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International students in United states

Profile of international students in the US
New york, Dec 07: Recently, the Institute of International Education released its annual report Open Doors on the numbers and profile of international students in the US. According to the report, an estimated 671,000 international students were studying in the US during the academic year 2008-09. Not surprisingly, India and China topped this list with 103,260 and 98,235 students, respectively.

Pakistan was not among the top 10 or 15 as one would have expected based on sheer population numbers, but ranked at 23 with only 5,300 students studying in the US during 2008-09. These numbers are considerably below other developing countries such as Vietnam, Nepal, Thailand or Nigeria and also below Muslim countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia; many of whom have seen a sharp increase in the intake of students in the US recently.

The Open Doors report indicated that 2008-09 was a historic year with the largest number of foreign students since they started counting them in 1948, with also one of the highest annual growth rates. This makes the numbers on Pakistani students more poignant, not only because Pakistan stands so far below other countries, but also because the number of Pakistani students in the US have continued to decline sharply from around 8,600 in 2001-02 at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to 5,300 now.

America's higher education system is considered among the best in the world. This is not only the view of those who know and understand the global higher education market, but also consistently shows up in global ranking of universities i.e. the prestigious Times Higher Education and Shanghai University's Jiao Tong Academic Rankings.

For the past many years, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, California Institute of Technology, Yale, Colombia and Princeton have been among top US institutions, and Cambridge and Oxford among the top 10 from the UK. So it is quite distressing that student numbers from Pakistan are falling and their share is declining in the US. This is happening at a time when higher education is becoming a universal aspiration and numbers of students who go abroad for higher education has been growing exponentially over the past few years.

Two decades ago, there were fewer opportunities for Pakistanis wanting to pursue higher education, either at home or abroad. With an expanding middle class that values higher education, there is clearly more demand for tertiary education. The quality of students coming out of high schools continues to improve. So potentially there are more and more eligible Pakistani students who qualify for higher studies.

There are certainly more options for higher education in Pakistan now, both due to the new private universities as well as improvements in some public-sector institutions. There has been impressive increase in the access to higher education in Pakistan, thanks to the work of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The total number of universities in Pakistan has increased from 59 in 2000 to 124 in 2008, leading to a doubling of the number of students in Pakistani universities. But clearly demand outstrips supply, and there are needs of both undergraduate and post-graduate education abroad.

The HEC has been providing scholarships for bright young Pakistanis to go abroad. Many of the scholarships are being funded by donors like US and Japan and donor initiatives like the US Fulbright programme and UK scholarships have also been growing. According to available data an estimated 9,300 Pakistani students were enrolled in the UK, close to 7,000 in Australia, 5,300 in the US during 2008-09, and many others in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Trends show that Pakistani students have shifted away from the US as a higher education destination after 9/11 and have started going to the UK and Australia, and increasingly to East Asian destinations like China and Malaysia in recent years.

So what could be the possible reasons for this phenomenon? The issuance of student visas from Pakistan is clearly a key issue mainly related to security threats, especially for 18-29 year old students. The US should not be singled out though for restricting visas for eligible Pakistani students.

While the US has been doing this increasingly after 9/11, other countries are also joining the group. In March 2009, the UK made stringent changes to the student visa system which reportedly led to about 5,000 aspiring students not getting their applications processed in time and another 9,000 Pakistani students appealing outright refusals.

This coming in the wake of the April 2009 arrest of Pakistani students in the UK for their alleged involvement in terrorist activities means that the doors to higher education are increasingly being closed for Pakistanis in countries that host the top ranking academic institutions. Since many countries advise their citizens not to travel to Pakistan, our students also get cut off from activities such as academic fairs, student recruiter visits, and other events which are increasingly being used to woo talented students in major academic markets. Even those Pakistani students who are lucky enough to go for studies abroad feel vulnerable because being Pakistani is becoming synonymous with being a 'potential terrorist'.

In a 1943 speech at Harvard University, Winston Churchill said that "the empires of the future will be empires of the mind". He was absolutely right. With globalisation and the rise of knowledge-based industries a lot of big corporations and academia are fighting the 'battle for brains'. While the potential higher education pool is growing in Pakistan, and the country is in dire need of people who can contribute with better education and global knowledge, the options for grooming that talent with education and training abroad is getting more and more difficult.

