Panelists examined the Australian Government Principles to Promote and Protect the Human Rights of International Students, and the International Student Mobility Charter of the European Association for International Education (EAIE). A call to action was made for countries, international education associations, and others to design and adopt similar localized principles and guidelines to protect international students.
A call to action was also made for a universal charter, through the United Nations, to protect international students. It could be named the United Nations Declaration on International Students’ Rights, and could be used as a model and guide for similar instruments to be promulgated by the European Union, the Organization of Amaerican States, the African Union, and other inter-governmental organizations.
Panelists suggested that educational institutions around the globe adopt international students’ rights protection instruments, disseminate them widely to stakeholders, and support enforcement measures to help ensure that international students’ internationally recognized human rights are protected at all levels.
Widespread adoption of these instruments would cement recognition that international students’ rights are human rights, and should be protected throughout the world.
The international students’ rights panel was held at the Annual Conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, on Wednesday, 29 May 2013. Panelists included: (a) Brett Blacker, who is Director of the International Office of the University of Newcastle and Vice-President of the European Association for International Education (EAIE); and (b) Hans-Georg van Liempd, who is from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and who is the President of the EAIE, and who is based in Amsterdam.
The panel Chair was Meredith M. McQuaid, JD, who is the Associate Vice President and Dean of International Programs for the University of Minnesota system, and who is the former President of NAFSA.
Questions and analytical interventions were made by participants, including by Professor George E. Edwards, who is The CM Gray Professor of Law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, and Faculty Director (Founding), of the law school's Program in International Human Rights Law. Professor Edwards is an international human rights law teacher and scholar who has advocated before various United Nations bodies, and is the author of LL.M. Roadmap: An International Student’s Guide to U.S. Law Schools. Professor Edwards raised the issue of a possible United Nations Declaration of International Students’ Human Rights, which is in line with a presentation he made at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting on 5 January 2013. At the Plenary of the AALS Presidential Workshop on Globalizing the Curriculum he spoke on “Balancing the Interests & Needs Of Stakeholders In U.S. Master Of Laws (LL.M.) Programs For International Students: Avoiding “Cash Cows”, “Diploma Mills”, Bait & Switch, LL.M. Creep & Other Disappointments, While Furthering Academic, Professional, Diplomacy, Human Rights & Other Goals”. [A Handout from the AALS presentation is embedded below.]
The NAFSA panel was titled “Challenging Times for International Students: The Need for International Students’ Charters”.
Australian Government Principles to promote and protect the
human rights of international students.
Panelist Brett Blacker, from the University of Newcastle, Australia, introduced the Australian Government Principles to Promote and Protect the Human Rights of International Students. He played a short video by Dr. Helen Szoke, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner (former), who promulgated the four Australian Principles that relate to:
1. Enhancing the human rights of international students
2. Ensuring all international students have access to human rights and freedom from discrimination protections
3. Understanding the diverse needs of international students
4. Empowering international students during their stay in Australia
The Principles identify the key human rights considerations to be taken into account in policy development and service delivery to ensure that international students who choose Australia as an educational destination have a safe, positive and productive time during their stay.
Human rights belong to all of us, no matter who we are, where we were born, where we live or the colour of our skin. They recognise the fundamental worth of each person and are grounded on the principles of equality and mutual respect.
International students can face a range of human rights challenges in Australia, including in relation to:
-- an adequate standard of living, including access to safe, adequate and affordable housing
-- personal safety and security
-- discrimination, harassment, violence and other human rights breaches,
-- access to physical and mental health services, including information and health services for women
-- safe and fair employment
-- other health, safety and well-being deprivations.
International Student Mobility Charter of the
European Association for International Education (EAIE).
Panelist Hans-Georg van Liempd, who is the President of the European Association for International Education (EAIE), presented the International Student Mobility Charter (“EAIE Charter”). President van Liempd described the process surrounding the drafting of the EAIE Charter and its adoption on 14 September 2012.
The EAIE Charter focuses on rights & and responsibilities for students within Europe, and thus contains some provisions that may not be immediately or directly transferable to international student mobility outside of Europe. Following are the 10 categories of rights and responsibilities covered in the EAIE Charter.
1. Equity of Treatment
2. Inter-cultural competences
3. Integration of international students
4. Opportunity to complete studies
5. Portability & continuity of funding
6. Students status
7. Visa & formal requirements
9. Student rights support
10. Quality assurance
President van Liempd reiterated themes announced in the preamble of the International Student EAIE Mobility Charter, that includes the following:
In 2010 more than 4 million students were studying outside their home countries. According to UNESCO this number may rise to 8 million international higher education students by 2025. This globally mobile population of mainly young people seeking education represents an investment in crucial assets for sending countries, assets that are essential for future development, prosperity and welfare, when students return home with increased knowledge and skills prepared for global citizenship. For receiving countries, these students bring cultural and intellectual diversity to the institutions and the countries they visit, often representing also a source of revenue for those institutions and communities, and in some cases a source of skilled migrants’ post-education experience.
