Higher Education Theme for Trip by State’s Hughes to India

By Lea Terhune
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Ahead of her departure for India, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes said the United States and India are “engaging more actively and constructively than ever on a wide range of issues” and that “our educational partnership is critical.”

“America wants to open its doors even wider to students from India, and we want more American young people to travel to India to study and learn.  India is already Number 1 in the world in sending students to the United States for higher education and we want to build on this strength for the benefit of the next generation of Indians and Americans,” she told USINFO March 23.  Her March 26-29 trip to India is meant “to strengthen our collaboration,” she said.

Hughes’ delegation includes Thomas A. Farrell, deputy assistant secretary of state for academic programs, and six university presidents from across the United States:  John J. Bowen, Johnson and Wales University; Mark A. Emmert, University of Washington; Margaret B. Lee, Oakton Community College; John M. Lilley, Baylor University; James L. Oblinger, North Carolina State University; and Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, Kalamazoo College.

The group will meet academic, government and business leaders and students to communicate the diversity of opportunities American higher education offers and expand educational partnerships with Indian universities and students.

“Students recognize that global challenges demand global solutions, and international higher education needs to respond to this knowledge imperative,” Hughes said.  Students want access to universities, she said.  “They want global skills from these institutions, and look for freedom of mobility to enable them to move from one institution to another, and one nation to another, collaborating across disciplines, faculties and borders.”  She added, “The global knowledge society knows no boundaries. Now it remains for governments and higher educational institutions – working in partnership with the private sector - to match their students' ambitions.”

Hughes said Indian and American parents alike want their children to be well prepared for the challenges in a changing world.  Not only do they “believe education is key to building a better life,” they “are urging educational institutions to expand the scope of affordable education options, broadening our students’ opportunities to succeed,” Hughes said.

Exchange programs such as Fulbright Fellowships bring foreign students to American universities and allow American scholars to study abroad.  Leading American universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conduct ongoing collaborative research and educational projects with Indian institutions. (See related article.)

American educational institutions, from community colleges to universities, seek to attract foreign students, but after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, security concerns made student visa applications more cumbersome.  This is changing, according to Hughes:  “I am pleased to report that the total number of student and exchange visas issued by the Department of State reached an all-time high of 591,050 during [fiscal year] 2006.  Student visa issuance in India was up by 32 percent over last year.  Secretary Rice is committed to a transparent and efficient visa process and the Department of State has taken many steps to streamline those processes.”

Through this visit to India - the second in a series of delegations focused on stronger academic partnerships initiated at the U.S. University Presidents Summit on International Education in January 2006 - Hughes aims to send a clear message:  “We want students around the world to know that the welcome mat is out for study in the United States.” (See related article.)

For additional information on studying in the United States, see the State Department Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs EducationUSA Web site and the electronic journal, College and University Education in the United States.