Thursday, May 13, 2004
Applications from international students to US graduate programs is down 32 percent this year. This comes at a time of economic recess, when the opposite trend is usually expected. As the economy goes into recession, young professionals return to universities for more advanced degrees. So why are international students shunning US schools, preventing a "brain flow" (as opposed to a brain drain) into the US? The recent changes in US visa requirements and restrictions are exaggerated, to say the least. In a letter from over 60 universities and colleges to the White House, university professors are requesting the US to ease those restrictions.

Financial Times story:

"A broad coalition of American academics warned on Wednesday of a crisis in research and scholarship caused by tighter controls on visas for foreigners.

The 25 organisations, claiming to represent about 95 per cent of the US research community, say urgent reform is needed if their institutions are to remain a favoured destination for the world's brightest international students and researchers.

In a letter to the White House, FBI and state and homeland security departments, they warn: "The US cannot hope to maintain its present scientific and economic leadership positi on if it becomes isolated from the rest of the world." The signatories include organisations representing 60 universities and more than 20 leading scientific bodies.

The Bush administration has signalled it is prepared to reconsider aspects of visa policies. Colin Powell, secretary of state, said on Wednesday that if the US lost foreign students and other scholars because of the delays, "we risk losing their goodwill and that is a priceless thing to lose".

The academics urge the adoption of six reforms to cut bureaucracy created by security checks, which they say has created "the misperception that the US does not welcome international students, scholars and scientists". They say about 14,000 visa applications were flagged for special review in 2002 - up from 1,000 in 2000, before the new rules were enacted.

Foreign applications to US graduate schools have declined 32 per cent this year."


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