This week’s news comes from the UK, US and New Zealand, with the announcement of a revised plan for border reopening in the new year from Prime Minister Jacinda Arden.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces his support for Afghan students enrolled in the UK’s Chevening Scholarship programme and the US-UK Fulbright Stephen Lawrence Award is launched.
Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.
The UK has assured that Afghan students on government-funded scholarships will be given access to visas to allow them to complete their study programmes in the UK.
This is despite warnings previously that their studies would have to be postponed.
It is still not clear how students will leave the country as the Taliban seized power after US and ally troops withdrew earlier this week.
Scenes from the international airport in the landlocked country’s capital, Kabul, seem to show only US military planes taking off and landing as European nations try to evacuate their citizens.
Thirty-five Afghan students are due to join the UK’s Chevening Scholarship programme later this year, with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that their visas will be prioritised as a matter of urgency.
The clarification from Mr Johnson came nearly two weeks after the students were told that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office would be deferring their offers until 2022/23 due to the British Embassy in Kabul being withdrawn.
The letter, dated August 6, said that the Embassy would be “unable to administer the parts of the program that must be done in Kabul in time for candidates to begin their courses this year”.
“We do want to make sure [the Chevening scholars] are able to come and so we’re doing whatever we can to accelerate their visas to get them over,” Mr Johnson said on August 15.
Reports have said that the UK Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Laurie Bristow, has remained in the Afghan capital of Kabul to personally process visa applications from a temporary office at the airport. It is not clear as to whether the visas of the Chevening scholars are in line to be, or have been, processed yet.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has outlined the country’s steps to reopening its borders, sparking hope for international students currently trapped outside of the country.
The plans include a mass vaccination programme this year, to be followed by the resumption of international arrivals in 2022.
The government has assured that they have enough stock to vaccinate every local aged over 15 by the end of 2021. The country’s reliance on the Pfizer vaccination should prevent the resistance to the AstraZeneca inoculation that has been seen in neighbouring country Australia.
From 2022, travellers will be allowed into the country via three ‘pathways’ based on their vaccination status and infection rates in their departure country. This will include quarantine-free entry for individuals who are fully vaccinated and who have spent at least a fortnight in low-risk countries prior to arrivals.
This has been a welcome assurance for the country’s higher education sector, which has been stagnant due to the closed-border approach New Zealand has taken to controlling domestic cases of Covid-19.
Questions are still being raised around the timing of this new reopening plan, with the new academic year set to begin in February and March of next year. Many feel that mid-year arrivals are more likely, with the probability of borders reopening in January 2022 relatively small.
The Fulbright Stephen Lawrence Award has been launched this week in the UK, promising to promote research into policing and criminal justice.
The award, instigated by the US-UK Fulbright Commission, the National Black Police Association and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, is named after Stephen Lawrence, a black British teenager from London who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.
The Fulbright Stephen Lawrence Scholar Award in Policing will allow a UK police officer or member of staff to conduct research in a three-month programme hosted by three historically black colleges and universities in the US.
The universities include Howard University School of Law, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, and North Carolina Central University School of Law. The grant will open for the 2022-23 academic year.
“The death of Stephen Lawrence was among the most painful episodes in recent history of criminal justice in the UK,” said Maria Balinska, executive director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission.
Recruitment, screening and selection of candidates will be open competition and merit-based. The shortlisted candidates will be reviewed by Baroness Lawrence, Stephen Lawrence’s mother.
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