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OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education
Current Section
International Education Programs Service

Title VI Programs: Building a U.S. International Education Infrastructure

Archived Information


The United States today faces unprecedented demand for globally competent citizens and professionals. Although 9/11 brought broad public and political attention to global integration and national security needs, the Federal government has long recognized this need. To this end, U.S. Department of Education (ED) Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs form the vital infrastructure of the Federal government's investment in the international service pipeline. These programs' support for foreign language, area, and international studies infrastructure- building at U.S. colleges and universities ensures a steady supply of graduates with expertise in less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), world areas, and transnational trends. Title VI primarily provides domestically-based language and area training, research, and outreach while Fulbright-Hays supports on-site opportunities to develop these skills.

Congress recognized the Title VI programs' critical contributions to national security prior to 9/11. In Section 601 Part A of the Higher Education Act as reauthorized in 1998, Congress found that:

  1. The security, stability and economic vitality of the United States in a complex global era depend upon American experts in and citizens knowledgeable about world regions, foreign languages, and international affairs, as well as upon a strong research base in these areas.
  2. Advances in communications technology and the growth of regional and global problems make knowledge of other countries and the ability to communicate in other languages more essential to the promotion of mutual understanding and cooperation among nations and their peoples.
  3. Dramatic post-cold War changes in the world's geopolitical and economic landscapes are creating needs for American expertise and knowledge about a greater diversity of less commonly taught foreign languages and nations of the world.
Indeed, the need for area and international expertise was recognized as early as 1958 when Title VI was introduced as a part of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). NDEA aimed to ensure trained manpower of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the national defense needs of the United States. Title VI was the "Language Development" section of this act, focusing on uncommonly taught languages. It supported language area centers for expansion of postsecondary instruction in uncommon languages and related subjects, modern foreign language fellowships, research supporting language learning methodology and specialized teaching materials, and language institutes to provide advanced language training. Today, these language area centers, or National Resource Centers (NRCs), Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships (FLAS), and International Research and Studies (IRS) remain central programs in the Title VI array, evolving and expanding their foci in reaction to and in anticipation of global trends and security needs.

In addition to NRCs, FLAS and IRS, Title VI supports seven distinct yet interrelated programs. These include: the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program (UISFL); the Business and International Education Program (BIE); Centers for International Business Education (CIBEs); Language Resource Centers (LRCs); American Overseas Research Centers (AORCs); the Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP); and the Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access Program (TICFIA). Links to detailed information about these programs and the application process can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/iegps/.

Developing Critical Language and Area Expertise

NRCs form the backbone of U.S. language and area expertise. They have proven and continue to be a dynamic force, keeping pace with the demands of a changing world. Today's NRCs include a strong elementary and secondary (K-12) outreach component and service to professional schools, greater emphases on integrated global forces and their regional impacts, as well as the less commonly taught languages of these regions. NRCs are funded in a variety of world areas defined by the applicants, including (among others) Africa, Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. "International" NRCs also cover a myriad of topics, from international relations and international development to transnational or "global" studies.

FLAS Fellowships support graduate training programs at many NRCs. They provide opportunities for intensive study of less-commonly taught languages and world areas both domestically and abroad during either summer or the academic year. FLAS Fellowships are allocated to NRCs so that eligible students may compete for opportunities to pursue advanced language and area studies at those institutions with nationally-recognized training programs.

Title VI/Fulbright-Hays has served as the nation's primary Federal supporter of language education:
  • Although fewer than 3% of the nation's higher education institutions that offer modern foreign languages have Title VI National Resource Centers, these institutions represent 23% of all undergraduate enrollments in the LCTLs and 59% in the Least CTLs.
  • Title VI NRCs account for 59% of all graduate enrollments in the LCTLs, and 81% in the Least CTLs.
  • Title VI NRC institutions accounted for 45% of all doctorates, the nation's top-level expertise, in the LCTLs from 1993-95.
  • Title VI/Fulbright-Hays funding has supported the development of more than half of the textbooks now in use in the LCTLs.
--from Richard D. Brecht, and William P. Rivers, Language and National Security: The Federal Role in Building Language Capacity in the United States, The National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, 2001

The LRCs are a small number of national language resource and training centers working to improve U.S. capacity to teach and learn foreign languages effectively. They sponsor research, training and dissemination of materials on teaching methods and strategies, performance testing, educational technology, and materials development at the K-12 and postsecondary levels. They operate intensive summer language institutes designed for either of two purposes: (a) to train in-service and future language teachers in using new pedagogical strategies and developing curricular materials; or (b) to provide advanced foreign language training in LCTLs to students, many of whom receive FLAS Fellowships to support their studies. In response to needs identified by area studies specialists, the number of LRCs has expanded to include several with area-specific responsibilities.

The AORC program provides grants to consortia of U.S. institutions of higher education to establish or operate overseas research centers that promote research, exchanges, and area studies among U.S. faculty and researchers. These centers sponsor scholarly conferences, publications, and symposia and provide library and archives support that enable post-doctoral researchers and faculty to pursue independent research important to the expansion of their knowledge of foreign cultures. They are located in diverse countries throughout the world, including, Senegal, Tunisia and Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and more.

