WASHINGTON: As India takes small steps toward overhauling its lumbering higher-education system, U.S. colleges and universities want a part of the action.
Until now, U.S. involvement in the Indian higher-education system has been limited to a largely advisory role. But now a new chapter is being written and the authors are the Obama and Singh administrations.
U.S. universities are looking for new markets and new students. Indian officials, faced with surging domestic demand for high-quality, university-level training, say their current higher-education system needs massive revamping and upgrading to prepare its population to compete effectively in the global economy.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and India's Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal launched a higher-education partnership late last year in Washington.
U.S. institutions have begun working to capitalize on this new era, with universities such as Purdue, Michigan State, Pennsylvania State, Illinois, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Rutgers and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) setting up joint-degree and student-exchange programs or planning for them.
Americans are looking to partner with willing Indian counterparts. The internet is providing the technological backdrop for such budding collaborations as university officials in both countries use the web to provide long-distance education.
There's also some interest in the United States to build entire campuses in India, though officials say that is rather muted at this moment.
The Obama administration is providing a total of $250,000 in grants initially to U.S. institutions interested in sending representatives to India to lay the groundwork for substantive partnerships. The administration hopes the U.S.-India higher-education partnership will eventually strengthen into a million effort, provided the U.S. Congress approves of the expenditure.