Consequently, it should be in the interest of any country to facilitate mobility in higher education. This implies that every country and higher education institution needs to recognize the complexity of mobility and have a framework of support for both incoming and outgoing students.
At the same time there is a need to secure international students’ rights and welfare. In some countries and communities, international students have suffered from discrimination on grounds of race, religion and culture, gender and have been confronted with circumstances on and off campuses, which pose a threat to their safety, dignity and security.
The demand for knowledge is global. All countries and cultures are in need of an increased level of knowledge, for many different reasons. This is a call to institutions of education, cities, regions and countries to recognize this need and to make efforts to facilitate knowledge mobility, in particular knowledge mobility linked to the global movement of students.
While respecting the integrity of education institutions, taking account of their diverse strategies and academic and national cultures and their roles in their communities, we call on governments and education institutions, as well as international agencies and associations of international education, to endorse, support and promote the following:
(of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers).
An additional instrument that speaks to rights of international students is the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for International Students and Institutions, that was adopted in 1996 by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. The International Students' Bill of Rights has been adopted by various institutions, but a need is seen for greater adoption, and for similar human rights principles to be incorporated into instruments with wider distribution.
A United Nations Declaration on International Students’ Rights
Professor Edwards noted that international students have interests and needs that differ from those of domestic students, overseas laborers, and tourists, and that international students face significant difficulties, challenges and abuses for which remedies should be provided. International students’ rights are human rights. The international community benefits from the mobility of millions of students across national borders each year. The international community should protect the human rights of international students.
Professor Edwards, at his AALS presentation in January 2013, and in LL.M. Roadmap, discusses the harms to stakeholders when schools operate cash cow programs for international students, operate diploma mills, or otherwise violate rights of international students. Professor Edwards stated that:
“International students have the right to have their reasonable expectations met when they are enrolled in schools in a foreign country. Efforts must be made to protect international students. An international declaration of rights of international students would help ensure that students are protected, no matter which school the student is enrolled in and no matter which country. International students’ rights are human rights. Schools, governments, and the international community must recognize the rights of international students and protect those internationally recognized rights.”
Student mobility benefits sending countries, receiving / host countries, and the international community at large. For example, students may go overseas to gain an education that they can use to further development in their home countries when the students return. Hosts countries benefit from money international students spend on tuition, housing, food and other expenses. The international community benefits from the diplomacy occasioned by inter-cultural exchanges. The benefits for all stakeholders are much grander than this oversimplification.
Examples of benefits include those expressed by the Fulbright Program -- which is U.S. Government's flagship international exchange program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs -- and the Institute of International Education (IIE), which administers the Fulbright Program. The Fulbright Program provides funding for students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. The IIE itself "fosters mutual understanding, develops global leaders, and protects academic freedom worldwide through educational exchange and training programs”. The IIE Mission Statement notes that its “mission is to advance international education and access to education worldwide.” And, the IIE accomplishes this by:
- managing scholarships, training, exchange and leadership programs
- conducting research and facilitating policy dialogue on global higher education
- protecting scholarship around the world
International students studying abroad are affected by institutional budget cuts, strict visa rules, and attitudes that may be inhospitable. Institutions grappling with budget cuts may seek to increase enrollment of fee-paying international students, and may be tempted to shift tuition revenue away from international student programs to domestic student programs to help make up for domestic deficits.
International students suffer discrimination in housing and in the provision of services, threats to personal safety and security, and other human rights abuses at the hands of private individuals (including other students), educational institutions, and government officials.
It is important to ensure that international students are protected from all harms they may face while studying abroad.
U.S. governmental officials and others from around the world have addressed how international student exchanges and study abroad have positive impact on international trade, and on the economies of sending and receiving countries. Officials have also described how important student mobility is for diplomacy, and for global and regional peace, security, fundamental freedoms and human rights. See, for example:
- Secretary of State John Kerry on International Education
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Speaks on International Education at EducationUSA Forum in Washington, DC
- International Students Add $22.7 Billion to U.S. Economy in 2011-2012
Schools, educational associations, local and national governments, and inter-governmental organizations can draft and adopt instruments that contain principles to protect international students’ human rights. Furthermore, given the universal status of international students’ rights as human rights, and given the widespread abuse of these rights, the time is ripe for a globally applicable express enumeration of these rights, in a United Nations Declaration of International Students’ Human Rights.
1. Brett Blacker (Director of the International Office of the University of Newcastle; EAIE Vice-President);
2. Dean Meredith M. McQuaid, (Associate Vice President & Dean of International Programs for the University of Minnesota system; former President of NAFSA.;
3. Professor George Edwards (Professor at Indiana University School of Law; author of LL.M. Roadmap: An International Student’s Guide to U.S. Law School Programs; Faculty Director (Founding), Program in International Human Rights Law; and
4. Hans-Georg van Liempd, (Tilburg University in the Netherlands; President, European Association for International Education (EAIE),.