U.S. universities rose by five percent in 2016, the overall number of international graduate applications declined two percent, according to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools in D.C. This decrease can be attributed to less interest among students from South Korea, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India, however there was a four percent increase in Chinese applications. While the uptick in enrollments is promising, the Council of Graduate Schools points out that the current administration’s policies may engender a further decrease in applications to U.S. higher education institutions.

University World News
February 9, 2017

Posted in Americas, Regional News Summaries

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