Focusing this week on internationalization of US higher education in the ACE companion piece to the global perspective from earlier weeks was revealing and highlighted certain key differences in the US approach to internationalization versus other global regions and players. While mobility is a constant in internationalization policies, the US differs in not focusing on cross-border education and not having a comprehensive national policy due its decentralized government and highly diverse and large higher education structure. Rooted in values of public diplomacy, national security, foreign language competency, scientific advancement, and global economic competiveness, the US has robust programs such as the Fulbright scholars but is generally individual focused rather than institutional as is more common in European countries. With the likelihood of a comprehensive US national policy low, and government funding not high, the future of internationalizing US higher education will require advocacy and institutional attention to build on some of the current momentum.
For me, an interesting aspect of this week’s readings was again related to India and its internationalization relationship with the US. As we read about last week, and I focused my blog on, Indian regulation at the national government level does not make for easy cross-border relationships and there is perhaps a need to loosen some of the regulations without compromising the integrity and quality of internationalization programs in higher education. Perhaps not due to high regulation, but an overall lack of focus on it, the US too does not do much in the area of cross-border education and instead focuses on individual student and scholar mobility. It struck me then that one of the countries the US does seem to partner with, particularly in cross-border efforts, is India.
Our reading this week gave two such examples. The first is the one that is jointly funded by the US and the Indian government: the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) which serves to “promote mutual understanding between the nationals of India and the U.S. through educational exchange of outstanding scholars, professional and students” (see http://www.usief.org.in/About-USIEF.aspx). The second is the Indo-U.S. 21st Century Knowledge Initiative which is supported by USIEF but supported by the US State Department. This initiative is somewhat remarkable in that the US has chosen to focus any attention it does on cross-border education to India, a country that has its own regulatory hurdles toward building strong cross-border relationships. It can also be viewed as a milestone initiative in the US shifting its internationalization focus from individual mobility support to institutional partnerships and collaboration. According to ACE, the initiative “provides institution-level grants to U.S. colleges and universities for the purpose of developing partnerships with Indian counterparts” and has invested approximately $250,000 since 2011 (see ACE Report, p. 22). With a public health focus, the initiative encourages collaborations in the area of curriculum design, research collaboration, and team teaching to “develop expertise, advance scholarship and teaching, and promote long-term ties between partner institutions.” (see http://www.usief.org.in/Institutional-Collaboration/Obama-Singh-21st-Century-Knowledge-Initiative-Awards.aspx)
The above examples shed light on perhaps the changing posture of US policies toward a more collaborative and institutional approach to internationalization with State Department support and funding as well as an opening of Indian regulatory postures toward internationalization. These examples perhaps bring together themes of the two ACE companion pieces we have focused on in the last several weeks and articulate some reason for optimism in higher education internationalization for two countries that have productive programs in place but still work to do in this space.