What happens when the ‘borders’ to higher education close?
Times Higher Education (World University Rankings) is one of the most renowned league tables used to rank universities worldwide. One of the indicators used in judging the top universities is the percentage of international students enrolled. In the 2016/2017 World Rankings, 15 of the top 20 universities were located in the United States (US), with the number of international students enrolled ranging from 16 to 34 percent. It dawned on me, that with the advent of the Trump administration, it is likely that higher educational institutions in the United States may experience a downturn in the number of international students who will choose to study in that country during the life span of his presidency.
The internet is abuzz with the Executive Order from the White House temporarily banning travelers and refugees from seven (7) Muslim states – Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the USA (Fischer, 2017; the Guardian, 2017; Ansari, Robertson & Dewan, 2017). Even, students studying in the US and holders of US green cards who were from these countries and who found themselves outside of the United States at the implementation of the ban, were prohibited entry for days. Those planning to travel were also dissuaded from doing so until the ‘storm’ had passed and the intent of the Administration was clearly articulated. Thousands of students were left stranded (Fischer, 2017).
The US as a study destination
The number of students who travel to another country to study is on the rise with five million travelling as at 2014 (The University of Oxford, 2015). The United States receives the largest number of international students yearly, followed by the United Kingdom.
According to 2015 data from College Factual from the Department of Homeland Security cited in Stockwell (2017), 23,763 international students hailed from the countries affected by the travel ban, 15,773 of which are pursuing Bachelor degrees or postgraduate degrees in the US. The greatest number hailing from Iran with 14,981. College Factual estimates that the economic benefit to universities for these Iranian students amounted to over US$700 million. The United States is one of five countries that benefit from half of the five million students who studied abroad in 2014 (the University of Oxford, 2015). Can you imagine the billions being made by colleges and universities annually? What would happen if the ban suddenly expanded to include other countries, such as China and India? As 1 in 6 international students is Chinese and 53 percent of international students are Asian (the University of Oxford, 2015), the financial fallout would be astronomical. Universities are, however, fighting back.
Push Back Against the Ban
Universities are crying foul and have sought legal redress to stop President Trump’s Executive Order. Seventeen (17) universities have legally challenged Trump’s travel ban. The universities argue that “their school missions and influence are “truly global” and the President’s Executive Order threatens “their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders from around the world” (deHahn, 2017). Signing an amicus brief were the top eight ivy league schools in the US plus nine other top ranking schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that is ranked number one by the Times Higher Education World league charts. An amicus brief, Dehaun states, was a legal document signed by interested parties not involved in a direct litigation, but allowed to share their stance on a case where they feel a decision could affect them.
Members of the US judiciary are also pushing back, rendering the ban unconstitutional, allowing thousands to return to the classroom (Blumenstyk, Najmabadi & Brown, 2017). On the foreign policy front lines, several countries have publicly denounced the act while some of the affected countries, like Iran and Iraq, are considering taking reciprocal measures to ban US passport holders and in the case of Iraq, the expulsion of US troops from the country (Brinkhurst-Cuff, Chulov & Dehghan, 2017).
What does that mean for us?
How does this affect Jamaica, you might ask? Currently, the travel ban does not pose a direct threat to Jamaicans. Given the unpredictability of this President, however, the possibility exists that the drastic measures being implemented to ‘take back America’s borders’ may negatively impact us later. Short of the fact that a few hundred students from Jamaica study in the United States, the immediate fear is that the Trump administration may not stop at these seven countries, now six with the revised travel ban. The Trump campaign has shown itself to be racially biased against minorities, so what is to stop the Administration from targeting other groups. After condoning the rhetoric of the ‘Wall’ and the ‘America First’ banter, millions are now witnessing what that entails, which is contrary to the mantra of ‘the land of the free’. The world is now seeing firsthand what happens when a ‘border’ closes. Abuse of power against a particular group of people reminiscent of the early days of the Nazi empire.
