Monday, October 24, 2005

Australia New Place to go for Foreign Students, and other thoughts

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article, for October 14, 2005, reporting that Australia is now the new destination of choice for fee-paying foreign students. The article is written by David Cohen. This conclusion is based on a study commissioned by the British Council. The study is based on interviews with 332 undergraduates in 10 leading Asian markets for higher education, according to the article. An explanation: "'The difference today,' said a JWT partner, Allison Doorbar, who presented the study's key findings, 'is a widespread perception that the United States is simply not as welcoming as it once was.'"

This is not surprising to me given the current climate in this country. The Chronicle itself has reported on how the United States is becoming an unwelcoming place for foreign students. I wrote about such reports back in June of this year. One of those reports was about measures to restrict access to lab and research equipment to foreign researchers. It seems the evidence is slowly stacking up.

The article about foreign students choosing Australia does not suprise me, and I don't think it should suprise many people with common sense. Getting a visa to study in the United States has become a difficult and at times humiliating ordeal. Here are some examples to illustrate, which I found doing a quick search on a search engine:

  • From the DesMoines Register for October 3, 2005, a report on the formation of a new board for cooperation between the FBI and colleges. This seems to create more questions than to reassure foreign students that it is a a board to demistify the FBI's screening procedures to campuses. The report points out that "foreign student enrollment has declined since 2002 at the University of Northern Iowa, the University of Iowa and ISU."
  • The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, in its publication YaleGlobal, presents an article from The Miami Herald for March 31, 2004. In the introduction to the article, YaleGlobal points out that "foreign students and scholars have historically made substantial contributions to US-based research and industry and are amongst the most important investments in America's future prosperity and vitality." The Miami Herald article itself includes some numbers showing declining enrollments of foreign students at Florida college campuses. The newspaper article also summarizes the short term effects: "in the short run, the decline of foreign students reduces campus diversity and interaction, impairs research programs that rely heavily on international students and scholars, and even has a financial impact on state schools, which charge nonresidents as much as five times the tuition paid by residents."
  • Readers can also look at an article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette for August 19, 2004. The headline is "Foreign Students Facing More Hurdles." It has some good examples of the ordeals many of these students face to get here. Keep in mind the students that persevered and managed to get to the United States. A lot of their peers simply chose not to tolerate excessive bureaucracy and outright mistreatment. They simply chose to go someplace else, along with their tuition money, for an education.
Now some people may argue that this is not important; it is not significant they may say. Some extremists who advocate completely closing the nation's borders may even celebrate this kind of news. But what happens eventually is that this leads to the nation losing its vitality, its character, its essence. The United States has been built by people from other nations coming to its shores (or airports or ports). In other words, the nation was built by foreigners. People from around the world have come here and have made great contributions. Now this idea is at risk if those bright minds simply decide it is not worth it coming to the U.S. And I can hear some more critics saying that the U.S. will just make its own scholars and experts. Well, given the current climate of derision and denigration of sciences over superstitions, and the fact that a lot of American students are simply not interested in math and science, this "homegrown" scenario seems a little less likely to occur. Again, here are some more illustrations:

  • CNet News for April 22, 2005 discusses a report from the Computing Research Association. The report cited by CNet says, "the percentage of incoming undergraduates indicating they would major in computer science declined by more than 60 percent between the fall of 2004, and is now 70 percent lower than it was during its peak in the early 1980s."
  • A Washington Post article for May 29, 2004 cites reports from the National Science Foundation. The article discusses the lack of poor math standards in the U.S. despite all of the standardized testing. In addition the article notes that, in March, "the Post reported that because of the lack of trained Americans, urban school districts across the country must now rely on international recruitment and generous visa rules to find any high school math and science teachers at all."

This post has gone a bit longer than I planned. I just see a situation of missed opportunities due to fear, ignorance, and some outright racism. What I found as I was writing this is that the issue has a lot of ramifications. There are various issues to confront. It has given me further ideas to write about in the hope, infinitesimal as it may be, that it may educate and inspire others to some action. Yet I know that not much will happen unless some people get some guts and actually move to solving problems in a constructive way. Writing and bringing this and other issues to the light are ways to start.

Update Note (11/07/2005): Inside Higher Ed reports on a recent study just released by the Council of Graduate Schools that says "enrollment of first-time foreign graduate students was up 1 percent this fall, following successive declines since 2002, according to a report being released by the Council of Graduate Schools."The article goes on to discuss other details from the report such as where are the students coming from the most. The increase is minimal, but experts see it as a positive turn. However, "given those increases [from places like China, Korea, and India for instance], first-year enrollments are obviously down from some other countries and regions."

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