As most readers of this blog know, I strongly oppose proposals to “staple a green card to the diplomas” of foreign STEM students earning MS or PhD degrees at U.S. universities. Those proposals are based on the premises that (a) we have a shortage of people with STEM grad degrees and (b) the foreign STEM students are Einsteins-in-waiting. I’ve shown numerous times that neither of these premises is valid.
For example, concerning (b) above, foreign students in computer science, putatively the most important STEM field, are on average WEAKER than their American peers: The foreign students file fewer patent applications; they are less likely to work in R&D; and among those with doctorates, they earn their degrees at less prestigious institutions.
Today’s edition of Inside Higher Ed shows data that is quite disturbing concerning (a).
Percent of Doctorate Recipients With Job or Postdoc Commitments, by Field of Study
So, the new PhDs in engineering aren’t doing much better than those in the humanities. In fact, PhDs in the social sciences and education are doing better than those in any STEM field.
Even some immigration-reform people have endorsed “Staple” as long as it is restricted only to PhDs. The above figures show such views as ill-advised.
And getting back to (b): An Australian reader brought my attention to this article regarding the University of Sydney. The article is mainly about a sudden change of date for a graduation ceremony and resulting hardship on some students from China and their families, but this passage is interesting:
It is the second time in the past year that the university has come under criticism for its treatment of international students. Last year, it is understood the Chinese consulate appealed to the university when 37 per cent of Chinese students were failed in one of the university’s business courses, drawing accusations of bias towards non-native English speakers.
Though it does appear that the Chinese students are getting a raw deal regarding the graduation date, that 37% figure is troubling. As you may recall, I recently discussed a Wall Street Journal article titled “Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on U.S. Campuses,” which among other things cited U.S. faculty who say they are lowering standards in their courses as a result of the low quality of Chinese students.
Even more disturbing is the Chinese consulate’s involvement, protesting that the business course was unfair to the Chinese students. The reader who called my attention to this article added that a professor had told him it is common for Chinese students to berate professors who give them low grades. I recently taught a graduate class in which a Chinese student was quite rude to me, stridently claiming that the (oral) interactive grading for homework was unfair to her, due to language issues. When I told her that two of the three students in the class to whom I gave A+ grades were from China, with English no better than hers, she had to back off. But this student is both weak and has a lousy attitude; we already have enough weak American students with bad attitudes; do we need to import more, via “Staple”?
All of this is quite disconcerting. I must add that it is certainly not consistent with traditional Chinese culture; in the past, a Chinese consulate would not have even considered objecting to the 37% failure rate, out of shame. How things have changed!
As I said in my previous post, there are many truly excellent international students, including from China (over the past weekend I wrote a letter of support for the green card application of one), but it’s clear that a blanket policy like “Staple” is just plain wrong.