IIE to Lead Historic U.S. Higher Ed Delegation to Myanmar

Note to Editors: Members of the press will be invited to briefings in Yangon to learn more about the work of the delegation.

Contact: U.S. Embassy press section at USEmbassyRGNPress@state.gov

NEW YORK, February 13, 2013—The Institute of International Education will lead a delegation from ten U.S. universities to Myanmar in late February to learn more about the current state of higher education in Myanmar and explore potential partnership opportunities. The delegation is part of a broader IIE-wide Myanmar higher education initiative which seeks to help the country rebuild its higher education capacity.

Allan Goodman, the Institute’s President & CEO, will lead the delegation, together with Meghann Curtis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Programs. Representatives from the U.S. Embassy will also join the delegation, which will visit universities, organizations, and government entities in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw.

This is the largest delegation of U.S. universities to travel to Myanmar. Participating universities are: American University, Arizona State University, Ball State University, Hawaii Pacific University, Northern Arizona University, Northern Illinois University, Rutgers University, Samford University, the University of Massachusetts – Lowell, and the University of Washington. The colleges selected have experience with Myanmar, whether through diaspora students and faculty on their campuses or through previous work in the country.

The delegation reflects indications from both President U Thein Sein and President Barak Obama that both countries are interested in increasing academic collaboration.  In his inauguration speech last year, President Thein Sein pledged to improve education and seek foreign expertise to lift standards to international levels. On a visit to the U.S. during the UN General Assembly, President Thein Sein discussed the critical role of civil society in maintaining a democratic and harmonious society, and cited more US-Myanmar collaboration as a vehicle for much-needed human capacity development. His government has increased the country’s education budget from $340 million to $740 million and has begun to implement wide-ranging reforms.

President Obama’s historic visit to Myanmar in November and the easing of U.S. export sanctions are among several recent actions demonstrating U.S. engagement with Myanmar. Speaking at the University of Yangon, President Obama said, “Now, your Parliament has at last passed a resolution to revitalize this university and it must reclaim its greatness, because the future of this country will be determined by the education of its youth.”

This delegation represents an interest on the part of U.S. higher education in taking part in the process of building connections and building capacity at the host universities. Members of the delegation plan to offer lectures at a number of Myanmar universities on a variety of topics deemed to be of critical need and provide companion materials translated into the Myanmar language.

Lectures will cover topics such as: The Role of Universities in Civil Society and Economic Development; New Teaching Methodologies; The General Education Curriculum; Internationalization of the University; Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education; University Governance and Management; Private-Public Partnerships in Higher Education; University Shared Governance; Student Services/Student Affairs; Promoting Engaged Learning Among Students; as well as lectures in field specific topics.

Some of the universities that the delegation plans to visit are: Yangon University, Yangon Technological University, the Myanmar Institute of Theology, Dagon University, Yangon Institute of Economics, and Mandalay University. The delegation members will produce a report on higher education needs in Myanmar based on the findings of their meetings.

The Myanmar initiative includes a series of bi-national conference calls to increase higher education cooperation between the U.S. and Myanmar. The universities are taking part in IIE’s International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP) with Myanmar, a six-month program that assists colleges and universities in developing a strategic plan for partnering with counterparts in Myanmar. In addition to the February visit, they have participated in informational webinars, conducted a guided strategic planning exercise, benefited from expert mentorship, and gained access to IIE’s partnership resources.

Several distinguished Myanmar experts have played a key role in guiding the Myanmar Initiative. Advisory board members include Priscilla Clapp, retired Minister-Counselor and former Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, U.S. Foreign Service and Senior Advisor at the Asia Society, Suzanne DiMaggio, Vice President, Global Policy Programs with the Asia Society, Zachary Klim, associate director of Academic Initiatives and Global Programs, New York University and Robert Rotberg, former Director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict (1999-2010) at John F. Kennedy School of Government Harvard University and former President Emeritus, World Peace Foundation.

According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, published annually by IIE with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 796 Myanmar students studied in the U.S. in the academic year 2010/11, a 14.5 percent increase from the previous year. Less than 100 U.S. students studied abroad in Myanmar in 2009/10. However, these numbers are expected to increase as the country continues to open up to the world.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has recently announced expanded opportunities for U.S.-Burma exchange through the Fulbright Student and Scholar Programs, including the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.


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