In its quest to protect ‘the people’, the US travel ban mirrors the persecution of ‘inferior’ groups by the Nazis in their pursuit to purify the Aryan race (Holocaust Encyclopedia, n.d.). The point of this comparison is that the Nazis did not stop with its first targeted group, homosexuals, who were tortured and murdered; posing as moral crusaders, they then turned their attention to Jews and blacks. In Trump’s “America First”, the ban may be a preview of what’s to come.
Jamaican visitors and students should expect heightened security and increased scrutiny at ports of entry, clear resultants of the ban. J1 Work and Travel participants should also anticipate restrictions. The amended travel ban places a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas to countries affected, but it is possible that visa restrictions may affect us as well. Patel (2017) states that the political climate in the United States has instilled fear and reluctance among students, with one in three prospective candidates to US based universities indicating that they are less interested in studying there.
But ‘wha drop affa head, can drop pon shoulder.’ Jamaica should seek to garner ‘the spoils’ from this Executive Order. The University of Oxford (2015) reports that interest to study in the US has been declining among international students, favouring instead countries like Canada and Australia. ICEF (2015) says that “the nature of competition is shifting, with enrolment more widely distributed among a larger field of destinations, including a growing number of non-English-speaking countries.” Jamaica should capitalize on this opportunity by ramping up its thrust of attracting more international students to the island, particularly from this affected group. The Study Jamaica thrust to brand the island as a higher education destination may be the catalyst for breaking into this niche market. Jamaica is a diverse society comprising all religious faiths and beliefs; a non-discriminatory country.
Changes in the ‘free world’ have ripple effects on the rest of the world. It is possible that this ‘border’ closure will ricochet on other countries, hopefully in a positive way. Whatever the future outcome, new emerging markets will continue to influence global student mobility. The countries – and universities – that will benefit will be the ones that are most responsive – and accommodating.
Ansari, A., Robertson, N., & Dewan, A. (2017). World leaders react to Trump’s travel ban. CNN Politics. January 31, 2017. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/30/politics/trump-travel-ban-world-reaction/
Blumenstyk, G., Najmabadi, S. & Brown, S. (2017). Court rebukes Trump’s travel ban, and harm to universities plays a key role. The Chronicle of Higher Education. February 9, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Court-Rebukes-Trump-s-Travel/239173?cid=RCPACKAGE
Brinkhurst-Cuff, C., Chulov, M. & Dehghan, S. K. (2017). Muslim-majority countries show anger at Trump travel ban. The Guardian. 29 January 2017. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/29/muslim-majority-countries-anger-at-trump-travel-ban
deHahn, P. (2017). 17 Universities file legal challenge to Trump’s travel ban. USAToday. 14 February 2017. Retrieved from http://college.usatoday.com/2017/02/14/17-universities-file-legal-challenge-to-trumps-travel-ban/
Fischer, K. (2017). Trump’s travel ban leaves students stranded – and colleges scrambling to help. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Trump-s-Travel-Ban-Leaves/239039?cid=wcontentgrid_6_3list_6
Holocaust Encyclopedia (n.d.). Persecution of homosexuals in the third reich. Retrieved from https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005261
ICEF (2015). The state of international student mobility in 2015. Retrieved from http://monitor.icef.com/2015/11/the-state-of-international-student-mobility-in-2015/
Patel, V. (2017). Prospective international students show new reluctance to study in the US. The Chronicles of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Prospective-International/239468
Stockwell, C. (2017). What Trump’s travel ban means for thousands of international students in the US. USAToday. 3 February 2017. Retrieved from http://college.usatoday.com/2017/02/03/trump-travel-ban-international-students/
The Guardian (2017). Muslim-majority countries show anger at Trump travel ban. January 29, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/29/muslim-majority-countries-anger-at-trump-travel-ban
The University of Oxford (2015). International trends in higher education 2015. Retrieved from https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxford/International%20Trends%20in%20Higher%20Education%202015.pdf
Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2017/world-ranking#!/page/0/length/25/sort_by/rank/sort_order/asc/cols/stats