U.S. Government Perspectives on Academic Mobility

Last August, the National Security Council issued guidance for U.S. global engagement, outlining priorities ultimately driving the fiscal year 2016 budget request.  One of the priorities discussed was promoting U.S. higher education abroad, and EducationUSA was cited as an important tool in achieving this goal.

In Tuesday's General Session, representatives from the U.S. Departments of State and Education will discuss the administration's approach to education diplomacy, mechanisms to increase student mobility, and the increased interest in cross-border education exhibited by many governments around the world.  The session will be moderated by AACRAO International Education Services Dale Gough.

See this session and others at AACRAO's 101st Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD.  Register today!

Heidi Arola

EducationUSA Branch Chief

U.S. Department of State

Rafael Nevárez

International Education Specialist in the Office of the Secretary,

U.S. Department of Education

Dale Gough

International Education Services, Director


Tuesday General Session: U.S. Government Perspectives on Academic Mobility

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM

Do you think education diplomacy and promoting international student mobility have grown in importance as a foreign policy tool?

Heidi: Indeed and I would point to three concrete examples of this.

First, there are a growing number of bilateral dialogues between the United States and other countries, specifically on the topic of education.  While in the past, bilateral dialogues on other issues such as trade, economic and security policies, would perhaps include discussions on education, now we're seeing a growing number of dialogues focused on education with countries including Mexico, Colombia, China, India, Indonesia, France, Algeria and Tunisia, just to name a few.

Second, we've seen a very concrete call on the part of Secretary Kerry to elevate education diplomacy as a foreign policy tool.  In the fall of 2014, Secretary Kerry asked all our diplomatic posts around the world to establish education liaisons, and many consulates and embassies have established education diplomacy working groups.

Finally, the number of presidential initiatives specifically focused on empowering youth through exchange speaks for itself.  The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), and 100,000 Strong in the Americas are just three examples of White House interest in educational exchange.

Rafael: Our department also works on a variety of initiatives related to education diplomacy, including many done in cooperation with the State Department.  In 2012, the Department developed its first-ever International Strategy, which provides guidance and rationales for its international activities.  The two main goals of the strategy were to strengthen U.S. education and advance U.S. international priorities, and the three specific objectives are to increase global competency, learn from other countries and engage in education diplomacy.

In recent years, we've really noted the increasing importance of academic mobility and cross-border education. This is occurring not only in traditional forums like UNESCO and OECD, but it is becoming very prominent on the APEC agenda, and it has just started popping up in the OAS as well. Countries are increasingly realizing that they want to attract foreign students to their countries for both economic and diplomatic reasons, and they want to send their students abroad to increase those students' global competencies and for education diplomacy.  It's becoming a really big topic.

Dale:  International education is a two-sided coin; foreign students coming here and ours going abroad.  I think one thing that deters our students from going overseas is how we teach foreign languages.  Maybe we teach foreign language in high school, but not adequately in college to prepare people to be conversant in foreign language.  What came out at the French Symposium is that there are a lot of foreign countries where English is not a first language, nor a common language, but they are teaching degree programs in English.

The even bigger news is that there is money available for students that want to study abroad.  According to what we have heard, there is quite a bit of money.  Many institutions and students are not aware of this.

Rafael: Federal student aid is one important resource. U.S. students can use such aid to study abroad through their home institution, or they can use their federal loans to pursue a full degree in an eligible foreign institution.  

Dale: It's also important to note how much money foreign students bring into the U.S.

Heidi: Right, $27.2 billion last year alone. 


What other topics will you be discussing in the general session?


I'd like to mention some of the main subtopics that generally come up when we discuss cross-border education with other countries, including credential recognition, diploma supplements and quality assurance. And I'll also mention our involvement in the European Network of Information Centers (ENIC) as an example of how we are involved in promoting academic mobility, and more specifically, the recognition of foreign credentials.  

Finally, I think it's important to highlight our strong interest in continuing and strengthening our outreach with colleagues in the higher education sector in order to know their thoughts and also to inform them about the areas in which we are working.


What insights do you want attendees to gain from your general session?

Heidi: First of all, I hope attendees will gain a deeper awareness of the importance of international students on U.S. campuses.  I think that importance transcends from a level of mutual understanding to one of  economic benefit.  I'd like for the audience to understand that there is a great amount of government collaboration to promote two-way international student mobility among the State Department, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce.  Finally, I want to stress the importance of promoting diversity in international education and the numerous ways that the U.S. is actively doing this.


There has been a long-standing collaboration between EducationUSA and AACRAO IES in past Annual Meetings.  What kind of presence will EducationUSA have this year in Baltimore?

Heidi: EducationUSA is going to have a very robust presence at the AACRAO Annual Meeting.  We will have four advisers from China, Ghana, Georgia, Mexico, and a former adviser from Azerbaijan.  We also will have our Regional Education Advising Coordinator (REAC) Ishrat Jahan based in India, and who covers South Central Asia. We will have Program Officer Matt Washburn and myself.  In addition to this plenary session, we're doing five other sessions: an overview session, three country poster sessions, and a presentation on the South Caucasus as well.