If the US and UK want to win hearts and minds in Pakistan, among other things, they need to open the doors to higher education for bright and young Pakistanis. Keeping this talent at bay is not going to win hearts in Pakistan neither will they be able to influence minds that can be groomed in their institutions. Dawn

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Students deported from UK yet to receive Govt assistance
Peshawar: The Pakistani students who were detained on charges of involvement in a terror plot in the United Kingdom (UK) and then deported are yet to receive any assistance from the government or national or international rights body despite the lapse of more than six months.

The British police arrested ten Pakistani students on April 11 during raids in Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire on the basis of MI5 intercepts that the young men were allegedly planning to bomb a city shopping centre and a night club. The intelligence linked the students to al-Qaeda and other terror networks.

Hardly two weeks after their arrest, the students were freed on April 22 and later deported to Pakistan with only two of them staying back to fight their deportation thus ruining their studies and their future back in their home country.

"We are no more able to get employment in multinational companies," said Janas Khan, who is resident of Namak Mandi locality of Peshawar. The 26-year-old was an employee of a pharmaceutical company before going to UK for master's degree in business administration (MBA) to get a lucrative job back in his hometown.

However, not only that he could not manage to get the degree, he was also robbed of the available cash and what he spent on his education during his more than two years stay in UK. "I used to do part-time job to meet my education expenses," he recalled.

Janas Khan, who remained for two months in jail along with nine other Pakistani students to fight their case against deportation, said they were deported and the Pakistani government did nothing to take up the matter with the UK authorities. "They should have asked them that why we were arrested, jailed and then deported without proving the allegations against us," said the young man.

Janas Khan said the university where he studied for two and half years now wanted 6,000 UK pounds as fee to issue him the degree. "How can I manage that much amount when I'm jobless. It was possible for me in UK because I was doing a part-time job there," he added.

Ramzan, another deported student, who was doing his MBA from Liverpool Hope University said that the baseless charges against them ruined their future.

"We had gone there in the hope to get master's degree and return to the country to get handsome jobs, but the charges ruined our career as we are unable to apply for a job in a multinational company," said Ramzan, who is from the troubled South Waziristan Agency.

The young man said he had contacted Senator Talha Mehmood and Senator Saleh Shah and they assured support initially, but there was no response from them or other government official so far. "We are given a short-shrift everywhere as if we are not Pakistanis," he grumbled.

Ramzan said he had also talked to the Pakistan's high commissioner in UK Wajid Shamsul Hassan once and he said the government did whatever it can. "Later, an official told me that the government can't take up the matter with British authorities as it may affect their ties with that country," he added.

Another student Abdul Wahab also lamented the serious loss to his career due to the neglect of the British authorities. He said the British authorities should have proved the allegations. "If not, then they should have not deported us and allowed us to continue our studies," he argued.

Wahab also belongs to South Waziristan and is presently living in Islamabad. In a telephonic chat, he said that not a single government official contacted the deported students to know their problem since their deportation six months ago.

"The baseless allegations has not only ruined my career, but also bitterly harmed the reputation of my family," said Wahab, who was getting his degree in computer education from John Moore University, Liverpool.

He recalled that he had to appear in a semester for one paper on May 5. However, he was detained along with other Pakistani students on April 8 and thus could not sit in the examination. Wahab said he had spent around 900,000 UK pounds on his studies there.

The students, who were arrested by British police with banner headlines in the British media the next day about their alleged terror plan, were not charged for lack of proof against them. Eight of the arrested students arrived back in Pakistan while two are still in jail to fight their deportation.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who recently paid a visit to UK, said he had discussed the issue with British foreign secretary David Miliband. However, the students want the government to be quick to save their future and career.

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Teachers reject proposal to replace kidnapped VC
Peshawar: The teaching staff at the public sector universities of the province have rejected a proposal to replace the kidnapped vice-chancellor of Kohat University of Science and Technology Prof Dr Lutfullah Kakakhel and pledged to resist the move.

A senior professor of the University of Peshawar said that the authorities wanted to replace the kidnapped VC with a new full-time VC on the plea that this might prompt the kidnappers to release him.

"This I think is not the right way to secure the release of the senior academician. The government should use other possible and effective means for an early and safe recovery of Dr Lutfullah," he said.

Deeply concerned at the kidnapping of the VC, the teachers warned the government in a meeting, the other day, to ensure safe release of the kidnapped VC or else they would stop attending their classes from Tuesday.

The teachers are of the opinion that the VC can be recovered if the government and the security forces make sincere efforts. When contacted, the Peshawar University Teachers Association (PUTA) President Dr Arbab Afridi said that if the NWFP governor, who is also the chancellor of the public sector universities in the province cannot ensure release of the kidnapped ailing vice-chancellor, he has no right to remain in power. "The governor should better resign if he cannot recover the vice-chancellor," he added.

Another professor said that when it had become clear that the VC was in the captivity of militant Commander Tariq Afridi, who wants to swap him for his men in government custody, the authorities should evolve an effective strategy to ensure his release before the expiry of the deadline given by teachers.

Prof Dr Shafiqur Rahman, senior professor at University of Peshawar, appealed to all the government functionaries, top academicians, legal fraternity, media and people from all walks of life to employ every possible mean to secure the safe reunion of Prof Lutfullah with his family.

Kidnapped on November 6, Dr Lutfullah has earned wide national acclaim as a highly qualified, experienced and respected professor of Physical Chemistry with scores of publications and MPhil/PhD students produced to his credit, Dr Shafiqur Rahman said.

"Dr Lutfullah is also a top notch information technology expert and pioneer of computer science education at the University of Peshawar," he said, adding that his wife too was a senior academician at the same university.

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Another IIU blast victim died
Islamabad: Aqsa, a student of International Islamic University (IIU), Islamabad, who sustained critical injuries in the suicide blast at the university expired here on Sunday. She was 18. She was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). After her death the death toll of twin blasts occurred at IIUI on October 20 has gone up to nine. PIMS sources told this agency that she sustained critical injuries to her head and neck. Her respiratory system was also damaged and she was in coma. Hospital sources added that she was the last IIUI blast victim still admitted at the hospital. The news

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QAU observed Sindhi Topi Day
Islamabad: Sindhi students at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) held a rally on Sunday pledging to continue promoting and safeguarding the Sindhi culture.

The rally was organised by Mehran Council, a cultural and social organisation of Sindhi students, in connection with the first ever Sindhi Topi Day as called by the people of Sindh.

The rally started from the main cafeteria and ended at Bab-e-Quaid. Over 100 Sindhi students wearing their cultural dresses - Qameez, shalwar, Sindhi caps and Ajrak - took part in the rally carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their culture.

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Nepotism in appointment of caretakers
Layyah: Two out of 800 or so candidates who were dropped during the recruitment process for six posts of caretakers (BS-9) in colleges of this district have alleged nepotism in the entire exercise.

Muhammad Nadeem and Abdul Raheem have filed an application with the Dera Ghazi Khan commissioner seeking a probe into the matter.

According to their complaint, colleges district officer (DO) Muhammad Jameel Qureshi was head of the committee and he selected his niece and another close relative, both belonging to Muzaffargarh district, in clear violation of the recruitment policy. The DO gave an advertisement seeking applications against six posts of college laboratory and hostel caretakers (four men, two women) in a national daily on Dec 10, 2007.

The new government stopped the recruitment process temporarily. However, he gave another advertisement on May 9, 2009, and applications were sought from intermediate candidates domiciled (preferably) in the district having five-year experience in office work. As many as 800 candidates applied.

Later, a merit list was prepared and displayed at the office of colleges DO in which Nadeem and Raheem, who, according to their claim, were graduates and possessed requisite experience, were dropped and "ineligible" candidates were selected.

The DO made four appointments against the six vacancies. The selected candidates included DO's niece Sobia Qureshi and a relative of his wife, both residents of Kot Addu in Muzaffargarh district.

The complainants alleged that the DO, being chairman of the recruitment committee, violated the policy by appointing his relatives who did not belong to Layyah district.

They also alleged that the merit list was tampered with to accommodate Sobia as her experience certificate included time period when she was still studying.

DO Qureshi said that all the requirements under the government recruitment policy of 2004 were met during the process. He said that he had made all these appointments strictly on merit. Dawn

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