An accord aims to make international education more sustainable

An ambitious new climate accord seeks to commit colleges and higher-education groups to reduce the international-education sector’s carbon emissions to net zero by the end of the decade.

The Canie Accord — Canie stands for Climate Action Network for International Educators, a global grassroots nonprofit organization — asks signatories to agree to a set of broad principles for sustainability and climate action and to pledge to take a half-dozen steps of their choosing to combat the climate crisis.

The agreement would align international education with United Nations’ climate goals for 2030, better known as the Paris Agreement.

International education is “deeply implicated” by the global climate crisis, said Adrienne Fusek, a founding board member of Canie who recently left her role as director of international programs and partnerships at San Diego State University to work full time on the issue.

Indeed, the field’s core mission of global mobility and exchange would seem in conflict with mounting concerns about climate change. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, a professor at the University of Bath, in Britain, estimated that worldwide student mobility generates carbon emissions of 14 megatons a year — equivalent to the emissions of a country like Croatia or Jamaica.

But Robin Shields, the Bath professor, said calls to combat climate change aren’t in opposition to international education. Faculty and student travel can continue, he said, but colleges need to do it in ways that are smart and sustainable. The Canie Accord “says we’re taking this seriously and want to do better, year after year.”

Fusek said the nonbinding accord is meant to be “approachable and achievable.” Signatories promise to take actions to promote sustainability within their own organizations, to work within international education to reduce emissions, and to support students’ global learning and understanding of climate issues.

They also agree to take five concrete steps, such as limiting in-person meetings and airline travel, measuring and setting targets for emissions reductions within their institution or office, and adding climate literacy modules to study-abroad programming. Colleges and other groups could also expand international-education opportunities that involve less travel, including virtual exchanges, better integration of global learning into the curriculum, and offering all or part of a degree program to international students in their home countries.

The accord is meant to be signed on behalf of institutions or organizations, by college leaders, the heads of campus international divisions, education-abroad and student-recruitment providers, international-education membership associations, and others. Among the signatories are the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury, in New Zealand, and the European Association for International Education.

Have ideas for The Chronicle‘s international coverage? Email me at karin.fischer@chronicle.com.

A new urgency to aid displaced students and scholars

Colleges need to work with education groups and refugee-resettlement organizations and embrace creative solutions to better support displaced students and scholars.

Those were among some of the ideas shared at a virtual conference organized by Rutgers University. Dual crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine have given new attention and urgency to how American colleges can best aid students and researchers displaced by violence or threatened by political repression.

Despite the greater focus, “a lot still rests on individual scholars and on individual champions on campus and in the community,” said Sarah Willcox, deputy director of Scholars at Risk.

Willcox and other speakers said college sponsors need to look for allies to help support displaced students and academics, such as university foundations. Arezo Kohistany, managing director of the Afghan Future Fund, said colleges often focus on providing full scholarships to refugee students, but partial reductions in tuition can allow organizations like hers, which advocates for education for Afghan girls and women, to offer financial assistance, thus helping more students.

Funding isn’t the only issue. Displaced students and scholars may need ongoing emotional and community support and may not feel a sense of belonging, said Nicole Tuszynski, associate director of the New University in Exile Consortium. She described it as a “second exile — although they are physically safe, they are on their own in their new homes.”

Colleges may be called on to help in ways other than hosting students and scholars on their home campuses. In Afghanistan, many academics remain in hiding and are having trouble leaving the country or securing visas to come to the United States. Ukrainian men can be enlisted to help the war effort and so are not allowed to leave the country. Tuszynski said the New University consortium is looking for ways to provide remote resources to scholars, such as giving stipends to Ukrainian professors to co-teach online seminars.

Miriam Feldblum of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration said colleges can also urge the U.S. government to make policy changes to better support refugee and displaced students and scholars, such as making more visas available, easing regulatory processes, and permitting colleges to directly sponsor refugee students. The organization is circulating a statement calling on the Biden administration to enact “policies that are inclusive, equitable, and durable.” (Feldblum said the statement is open to signatures by institutional and organizational leaders, not all individuals.)

