In the UK this week, discussion around higher education has been dominated by the free speech debate, as the government lays out its new proposals to “strengthen” freedom of expression on campus.
It’s a contentious issue, and one that has many vocal critics.
Elsewhere, US universities are warned that they need to do more to keep international students interested, and in Canada, international students are speaking out about stress over visa delays.
Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.
UK campuses could reopen next month
As the UK government prepares to announce its roadmap to leaving lockdown next week, there could be light at the end of the tunnel for universities.
Speaking to The Tab last week, universities minister Michelle Donelan said that the government aims to let students go back to campus for some in-person teaching on 8 March.
However, this is dependent on the review of the current restrictions.
The week has also seen the government announce legal measures designed to “strengthen free speech and academic freedom” at universities in England.
The measures are still just proposals, but could see universities unable to register in England and access public funding unless they agree to a new “free speech condition”.
Universities and Students’ Unions could also be fined by the Office for Students if they are deemed to have breached this.
It comes after several highly controversial instances of ‘no-platforming’ at UK universities, where a university or students’ union will not host a speaker due to the nature of their views.
However, critics say that there is “no evidence” of a freedom of expression crisis on campus, and that ministers should focus on helping students through the pandemic.
USA must do more for international students, universities told
US higher education institutions are being warned that their trouble recruiting international students could extend far past the Trump and coronavirus era if they do not make significant effort to provide a more welcoming environment for foreign students.
Both COVID and Trump’s hostile policies have been previously blamed for declining admissions of international students at US universities.
However, the American Council on Education is telling institutions that they need to make more changes if they wish to reverse the trend.
Suggestions for improving the international student experience include better financial aid, and creating post-graduation alumni and networking services.
Canada’s international students face extreme visa delays
International students wishing to study in Canada’s Quebec region are complaining of stress related to longstanding visa delays preventing them from entering the country.
Students from several countries, but mainly India, have been waiting since early 2020 to get their visa approved.
Quebec has currently suspended international applications at 10 institutions, who are not deemed to have suitable covid plans in place.
Whilst the government is currently processing visas, new practises introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic are causing extreme delays and backlogs.
A spokesperson from the Canadian Bureau of International Education told The PIE News that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada “is committed to working through a backlog of applications across the board resulting from the series of lockdowns and other public health measures that impacted their administrative processes.”