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US colleges are pulling their partnerships and financial ties with Russia

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Colleges across the U.S. are pulling students from study abroad programs in Russia, ending research partnerships and cutting financial ties as part of a global wave of condemnation over the invasion of Ukraine.

At the same time, colleges have promised to support Russian students on their campuses, opposing calls from a few in Congress to remove them from the country as a sanction against their homeland.

The moves are mostly symbolic — U.S. colleges have little power to sway Russia or squeeze its finances, and academic exchange between the nations has always been meager. But the suggestion that some or all Russian students should forfeit the opportunity to study here has drawn new attention to the role of universities in global disputes.

Last academic year, U.S. colleges hosted nearly 5,000 students from Russia, less than 1% of all international students. Advocates for international education say losing those students would forgo a chance to expose them to western ideals, and they say Russians who choose to study in America are already more likely to want change back home.

“Leaders need to make a distinction between Putin and Russian people who want a better life,” said Jill Welch, a senior adviser for the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a coalition of university presidents. “Sending anyone back wouldn’t shorten any war by a day.”

Several other states have also told colleges to pull investments, including Virginia, Ohio and Arizona.

Presidents of Arizona’s public universities notified the state Monday that they were ending financial and academic ties with Russia in response to an order from the state’s board of regents. Arizona State University announced it will part with a corporate training center in Moscow affiliated with its business school.

Other colleges are reviewing contracts or financial donations from Russian sources, but some had no plans to return the money or end deals.

Stanford University received $1.6 million through a contract with an undisclosed Russian source in December 2020, according to U.S. Education Department records. A university spokesperson said it’s an agreement for online business courses and that Stanford is in “full compliance” with U.S. sanctions.

Last year, Rutgers University reported a new contract with Russia. The school said it’s a deal with the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow for research and information exchange through November 2023. Officials said the agreement is currently inactive.

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