Meanwhile, colleges and higher-education groups have continued to announce support for displaced students:

  • The University of the People will offer all of its online courses free to Ukrainian students whose universities have been closed because of the Russian invasion. It also will provide scholarships to 1,000 Ukrainian students to help them continue their studies once the war has ended.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has created a website with educational resources for Afghan refugees and the communities that welcome them.
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will award two full scholarships, including tuition, room and board, and a regular stipend, to students in Ukraine or displaced by the war.
  • Brandeis University’s business school has started a $1-million scholarship fund for refugees fleeing Ukraine and other students displaced by violence or persecution.

Colleges award honorary degree to Ukrainian leader

More than two dozen colleges will award honorary degrees at spring commencement to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, an unusual recognition of the president and people of the embattled country.

The honorary-degree effort was the brainchild of four presidents of colleges in the Rochester, N.Y., area, which is home to some 40,000 people of Ukrainian descent. Initially, the presidents had invited Zelensky to speak to their collective graduating classes, but switched to the degree plan when the Ukrainian Embassy said the president would not be able to do so.

Colleges elsewhere in New York, as well as in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, have since announced they will also award the Ukrainian president an honorary degree.

In a letter to The Chronicle, the presidents of Alfred University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Keuka College, and the Rochester Institute of Technology acknowledged that the “symbolism of an honorary degree only does so much.” They said they were committed to aiding Ukraine in other ways, including humanitarian assistance, scholarships, and support for current Ukrainian and Russian students.

Still, they said they hoped the collective recognition would make a powerful statement. “Given the role colleges and universities play in promoting the rights of individuals, democracy, and liberal society as well as the significance of what is presently involved geopolitically,” they wrote, “now is the time for us to do what we can to make a difference.”

Around the globe

The U.S. Department of State will no longer automatically correlate its country-by-country advisories for foreign travel with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid-related alerts.

The State Department has extended its Covid accommodations for visiting scholars, students, and others on J-1 exchange visas. NAFSA has a helpful explainer.

The Education Department has released an updated international strategy that aims to strengthen American education globally, to help students become more culturally competent, and to prepare graduates to compete for jobs worldwide.

A legislative proposal to exempt international graduates in STEM fields from green-card caps could be in trouble after Senate Republicans said it was a “no-go.”

A trial has begun in yet another China Initiative case, with prosecutors charging that a professor of mathematics at Southern Illinois University failed to disclose ties to China when applying for U.S. government grants.

A Harvard professor and recipient of the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics will return to China to help the country become a math powerhouse.

More than a dozen people in India were arrested for allegedly trying to use fake documents and bank statements to apply for U.S. student visas.

India will relax rules for foreign-university partnerships, allowing local institutions to start joint-degree programs with globally ranked partners without prior approval by the country’s University Grants Commission.

A suicide bomb attack near the University of Karachi, in Pakistan, killed the director of the university’s Confucius Institute and two teachers at the Chinese-language center.

Nicaragua’s government has seized control of a dozen private universities as part of an effort to crack down on dissent.

The Institute of International Education announced the latest recipients of its American Passport Project, which gives grants to help students get passports and other support to study abroad.

What happened when the Middle East Studies Association backed an academic boycott of Israel?

And finally …

I want to say goodbye to Michael A. Olivas, the noted higher-education and immigration scholar, who passed away last week. Olivas, who taught for many years at the University of Houston and served as acting president of its downtown campus, was an incisive commentator, passionate advocate for undocumented students, and, like my own late father, an enthusiastic music aficionado who sometimes mixed rock and roll into his teaching. For me and many other higher-education reporters, he was the best kind of source — someone who believes in journalism and wants to make our work better. I’m especially grateful for his support when I was starting this newsletter and will miss seeing his name pop up in my inbox or phone ID. Whatever was on his mind, I knew the conversation would be a good time.

Thanks for reading. I always welcome your feedback and ideas for future reporting, so drop me a line at karin.fischer@chronicle.com. You can also connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you like this newsletter, please share it with colleagues and friends. They can sign up here.