(Nov 16 - 17, 2006)
U.S. Higher Education Delegation to Asia
Rounding out a three-country visit to Northeast Asia, the delegation of U.S. university presidents, led by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Assistant Secretary of State Dina Powell, traveled to Beijing, China, to herald the U.S. as a premier destination for educational opportunities. Additionally, Secretary Spellings emphasized the desire of the U.S. to send more students, faculty and teachers to China for study, professional development, teaching and collaborative research.
Partnering with the Chinese government to emphasize this message, Secretary Spellings and Assistant Secretary Powell met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, as well as Minister of Education Zhou Ji and other Ministry of Education leaders. During these meetings the leaders discussed ways the U.S. and China can work together to equip students with the tools necessary to compete in the global economy. To achieve this effort, both countries discussed the need to further Chinese language development in the U.S. and English language development in China. Moreover, to formalize their agreement and pledge for cooperation, Secretary Spellings and Minister Zouh signed a Memorandum of Understanding noting mutual emphasis on the advancement of international higher education opportunities for U.S. and Chinese students.
Following the signing ceremony, the delegation joined with their Chinese peers from a wide range of Chinese universities and colleges in a roundtable dialogue hosted by Tsinghua University. Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Dr. David Leebron, president of Rice University, and Dr. James Owen, president of Piedmont Community College, discussed the increasing internationalization of higher education and the development of new strategies at higher education institutions to effectively educate students to compete and succeed in a global society.
Continuing the peer-to-peer dialogue that was a hallmark of Secretary Spellings and Secretary Rice's Summit in January, Assistant Secretary Powell and the US university presidents also participated in a digital video conference with university leaders from the Shanghai region.
The delegation also participated in a large outreach event to promote American higher education attended by hundreds of students at Beijing Normal University. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, spoke about the diverse educational options available to Chinese students interested in studying in the U.S. Secretary Spellings and Secretary Powell further underscored Dr. Jackson's remarks highlighting that the U.S. welcomes exchanges with Chinese students and opens its doors to those interested in studying in the U.S. Hitting this point home, Secretary Spellings indicated that in 2006, the U.S. Government issued almost 37,000 visas to Chinese students to study abroad, a 33% increase from 2005. Following her remarks, the Secretary addressed questions from students on such issues as tuition cost, grant opportunities, and transferability of international college credits.
Including the business sector in the US educational partnership has been a key theme of the Asian visit and, while in China, the delegation met with American Chamber of Commerce Beijing leaders for a breakfast meeting to discuss international higher education issues in the U.S. and China. Secretary Spellings emphasized the need to work together to prime all students to compete in the global economy. Dr. Philip Eaton, president of Seattle Pacific University, and Dr. Charles Steadman Upham, president of the University of Tulsa, accentuated elements of this discussion during their remarks, noting the increase in the international study programs offered by U.S. colleges and universities. They also analyzed the types of skills businesses in China are looking for, particularly considering the great demand for human capital throughout the country.
The delegation attended a networking reception, arranged by the American Embassy, for 200 US government sponsored exchange program alumni to talk about their study abroad experiences, ways that U.S. colleges and universities can more effectively engage foreign students, and to ask that they share in efforts to help recruit students to study in the US and share in the benefits they have received.
Prior to the delegation's departure, the U.S. government members and the American higher education leaders discussed the importance of this historic Asian visit as a critical first step toward increased collaboration between the United States and China, Korea and Japan, to foster greater mutual understanding and increased international higher education exchange and collaboration. Secretary Spellings had the opportunity to deepen her appreciation of China's enormous cultural heritage with visits to the Great Wall and Beijing's Forbidden City after the conclusion of the visit's meeting and outreach schedule.
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