This week’s news comes from Canada, the United States and Australia, with visa delays in the former leading students to defer their places until 2022.
Over in Australia, many universities are introducing or considering mandatory vaccinations for students and staff on campus, and in the United States, legislators are under pressure to make allowances for Afghan students to be able to study in the country.
Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.
International students in Canada defer to 2022 due to Visa issues
International students seeking to continue their education in Canada this year are having to defer their places and study online after a delay in study permit processing.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told students that if their applications had been submitted by May 15 then they would be processed by August 6 of this year.
Some students who met this deadline have so far not received a response on the status of their application, with IRCC saying this is down to incomplete applications. Those who sent their applications after the May 15 deadline are also still waiting for their visas to be processed.
This has led to large numbers deciding to study online instead of at Canadian campuses, with some choosing to defer instead.
“We have seen a number of our international applicants decide to defer the start of their programmes to January 2022 with a hope to be able to travel to Canada in person,” explained Anuraj Bajwa, Dean of International Partnerships at Mohawk College Ontario to Pie News.
“The delay in processing of study permit applications due to the situation created by Covid-19 has been a challenge for the last year or so,” Bajwa added.
IRCC has processed nearly 370,000 applications up to August 2021, in comparison to the same time last year where only 100,000 study permits were processed.
There have been issues with visa processing in Canada, the United States and elsewhere due to issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and staff shortages.
Australian Universities mandate Covid vaccinations
Increasing numbers of Australian universities have made vaccinations mandatory for students wishing to study on campus.
The University of Melbourne’s announcement that students, staff, contractors and other visitors to campus will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 5 follows the trend of other institutions internationally.
Decisions to mandate vaccinations in the United States and Canada have been highly controversial.
The Victorian government has said that from November 5 on-campus learning can resume for fully vaccinated students. It is thought that 80 percent of eligible residents will have received both vaccinations by then.
Institutions in New South Wales are also considering whether to introduce mandatory vaccinations, according to local news in Sydney. The University of Sydney and UNSW Sydney are both surveying students on the topic.
A survey conducted by Monash University earlier this month found that there was strong support for compulsory vaccination, with 88 percent of staff and student respondents saying that it would make them “more comfortable” on campus.
US government pressured to support Afghan students
An open letter to majority and minority leaders in the United States’ Senate and House of Representatives, signed by 41 organisations, has urged legislators to offer further support for displaced Afghans.
The letter states that displaced Afghans should be allowed to join “the millions of international students and scholars who have contributed to the cultural and intellectual vibrancy of [US] campuses and to our national economic prosperity”.
The letter also noted that they have “already had reports of students with Afghan citizenship applying to study in the US from third countries being denied a student visa because they cannot demonstrate intent to return to Afghanistan after their program of study.”
Mass evacuations by many European countries took place after the United States removed troops from Afghanistan last month. This led to the displacement of thousands of allies of the United States and United Kingdom as the Taliban formed a new government in the country.
There have been widespread calls internationally for increased assistance of those displaced by these events, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier pledging the government’s support for Chevening Scholars from Afghanistan reaching the country.