US No. 1 destination for Indian students: Atlanta CG Ajit Kumar

India open to more US students, says Consul General of India.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Ajit Kumar, the Indian Consul General based in Atlanta, proclaimed last week that the US is still the number-one education destination for Indian students, despite the fact that recent studies have shown a decreasing trend in the flow of students from India to the US.

In his opening remarks at the American Higher Education in the Changing Global Economy forum, held at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Kumar said that education was arguably the most critical aspect of the US-India bilateral relationship, and that India was still committed to maintaining that aspect of the partnership.

Students of Indian origin who are enrolled in college and post-graduate courses in the US number roughly 100,000, and account for $3 billion tuition fees. But 100,000 is a relatively small number when one considers that India has nearly 540 million citizens under the age of 25, many of whom are seeking higher education.

For years, India has been trying to reverse the “brain drain” effect of losing its most talented minds to foreign countries because of a lack of educational and employment opportunities at home. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, India created close to 20,000 new colleges, which took in some 8 million new students. The country now has 33,500 college and 621 universities.

The increase in academic resources in India, said Kumar, also serves another purpose: India is hoping that more US students come to India for their studies.

Kumar said several regulations have been relaxed as a result of the 2009 Knowledge Initiative signed by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which facilitates both student and faculty exchange programs between universities in India and the US. He also cited the US community college model as something that India is seeking to emulate for vocational and specialized skill training.

Online and distance learning courses are also a key agenda item for Indian institutions, said Kumar, who cited the Indira Gandhi National Open University as a model that other universities should follow; the university currently has 35 million registered distance learning participants all over the world. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are also a facet that Kumar said he’d like to see explored more urgently.

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