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U.S. outreach seeks to grow education pie

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More collaborations and student exchange programmes with U.S. universities are on the anvil.

ROOM FOR MORE: Suresh Kumar, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, U.S., interacting with students at the U.S. education fair in Chennai, recently. Photo: Special arrangement
ROOM FOR MORE: Suresh Kumar, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, U.S., interacting with students at the U.S. education fair in Chennai, recently. Photo: Special arrangement

In school uniform, Shrinikheth Kannan, Prashant Sridhar, and T.V. Vijay Gopal were going around the U.S. education fair in Chennai enquiring details about automobile engineering. In Class X, these students of Gateway Complete School have an idea about their future career. “We want to keep our options open,” says Kannan.

Close by, faculty from Holy Cross College, Tiruchirapalli, led by Principal Jeusin Francis, were talking to representatives from Dickinson State University on possible collaboration on student and staff exchange programmes. “As one of the colleges chosen as a centre for excellence by the University Grants Commission (UGC), Holy Cross is looking for partnerships to provide global expertise in teaching and evaluation,” says Ms. Francis.

These two cases are not exclusive, for they represent an emerging trend among the student community and educational institutions, which is likely to shape the future of bilateral relations between India and U.S. in the sphere of higher education. As many as 21 U.S. universities participated in the fair offering a wide range of courses from music and design to applied psychology and engineering and technology. There were community colleges as well. “It represents a wide range of options to the students at affordable cost,” said Suresh Kumar, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, U.S., inaugurating the fair which was part of the trade mission.

One of the objectives of the fair was to attract more students to undergraduate courses in U.S. universities, as at present most of the students from India prefer to study graduate courses. Of the six lakh international students, India has 1.05 lakh, representing 15 per cent, and second only to China. “India had the largest number of international students in U.S. till last year. This year, China registered a 30 per cent increase with more students joining undergrad,” he says.

“To avail scholarship for undergraduate courses, good scores in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is essential,” says Ron Jones, International Student Recruitment Manager, Georgia Southern University. “You should have a score of 1010 out of 1060 in reading and mathematics,” he was telling eager students queuing up with questions, pitching his university as a small scale, large-level research university, with 20,000 students, located close to the ocean.

Sugra Bibi, Director of Special Projects, University of Pennsylvania representative, was telling the students interested in pursuing Master's that GRE and TOEFL were a must. The university offers a wide range of courses from geosciences to applied psychology, among many others.

Students were asked to leave behind e-mail accounts for future contacts. Students can access www.usief.org.in for details and are advised to contact the Consular offices and avoid agents.

SCAD is a university totally devoted to design. “We have fine arts and commercial arts courses. From art history and architecture to advertising and visual effects, there are a whole range of courses for the creative mind,” says Peter May, International Student Services, from the Atlanta campus. SCAD has a Hong Kong campus as well. “The number of Indian students in the university is steadily increasing,” he says.

This, despite the fact that the students will have to pay $30,000 in tuition fee a year. “We have only three Indian students as of now,” Adam Johnson of Columbus State University admits candidly. “That is the reason why we are here,” he adds with a grin.

The other side of the story is the institutional collaboration.

Apparently, U.S. universities are eagerly waiting for the passing of the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill 2010, the piece of legislation which will allow for foreign educational institutions to set up campuses in the country — independently and jointly — to offer degrees. “It is the first step. We need further clarity on key issues,” Mr. Kumar said.

Private technology universities in Chennai held discussions with U.S. universities on possible collaborations as well. The U.S. institutions evidently are keen to engage with Indian institutions at every level in the field of higher education in the years to come.


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