Modi’s US visit pushes HE, technology collaboration

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Joe Biden have put university and technological collaboration between the two countries firmly on the map after Modi’s landmark four-day state visit to the US, which, unusually, emphasised higher education as an important part of the partnership.

The two leaders’ joint statement included support for a university network of ‘Indo-US Global Challenge Institutes’ and backed suggestions of diplomatic missions helping to facilitate branch campuses and other joint higher education projects.

A special Task Force on Expanding US-India University Partnerships set up earlier this year under the Association of American Universities (AAU), made up of some 71 major research universities in the US, released an interim report on 21 June in advance of the Modi visit.

It recommended setting up joint research institutions to tackle global challenges and deepen research collaboration between Indian and US universities. “Faculty across multiple disciplines would convene to design and develop joint research projects,” according to the report.

International agreements with the United Kingdom, France and Australia “aimed at creating innovation partnerships” could serve as models for future collaborations with the US.

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) already has experience launching similar efforts to create Global Centers with the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Biden and Modi, in their joint statement on 22 June, referred to the prospect of such a university network as “leveraging the talent and ambition of both our countries”.

The joint statement emphasised research partnerships and people-to-people exchanges in areas such as semiconductors, sustainable agriculture, clean energy, health and pandemic preparedness, and emerging technologies.

“It will deepen the strategic partnership between Indian and American universities,” India’s Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said via Twitter on 23 June.

Jagadesh Kumar, chairman of India’s higher education regulatory body, the University Grants Commission (UGC), welcomed the move to establish a joint task force to assist global universities in setting up branch campuses in India. “These are exciting times for higher education,” he said.

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