Ambassador Richard R. Verma’s remarks at the Passport To India Reception

(As Prepared for Delivery)

I am excited to be here with you this evening to celebrate the U.S.-India higher education relationship and the Passport to India initiative.  I want to especially thank our Passport to India partners, Chris Carey, Nick Booker, and colleagues, on their work to increase the number of American students coming to India to study, intern, and contribute to the bilateral relationship.

I also want to thank all of the speakers and participants in today’s Passport to India workshop on higher education at the American Center.  I look forward to reading the report and your recommendations.

I want to take a couple of minutes to discuss what we’re doing to promote student mobility and institutional collaboration, and preview some of the upcoming year.

We all know the good news story about Indian students in the United States.  Last year a record number of Indians, more than 130,000, studied in the U.S. – almost a 30% increase over the previous year.

India is second only to China in the number of students in the United States,and has more students than the next two countries, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, combined.

Over the last year, student visa applications doubled at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India, especially in Mumbai and Hyderabad, the two busiest posts for student visa applications.  While student visa applications and student enrollments are only two metrics, we expect both to continue to grow.

Our primary vehicle for supporting Indian students interested in continuing further education in the U.S. is EducationUSA, the Department of State’s education advising service.  In India, we have three EducationUSA partners administering advising centers in seven cities.  Throughout the country more than 30 student advisors, funded by the Department of State and our partners, are assisting students in accessing U.S. higher education opportunities through virtual and in-person group advising sessions, outreach presentations, and one-on-one consultations.

India is already the largest recipient of State Department funding for EducationUSA and it ranks among the top countries for number of centers, advisors, and contacts.   Last year EducationUSA advisors reached more than 60,000 people through visits to local schools and universities, education fairs, and U.S. Embassy organized events.

However, there are still many people who have never heard of EducationUSA.  Last year we surveyed students and found a relatively small proportion of the students were familiar with EducationUSA and even fewer had used its services.  I want to change this.

How can we use increased online marketing, virtual sessions, and targeted in-person outreach to take our message beyond the largest cities to the smaller Tier II and Tier III cities across India?

I look forward to the next big push coinciding with Student Visa Day in June.  The Mission and its EducationUSA partners will be organizing student outreach sessions in all seven cities, promoting the EducationUSA advising services online, and conducting a more comprehensive survey of student visa recipients.

In addition to promoting more students to America, and more Americans to India, the Mission is also supporting university partnerships.
This summer, the Indian and U.S. governments will announce the final tranche of recipients for the U.S.-India 21st Century Knowledge Initiative.

These three-year grants, funded by the U.S. and Indian governments, support university-led collaborations in research, curriculum development and student and faculty exchange.  There were many more applicants than recipients and we are already thinking about what we can do next to create the space and environment for such relationships to continue to start up and flourish on their own without government seed capital.

This fall, the Departments of State and Commerce will organize university fairs throughout the country.  I am pleased to learn the fairs will also include stops in cities without EducationUSA centers, such as Coimbatore and Ooty, taking the message beyond the metros to new audiences.
The Government of India is in the process of completing its year-long consultation process on a new education policy.  We look forward to its policy recommendations in the area of international education and hope that it will facilitate the collaborations that are already taking place and encourage more institutions to partner internationally.

We understand that the Government of India is considering a “Higher Education Investment Summit” in late 2016. If this summit is realized, we will work with our partners to promote this opportunity and facilitate U.S.-Indian matchmaking between educational investors and institutions.
I want to now pivot to our Passport to India partners, who are going to describe their efforts to get more Americans to come to India to explore this country – to study, intern, and collaborate with their Indian partners.

Several years ago, the Department of State created the Passport to India initiative and last month I helped launch their most recent product – a MOOC course on the Importance of India.

The number of American students in India has remained relatively flat – 4,500 – and we’re hoping to change that with your help.  We need you to carry this relationship forward – whether it is through your study abroad programs, internship offerings, or institutional collaborations.

We have a limited number of U.S. government funded exchange programs bringing Americans to India, such as the Fulbright students, scholars, and English Teaching Assistants; however, they are just a small drop in the bucket and can only complement the good work that your institutions are doing.

For instance, I am excited to learn about the University of Virginia’s new spring semester study abroad program with Jamia Millia University.  Under the tutelage of UVA Professor Geeta Patel, six American students are taking courses during the week at the school alongside Indian students – including on Saturdays! – and interning with local organizations.  The student demographic goes beyond the traditional South Asian-American or regional studies student to include those that are simply interested in learning more about opportunities in India.  This is exactly the type of audience that we are trying to reach with our Passport to India initiative.
With India’s new wave of young entrepreneurs and its efforts to further technological innovation through academia-industry-government partnerships, India is ripe for more Americans to explore study, internship, and start-up opportunities.

America has been a magnet for risk-takers who have built our country.  It is time for more of our young American risk-takers to also pivot to India and connect with this diverse, colorful, multi-plural society that has offered so much to the world and has so much more to offer!

More than 200 American firms have a presence in India, and an increasing number of Indian firms are locating in the United States.  We are looking to your companies to help provide the opportunities for more Americans to engage with India.

And with that I turn it over to our Passport to India partners – Chris Carey – Executive Director – who joined us today from Columbus, Ohio – to tell you more about the initiative and their plans for the upcoming year.