Wednesday, June 08, 2005

OK, so we would like more foreign students to come, just don't let them use the lab?

The Chronicle of Higher Education for May 20th, 2005 had a couple of small reports that seem to, shall we say, contradict each other? I would link, but the reports are behind the subscription curtain. First, there is a brief report by Jeffrey Brainard, "Foreign Scientists' Recruitment Urged." The brief piece reports on a report released by the National Academies that says " American universities should work harder to encourage international students to come to their campuses to study science and technology." The idea of course is to bring the best minds to campuses, which I am sure is a good idea. However, the article also mentions that "changes in visa policies since September 11 have been blamed for a continuing decline in foreign enrollments at American universities. Meanwhile, foreign universities have stepped up efforts to get those students to stay home to study." The article provides a link to the National Academies Press where a prepublication version of the report may be found. Look for Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States. The press allows one to see one chapter of the book.

On the other hand, there is another report entitled "Scientists Oppose Plan to Limit Foreigners' Equipment Access." The report highlights that scientists are protesting a proposal by the Bush administration to restrict even more access to research equipment deemed sensitive for foreign researchers. "The proposal, which is under consideration by the Commerce Department, would clarify that colleges are in fact required to obtain licenses for foreigners who work with equipment that is subject to export controls even if the underlying research is exempt from licensing." Leaders of campuses oppose it due to rises in costs resulting from the increased need to get licenses and due to the possibilities of disruptions in research. The Commerce Department says it is needed to ensure depriving terrorists and spies of access. In the end, this may make it more difficult for universities to attract students and scholars from abroad (see article above). The article points out that "the number of foreign students on American campuses declines last years by 2.4 percent--the first drop in foreign enrollments since the 1971-1972 academic year." Now, some people may say this is a small drop, but it may well be a sign of things to come.

So, we want them to come, and we would like them to pay the tuition and extra fees for being nonresidents, but they may not use the equipment in the lab? I am not just being cynical. I know that students who come from abroad have to bring with them proof that they can pay their way, usually the proof is letters from sponsors guaranteeing that the student will have the money. So, there are some economics involved I am sure for campuses. Add to it the need to conduct research and needing to attract the best minds to do so, and you have to wonder.

No comments: