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U.S. Ambassador Says India Should Welcome Foreign Colleges

- Released on Jul 07, 2008

The U.S. ambassador to India, in an interview with The Chronicle on Monday, criticized the opposition of some Indian government officials and politicians to legislation that would allow American and other foreign universities to establish campuses or programs in the country. He spoke favorably, however, about India's willingness to take on half of the financial and administrative responsibility in running the Fulbright educational-exchange program. The new Fulbright agreement, signed by the two governments on Friday, doubles the total amount of scholarships awarded annually to Indians and Americans, to $5-million, said David C. Mulford, U.S. ambassador to India since 2004. The numbers of students awarded scholarships in India and the United States, about 100 each, will double as well, effective immediately. For the first time, India will make a financial contribution to the scholarships, which have been renamed the Fulbright-Jawaharlal Nehru Scholarships and Grants. The new agreement also allows both countries to raise funds from private sources to expand the student-exchange program. Mr. Mulford also said that, following his complaint to India's foreign ministry about lengthy delays in approving dozens of projects proposed by American Fulbright scholars in 2006-7, the government swiftly resolved the issue. "I think that problem is cured," he said, as he knocked on a wooden table. Perplexing Reluctance The ambassador said he was perplexed by the reluctance of some Indians to allow good foreign universities to operate here. A draft bill that would enable foreign institutions to set up campuses in India has been in limbo for more than a year. The country's Communist parties, a few ruling politicians, and some academics have insisted that the government would do better to put more money into higher education than to farm out the task to foreigners. Mr. Mulford called it "a very strange situation" that the institutions to which many Indians want to send their children are not allowed to come into India. "If you make a list of the top 100 universities [abroad] that young Indians go to, why aren't they acceptable counterparties to come here and make a direct and larger contribution?" he asked. Mr. Mulford said he has talked to a lot of government officials who are eager to welcome foreign universities. "I would say there is a wave of interest building," he said. "That says it is extraordinary that we don't open.... We should open to the outside world." The problem, he said, is that a few key people in the government remain opposed to such a move. India's minister in charge of higher education, Arjun Singh, recently told a local newspaper that foreign universities "certainly were not very favorable to complying with our regulations." Mr. Mulford said he has urged American universities to build other relationships, such as academic-program linkages and faculty and student exchanges, with good universities in India. "Without breaking or violating any laws at the federal level" in India, he said, "there's a lot a lot you can do to establish relationships." The ambassador also cited an urgent need for more scholarly ties between India and the United States. It is "extraordinary," he said, that there are 84,000 Indian students in the United States but only 1,700 American students in India. "There seems to be a trade imbalance in the education field that is even more severe than in the proj­ects-and-services field," he joked. Mr. Mulford was a Treasury Department official during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and he was international chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston from 1992 to 2003. -The Chronicle of Higher Education