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Landmark US government backing for international education

The first joint statement from the US departments of State and Education in over two decades to support the country's international education ambitions has promised a "shared commitment" to promote the country as a study destination.
July 26 2021
5 Min Read

The first joint statement from the US departments of State and Education in over two decades to support the country’s international education ambitions has promised a “shared commitment” to promote the country as a study destination and the benefits of global academic engagement.

Officials stressed that international education will be key at a time when it is “vital to reinforce our people-to-people relationships around the globe and to strengthen the infrastructure and pathways that help prepare Americans in all sectors to engage with the world”.

“The United States cannot afford to be absent from the world stage,” heralded the announcement on the joint statement of principles released on July 26.

Speaking at the 2021 Education USA Forum, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the US international education sector, it can “count on” the Biden-Harris administration to do everything it can “to make your work easier”.

“It’s strongly in our national interest for the US to remain the world’s top study destination for international students,” he said.

“Continuing to nurture a vibrant community of international students is a foreign policy imperative”

In the statement, the government says it “recognise[s] that the US government has a unique role in international education because of its responsibility to the American people”.

“Continuing to nurture a vibrant community of international students is a foreign policy imperative,” Blinken said.

The joint statement, with the support of the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security, “underscores our commitment to working across our government and with partners in higher education, the private sector, civil society and other sectors to keep promoting international education in the US”.

Along with economic and soft power benefits – international students contributing more than $39 billion to countries economy and supporting an estimated 410,000 American jobs in 2020 – perspectives and experiences they bring to US classrooms and campuses benefit all US students, Blinken noted.

“If we work together, I’m confident that we’ll not only return to the pre pandemic levels of international students in American institutions of higher education, but surpass them. That’s good for the American people. It’s good for the values that matter most to us, and I believe it’s good for people around the world.”

“Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we promote and strengthen international education,” said US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“The departments of State and Education are committed to working even more closely together to advance international education,” he said.

Among the commitments the government has made, federal agencies will participate in a coordinated national approach to international education, welcome international students, scholars, and educators to the US in a “safe and secure” manner, as well as encourage and promote access to international education for US students, including through the use of technology where in-person experiences are not feasible.

In addition, it will “incorporate a strong focus on international education as part of the nation’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in order to build back better at home, maintain US global leadership, and promote equitable access to the benefits of international education”.

Increased cooperation between the federal government, the private sector, and educational institutions will “maintain the integrity of federally-funded and protected intellectual property and research endeavours from undue foreign influence and unlawful acquisition”, it added.

“If it wasn’t already clear before the pandemic, it should be clear now that in today’s interconnected world, many of our biggest challenges are global in nature to address them. We must work together not just within the United States, but also with others around the world,” Cardona continued.

“Regardless of where you live or where you work, whatever field you work in, what happens continents away can affect communities in the US and what happens here can have an impact in other nations. That’s why international education is vital,” he continued.

“As we move into the coming academic year, it will be important that we all continue working together to support students and strengthen international education. Of course, international education also includes other important activities, such as US students studying abroad, international research, collaboration, studying world languages and ensuring that international topics and perspectives are part of US education at all levels,” he added.

“As the departments of Education and State, we look forward to working even more closely, not only with one another and with other federal agencies, but also with all of you. Together, we can ensure that students from around the world know that they are welcome on US campuses and that US students have many opportunities to benefit from international education here at home and abroad.”

The Department of Commerce added it is “proud to support the competitiveness of our education sector”.

“Educational service exports are generated when international students pay for tuition, housing, books, and other fees, to study in the US,” said US Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.

“Through the department’s International Trade Administration, we promote the U.S. education sector by providing public and private organisations with the tools and platforms they need to attract the some of the best and the brightest minds to the US,” Raimondo noted.

“We facilitate trade promotion programs, provide market analysis, and compile data that help states and the education sector address challenges faced by increased global competition. We also engage in commercial diplomacy and advocacy to assist institutions with market entry and to achieve business wins.”

NAFSA has long called for a national strategy on international education, its executive director and CEO Esther Brimmer said.

Establishing a national strategy to proactively welcome international talent and compete for the world’s best and brightest will undoubtedly contribute to our nation’s global leadership, economic strength, and innovation,” she said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Biden-Harris administration to see these principles put into action.”

The organisation’s detailed recommendations for federal agencies on an international education strategy centre around establish a welcoming environment for international students and scholars and ensuring the global competency of US college graduates through study abroad.

“US students also benefit from global experiences provided by access to study abroad, interactions with international student peers, and an internationalised campus. We should prioritise these opportunities.

“The US Departments of State and Education’s Joint Statement of Principles is a welcome initiative that signals an exciting advancement in rebuilding and restoring US engagement with the world.”

“College and university leaders are particularly pleased to see the emphasis on welcoming international students”

Miriam Feldblum, co-founder and executive director of Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, said the first joint statement in over 20 years marks a “vital step” in restoring the USA’s place in the world.

“College and university leaders welcome the renewed US government commitment to international education, and are particularly pleased to see the emphasis on welcoming international students,” she said.

The Presidents’ Alliance has previously noted the “immeasurable foreign policy and academic benefits” of welcoming international students, in addition to their “significant” economic benefits.

“There has long been a need for a coordinated approach both within and outside of government to fully leverage the power of international education,” added Jill Welch, senior policy advisor to the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

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