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Issue #1765      February 15, 2017

Universities condemn ban

Universities Australia has expressed concern about the impact of the new US executive order on the free exchange of students, academics and researchers between Australia and the United States of America.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said Australia and the US had longstanding ties between university sectors and a proud tradition of student and staff exchanges on a large scale.

“If brilliant scholars from the seven countries named in the executive order are based in the US and visit Australia to collaborate on research, they would not be able to return to the US,” she said.

“The ban has the potential to adversely affect research collaboration, academic conference participation, student exchange programs and postdoctoral work.

“Collaboration is the lifeblood of world-leading university research and is vital to the economies and societies of both of our nations,” she said.

Over 7,000 US faculty members and 37 Nobel Laureates have signed a petition voicing concern and urging US President Donald Trump to reconsider the executive order on immigration.

The Association of American Universities has also called for its reversal, saying that the ban threatens to cause “irreparable damage” to the academic reputation of the United States.

Universities Canada expressed its concern in a statement issued last week.

The petition: We call on the leaders of Australian universities to take concrete action. We call on them to say NO to the politics of the Trump administration and YES to academic freedom, human rights and equity in diversity.

We call on them to:

  • Take a united public stand opposing the policies of the Trump administration that target international students or intellectual freedom and exchange in any way;
  • Support international students by opening more places, and funding extra scholarships, for students from countries barred by Trump.

Why is this important?

The Trump administration is targeting the rights and freedoms of people both inside the US and worldwide: from women’s reproductive rights to refugees to intellectual freedom and academic exchange. If we let this happen without our institutions and governments taking a stand, then we are tacitly condoning Trump’s actions.

This is why it is essential for our intellectual and political leaders to show international students that they are welcome in this country, and to show that the free international circulation of people and ideas is essential to a robust higher education system and to a robust community.

Next article – Basic poverty trap

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