Beyond Student Recruitment: 5 Countries American Universities Should Watch in 2013

Following is a guest post by Allan E. Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education.

Allan E. Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, with schoolchildren in Indonesia.

International-student recruitment will undoubtedly remain a priority in 2013 for American colleges and universities. China, of course, will continue to be a major focus of those efforts, in addition to new growth markets, like Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Venezuela.

At the institute, however, we have been working with American higher-education institutions to engage with other countries and regions in ways that go beyond student recruitment. Based on our own efforts and the desire that we see on many campuses to develop comprehensive international strategies, we would like to suggest these as places to watch in 2013:

Brazil. In 2011 the government of Brazil started a scholarship program that heralded a new phase in U.S.-Brazil educational exchange. The program’s goal is to provide scholarships to 75,000 Brazilian students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at institutions around the world. An additional 26,000 scholarships will be paid for by the private sector. By the fall of 2012, about 2,000 Brazilian undergraduates were enrolled at more than 230 American universities as part of the program, known in the United States as the Brazil Scientific Mobility Undergraduate Program.

On the U.S. side, President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative seeks to drastically expand student and faculty exchange. The effect on Brazil is already evident through the expansion of the Fulbright and other programs, and this spring with a series of fairs in São Paulo, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro to help universities connect with Brazilian STEM students.

The governor of Illinois recently led one of the largest higher-education delegations to Brazil to bolster cooperation, and we expect to see more delegations in 2013. We believe that long-term, sustainable interaction with Brazil will come from robust university partnerships that are formed as a result of the increased exchange and interest in Brazil.

Indonesia. In 2010, President Obama and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia announced a higher-education partnership as a key part of an effort to strengthen the two countries’ relationship. It calls for expanding links between institutions in both countries and for doubling the number of educational exchanges within five years. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is financing scholarships in democracy and governance, education, and other areas administered by the Indonesian International Education Foundation in collaboration with the Institute of International Education.

The Indonesian government also has a major scholarship program and is working to get more students to come to the United States. During the academic 2011-12 the number of students from Indonesia coming here increased by nearly 3 percent, after a few years of decline. With the encouragement of both governments, we hope to see new programs and opportunities for students in both directions.

Myanmar/Lower Mekong Region. In November, President Obama made a historic trip to Myanmar (officially called Burma by the U.S. government). While there, he stated his commitment to advance education in the country, and the U.S. government has several efforts to stimulate academic collaboration. USAID recently issued a call for the submission of concept papers for higher-education partnerships, and more financial support is anticipated in the coming years. In addition, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced a new Fulbright Specialist Program with Myanmar, and plans to host the first American-college fair in Yangon in February.

Institutions are eager to explore partnerships. In February I will travel with about 40 educators to the country, as part of the institute’s Myanmar initiative, which seeks to assist in rebuilding higher education there.

While challenges to collaboration remain, the tremendous interest from both countries will certainly open up new opportunities for educational exchange and scientific cooperation. As the United States continues to expand ties with Asia, other Lower Mekong countries—Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, along with Vietnam—will be areas to watch in the next couple of years.

Syria. The crisis in Syria has created an academic emergency, with the breakdown of higher education within the country and with Syrian students and scholars who are studying or teaching outside of the country facing urgent needs. We believe the higher-education community has a special responsibility and role to play in providing emergency assistance to those students and scholars, to enable them to continue their academic work in safety until they can return home to help rebuild their country.

In the immediate term, this means providing places where Syrian students can complete their study, and academics can continue their research and teaching. More than 35 universities and other organizations have joined the institute’s Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis, to provide more than $1.3-million in scholarships for Syrian students and to host Syrian scholars. We hope more will join.

Ethiopia. In December 2010 the U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald E. Booth, announced a competition to promote U.S.-Ethiopian university partnerships. Five new partnerships in research, academic exchange, and curriculum development between American and Ethiopian universities received grants from the U.S. embassy and are now under way, with the goal of inspiring additional collaboration.

Despite the current emphasis on Asia and the Middle East, American higher education cannot afford to ignore needs and opportunities in Africa. In 2013 the institute will start a pilot program to provide pathways to higher education for girls in Ethiopia, which we hope will produce long-term results. American higher education has a role to play in developing human resources in Africa, and initiatives like these can make a tremendous difference.

These countries and regions may not all be the obvious places to focus your institution’s attention, but we believe that truly international campuses should engage with the world in many different ways. The issues confronting today’s world require leaders with the ability to understand and address both local and global challenges. In order to build inclusive and prosperous communities, higher education must produce graduates that possess the knowledge, skills, and cultural understanding that can transcend borders.

[Photo courtesy of the Institute of International Education]

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