CHENNAI: Vanakkam and good afternoon! I am delighted to be here today to inaugurate the USIEF-IIE EducationUSA Fair. This is an annual flagship event for our EducationUSA office. Today you are taking part along with students all over India – across 5 cities – Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi.
I arrived in Chennai only one week ago but it is already apparent that the strongest ties between our two countries are our people-to-people connections. Through education, tourism and family ties with our over 3 million Indian-Americans in the U.S., we are more deeply connected with Indians in ways we are with few others. A central tenet of those ties is our shared commitment to education.
Our two governments have a Higher Education Dialogue and each year we are expanding the number of university ties we have in India. At this moment, almost 100,000 Indian students are studying at colleges and universities in the United States. Only China sends more students than India. And in the last year, we have seen a dramatic 40% increase in the number of Indian students applying for student visas to the United States.
In my career as a diplomat overseas, I have had the chance to see firsthand the value of international education and educational exchange. There is no greater influence on international understanding than that which comes from opportunities for people of different countries and cultures to meet each other and spend time in each other’s countries. And while visits are good and work opportunities are even better, no overseas experience is more powerful or more meaningful than education.
Our Secretary of State John Kerry said: “When the challenges that we face today – whether climate change, youth unemployment, global health – transcend borders, international education becomes even more vital…. International Education prepares our youth for the globalized 21st century workforce, whatever the field of study someone may choose.”
American universities welcome international students, and we encourage American students to look beyond the horizon and seek a world of learning experiences. Today, colleges and universities in the U.S. are making efforts to internationalize their campuses by welcoming more students from other countries and collaborating with international institutions on study abroad and other programs.
American campuses have realized that efforts to increase international student enrollment help produce graduates better prepared to engage and lead in the new global economy.
India has been one of the leading places of origin for international students in the U.S. As I noted earlier, roughly 100,000 Indians currently pursue higher education in the U.S. They make up the second largest single foreign students group in the U.S. Over half of those students are studying STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math.
At the highest levels of our governments, the U.S. and India are working to build world class educational institutions through a variety of projects that are part of U.S.- India higher education cooperation. Through these initiatives, we are collaborating on such programs as the Obama-Singh Knowledge Initiative for the 21st century, the Fulbright-Nehru academic exchanges, and the India Support for Teacher Education Project, among others. And at the local level you have a great tool right here in Chennai.
The U.S.-India Educational Foundation—USIEF— is the key resource in learning about higher education in the U.S. and the best first stop for anyone interested in learning about studying in the United States. Our USIEF Chennai office, which is co-located in the Consulate, helps facilitate multiple fairs for U.S. universities in India each year.
USIEF advisors also offer students – and equally important, their parents – comprehensive information and counselling services on higher education in the United States.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank USIEF and the U.S. Consulate General Chennai public affairs team for inviting me to speak with you all today. I wish you all the very best and I hope you stay inspired and motivated in your chosen fields.