academic exchange

The Mexican law student was surprised by how easy it was to get into Iran two years ago. By merely asking questions about Islam at a party, he managed to pique the interest of Iran’s top diplomat in Mexico. Months later, he had a plane ticket and a scholarship to a mysterious school in Iran as a guest of the Islamic Republic. Next came the start of classes and a second surprise: There were dozens of others just like him.

A recent article in The Chronicle – ‘Is Europe Passé‘ – examines the US’s higher education efforts with new partners and how this affects relationships with the UK, among others. In response, the British Council’s higher education manager in the US, Janice Mulholland, suggests a different form of partnerships for institutions in a global economy.

The British higher education system is in the middle of a quiet revolution, tilting relatively quickly towards an American-style market-based approach favored by the current coalition government. The government has laid out plans to cut government funding for universities by 40% by 2014. But that money has to come from somewhere. And it will likely be students. But such tuition caps don’t apply to students from outside the European Union, which is a large part of the reason the UK just unveiled a new strategic effort to attract students from overseas.

Since its creation in the summer of 1946, the Fulbright program has become the “flagship international educational exchange program” of the US government. Over the past 67 years, almost 320,000 students, scholars and teachers have traveled internationally as part of the program’s vast effort to improve mutual understanding between nations. Understandably, given the profound effect these experiences have had on the lives of grant recipients, the Fulbright is often seen as among the most liberal, generous, and benevolent international programs of the US state.

In a Senate confirmation hearing this afternoon (July 30), Evan Ryan, President Obama’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), said that exchanges “capitalize on American strengths and appeals,” and that ECA is “the lifeblood of public diplomacy." Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ryan underlined the powerful role people-to-people exchanges play in advancing U.S. public diplomacy and foreign policy goals.

In recent years a considerable amount of policy energy has been focused on ensuring the vitality and relevance of the U.S.-Japan security alliance. Now, with Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks (TTP), attention has refocused on the economic aspect. Somewhat less consideration has been paid to the fundamental foundation of the relationship: people-to-people exchange. Total human flow from Japan to the U.S. has declined significantly over the last 15 years, and while the numbers of U.S. arrivals to Japan have grown, they remain low.

Colombia doesn’t have a space program, but as of Friday, it does have an elite aerospace engineering team. RoboCol, a group of 15 assorted engineering students and two designers from the Bogota-based Andes University, finished fourth place out of 50 international participants in the Lunabotics Mining Competition held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its work on “Intensity”, a robot designed to traverse lunar terrain.

Thanks to the 2013 Chinese Training Program for EU Employees, some 30 officials got the opportunity to know more about China. Launched by the Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) and organized by Beijing Foreign Studies University, the program, which lasts from July 20-28, is the first such cultural exchange platform in China designed for European Union employees, said Jing Wei, deputy director-general of Hanban.

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