The Fulbright Scholarship program, which increases understanding between students from the United States and countries around the world, celebrated a new milestone in India last month. The United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) based in New Delhi hosted a gala on February 2, marking this year to reflect on and reinvigorate US-India educational ties.
At the gala, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla complimented USIEF’s role to nurture and deepen educational links between the United States and India. “This generous program has enhanced the mutual understanding of our respective nations,” Shringla said. To date, the India chapter has awarded approximately 20,000 Fulbright, Fulbright-Nehru, and other grants to students from the United States and India across academic disciplines, with 75 new awards per year. Established in 1950, USIEF is the largest Fulbright chapter in the world and one of the oldest. US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster and US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce also attended the event.
Recent changes to USIEF represent new measures to bridge gaps between the United States and India, as well as shifts in the organization’s focal areas. Renamed from the US Educational Foundation in India, the foundation jointly established between the governments involves commitment from the two countries as equal partners. Flagship fellowship programs – most notably the Fulbright-Nehru awarded to outstanding students, academics, and professionals in 10 subject areas, in addition to other programs such as the most recently launched Fulbright-Kalam fellowship targeting climate change – tripled in size since 2008. Today, 2019-2020 recipients of Fulbright-Nehru Master’s Fellowship from India are undertaking programs in international legal studies, public administration, environmental studies and more in US universities.
With the Fulbright exchange program ongoing, each year marks the advancement of US and Indian students to benefit from mutual engagement in each other’s educational systems. Indian students numbering 202,014 in the United States account for one-fifth of the total international student population, second only to students from China. Indian students contribute $8.1 billion to the US economy and 64,000 jobs. By contrast, only 3,986 Americans study abroad in India. This discrepancy highlights the opportunity for USIEF to provide additional support to US Fulbright recipients as their first point of contact in India; the organization also provides students from India with advisory services for university study in the states and consults between US and Indian universities.
United States President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are concurrently taking steps to further the bilateral relationship. The US president’s visit to Ahmedabad and other cultural sites in February signifies significant overlap between the governments’ values, attitudes, and aims. The president committed to $3 billion in sales of US military equipment to India and continuing trade negotiations.
Momentum for mutual learning is building. One recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship for 2020-2021 will undertake research on Buddhist practices at a monastery in India. USIEF Executive Director Adam Grotsky says this year renews commitment to Senator Fulbright’s mission to bring “a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs.”
Amanda Mei is a research intern in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies in 2018.