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US, Mexico announce bilateral HE forum

Increasing student exchange between Mexico and the USA trumped drug trafficking and immigration on US President Barack Obama’s agenda during his visit to Mexico last week. Mexico ranks 9th in places of origin of international students to the US, considerably lower than other large trade partners China, ranked 1st, and Canada, ranked 5th.

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto speaks with US President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Mexico

"We want 100,000 students from the United States studying in Latin America, including Mexico"

As part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto announced a Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research to create more collaboration between STEM students and educators in both countries.

“Let’s do more together in education so our young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed,” said Obama speaking in Mexico City earlier this month. “Just imagine how much the students of our two countries could do together and learn from each other.”

“Just imagine how much the students of our two countries could do together and learn from each other”

Obama said the partnership will focus on disciplines in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), echoing immigration reform efforts in the US to boost economic growth through support for students in these subjects.

In a statement, the White House confirmed the forum will start this year, bringing together government, academia and civil society to “develop a shared vision on educational cooperation and propose concrete short-term and mid-term initiative to promote bilateral collaboration and policy coordination”.

“It’s part of my broader initiative called 100,000 Strong in the Americas,” said Obama. “We want 100,000 students from the United States studying in Latin America, including Mexico.  And we want 100,000 Latin American students — including Mexicans like you — to come study in the United States.”

President Peña Nieto expressed his support adding: “Higher education is the platform to trigger economic development potential that our two nations possess.”

Mobility between the two trade partners is suprinsingly low. Open Doors data shows that Mexico sent just 13,893 students to US institutions last year, coming in 9th behind Vietnam, responsible for 15,572. Meanwhile the number of US students in Mexico fell by 41% to 4,167 students in 2010-2011, compared with 33,000 in the UK.

Speaking with the Miami Herald, Mexico’s under-secretary of Upper Education Fernando Serrano said the privately funded scholarship programme aims to increase the number of Mexican students in the US to between 40,000-50,000 in the next four years.

Launched in March 2011, the 100,000 Strong in the Americas programme works directly with foreign governments, HE institions, the private sector and NAFSA to increase international exchange between students in the western hemisphere.

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