Toward Diversity in International Service Professions

The 1992 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act expanded Title VI to include the Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP), a new program to train minority students for international careers. Administered since 1994 by the United Negro College Fund, it concentrates its internationalization efforts on two levels: individual and institutional. At the individual level, IIPP's centerpiece is its Fellows Program, which provides underrepresented minority students from across the United States with an integrated program that allows them to develop solid international education credentials, including language competence, overseas study, analytical skills and practical internship experience. At the institutional level, IIPP targets investments in campuses' international resources by providing support for strategic planning assistance, library materials, faculty and staff development, and curriculum projects. In this way, IIPP is working to develop the infrastructure Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions need to be able to support and sustain quality international education training programs. Critical partners in this endeavor include several Title VI-funded resource centers, working both with IIPP and alone to establish links with and programs for underrepresented minority audiences.

Strengthening International Studies and Foreign Language Teaching

The IRS, UISFL and TICFIA programs concentrate their efforts primarily on curriculum and teaching resources development. Not only do they facilitate the development of foreign language, area, and international studies programs, courses, teaching materials and strategies, they also support the research necessary to determine needs in these areas.

  • IRS supports surveys, studies and instructional materials development to improve and strengthen instruction in modern foreign languages, area studies, and other international fields to provide full understanding of the places in which the foreign languages are commonly used.
  • UISFL provides funds to plan, develop and carry out programs to strengthen and improve undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages.
  • TICFIA supports projects that will develop innovative techniques or programs using new electronic technologies to collect information from foreign sources. These grants are awarded to access, collect, organize, preserve and widely disseminate information that addresses U.S. teaching and research needs in international education and foreign languages.

Addressing the Global Economy

It is crucial that students of business have an understanding of the international context. Within the last 15 years, the world economy has dramatically changed. In order to succeed, U.S. companies must engage in export and work with counterparts in foreign countries. Global economic and political realities mean there is an ever greater need for more international expertise -- especially in the business curriculum.
--Susanna Easton, Senior Program Officer, International Education and Graduate Programs Service, U.S. Department of Education

This statement by a program officer who has administered Title VI programs and witnessed their evolution since 1963 is supported by findings in a 1994 Carnegie Bosch Institute report. The report maintains that trade between nations has expanded at a rate faster than the growth of the global economy and to the advantage of countries whose development strategies focus on exports. However, an even more important observation is the changing character of corporations. Increasingly, corporations are truly international in nature, conducting transactions with affiliates or subsidiaries around the globe. Thus, our economic and national interests are no longer confined within the drawn boundaries of the U.S., and national security is closely linked to economic success and engagement in the global economy.

CIBEs were created under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 to increase and promote the nation's capacity for international understanding and economic enterprise. Thirty universities are currently designated as centers that serve as regional and national resources to business, students, and academics, forming a powerful network focused on improving American competitiveness and providing comprehensive services and programs that help U.S. business succeed in global markets. The CIBE network links the manpower and information needs of U.S. business with the international education, language training, and research capacities of universities across the United States.

BIE provides funds to institutions of higher education that enter into agreements with trade associations and/or businesses for two purposes: to improve the academic teaching of the business curriculum and to conduct outreach activities that expand the capacity of the business community to engage in international economic activities. While CIBEs tend to be located at major universities, BIE funds usually enhance internationalization of business education and area businesses at smaller four-year institutions, community and two-year colleges. Both CIBEs and BIEs promote education and training that will contribute to U.S. business' ability to prosper in an international economy.

Expanding Title VI's Reach

Although funded as part of the Higher Education Act, the Title VI programs represent a comprehensive approach to expanding international education in the U.S. Through numerous initiatives to strengthen international teaching and curricula at the K-12 level, Title VI helps to open students' eyes to the wider world and engage future area studies specialists at a young age, increasing the likelihood that students will pursue internationally-focused studies later. By partnering with other institutions of higher education, Title VI grantees share the benefit of their Federal funding while strengthening the network of scholars and academic programs in international fields. On grantee campuses, Title VI funds are used to strengthen foreign language, area and international studies teaching, research, and materials at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels. With ongoing guidance, more applications reflect efforts to strengthen the international dimensions of professional education--in schools of business, education, law, medicine, and journalism, and other programs. More proposals are also incorporating initiatives that expand Title VI's reach to members of underrepresented groups, including minorities, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. Title VI-funded, field-based conferences to identify national needs have provided direction to ED funding priorities. At the same time, international education program evaluation requirements and performance objectives initiatives have expanded. These efforts will lead to even higher quality programs with sustained and targeted outcomes. Title VI continues to evolve in response to new imperatives, while maintaining a steady and expanding supply of area and language specialists to meet the country's national security needs.

A redefinition of global security in terms of economic, political, social, cultural and environmental changes requires, in addition to language and area specialists, a whole new cadre of scientists, engineers, business leaders, teachers, and public servants who can function effectively in this increasingly interdependent global environment.
--JoAnn McCarthy, Dean of International Affairs, University of South Florida

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Last Modified: 01/21/2011