Levin speaks at India summit

At the first ever India-United States Higher Education Summit, held Thursday in Washington, D.C., University President Richard Levin spoke about the opportunities for American institutions to engage with India.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Human Resources and Development Minister Kapil Sibal co-chaired the event, which included an audience of over 300 higher education administrators, U.S. and Indian government officials, and private sector leaders. Yale was the only Ivy League university asked to attend the invitation-only summit, which was held at Georgetown University. Yale’s presence at the summit follows a trend of growing collaboration between Yale and Indian educational, governmental and business institutions since 2008, which University administrators refer to as the Yale-India Initiative.

“I think that Yale was featured in the event because of the degree we have engaged with Indian institutions and the Indian government,” Levin said Thursday night. “We have developed a coherent strategy for strengthening our faculty resources in the study of India, and for engaging directly with Indian institutions.”

George Joseph, the assistant secretary for international affairs who works with Yale’s programs in South Asia, said Levin was invited to speak about what American institutions can do to promote ties between India and the U.S. He was the first American university leader to speak at the event, immediately following Clinton and Sibal.

Levin’s speech, Joseph said, focused on the need to develop Indian studies offerings at American universities and increase leadership in the education field. Joseph added that India will need an additional 1,000 universities and 50,000 colleges in the next decade to serve the 50 million Indians who will seek higher education. This population, he said, illustrates why academic leadership is a “critical area” for Indian-U.S. collaboration.

Levin and other Yale administrators hosted 25 leaders of Indian universities earlier this month to share best practices in higher education administration at a new annual event.

Clinton’s opening remarks at the summit also called for further engagement between the world’s two largest democracies. She told audience members that she hopes to see more exchanges with American students studying abroad at Indian universities for credit.

“Educational collaboration is a driving force in our strategic dialogue with the government of India,” Clinton said, according to a transcript of her speech. “Whether or not this takes hold will depend upon those outside government — professors, teachers, researchers business leaders.”

In the past month, Yale has hosted three collaborative projects with Indian officials and leaders. Besides the higher education leadership conference, 30 representatives of the Indian Forest Ministry also spent two weeks at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for a midcareer training program, and 10 leaders from Indian organizations came to the School of Management to discuss social enterprise projects.

Joseph said that no other university in the United States has the same scale of engagement in India as Yale, making the University “a voice for American higher education.”

“The bottom line is that we are deeply committed to our links in India,” Joseph said. “We are helping our colleagues and peers in India advance higher education, and I think [Levin’s] presence was important for that reason.”

Since launching the Yale India Initiative, the University has committed $75 million toward the South Asian Studies Council, a body within the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies that deals largely with India. Since 2008, Yale has hired about a dozen new faculty members who specialize in the region, increased course offerings and opportunities for students in India, and created a South Asian studies major, Joseph said.

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