Leading US universities are pushing back against a proposed State Department rule that would bar foreign students from more research projects and classes involving information seen as vital to national security.
Research related to defense technology, such as munitions, nuclear engineering and satellite technology, would be particularly affected by the rule, which is still in the proposal process and has not been widely reported.
Defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin regularly sponsor university research, but did not respond to requests for comment.
The new rule, which largely applies to company-sponsored research, threatens to shrink the pool of research opportunities available for US colleges, which have grown strongly in popularity among high-paying foreign students in recent years.
Some top US schools do not accept any research grants that restrict participation by foreign citizens because it runs counter to policies of academic freedom and non-discrimination.
In a letter to the State Department, Stanford University said it joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), MIT and the University of Pennsylvania in criticizing the rule, warning of “disastrous consequences”. The AAU represents 62 leading research institutions, including Harvard, Duke University, and the University of Chicago.
The universities say the rule would tip the balance too far in favor of national security against academic freedom.