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Visit to India

Dear University of Maryland community: 

I just returned from a productive 6-day visit to India and wanted to share my experiences with you. 

I was pleased that Governor Martin O'Malley invited the University of Maryland to be part of his delegation to visit this land that is so rich in culture, history, and opportunity. The purpose was to expand trade, investment, and educational opportunities between Maryland and India. 

As a premier research and land-grant institution, the University of Maryland must be focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, while increasing our global connections for the benefit of our students, our state, and the nation. 

We are in a global brain race, collaborating with—and competing for—the most talented minds everywhere to power the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. The challenge is to feed, fuel, heal, house, and sustain the population of this planet, which recently topped 7 billion people. Emerging economies of the world are making huge investments in higher education, creating U.S.-style, comprehensive research universities. Free trade in knowledge, innovation, and human capital can create new industries, new jobs, and new prosperity. We are in an era of "collabtition"—collaboration and competition on a global scale. 

The Asia-Pacific region may become the economic epicenter of this century. India is the largest democracy in the world (1.2 billion population, half under the age of 25), with an economy projected to become the third largest in the world, after that of China. Both countries have pulled millions of people out of poverty within the past 20 years, the greatest lift in history. Within the next two decades, the middle class in India is expected to grow to 600 million people. 

These demographics create trade, economic, and educational opportunities that were unimagined in the past. Two months ago, a delegation of about 20 vice chancellors (presidents) of Indian universities visited our campus. They described India's ambitious vision to create 1,000 new universities and 25,000 community colleges over the next 20 years, in order to produce 500 million new graduates. India currently trains 2,000 PhDs per year, but the country needs 25,000 more PhDs to meet its needs. The scale of this vision dwarfs any current education planning in the U.S. 

The vice chancellors wanted to see the University of Maryland and Indian universities work together to our mutual benefit. I welcomed the opportunity to see and learn from them first-hand and in their own country. 

I was accompanied by Professor Ashok Agrawala (Computer Science); Anand Anandalingam(Dean, Smith School of Business); Patrick O'Shea (VP for Research); Gayatri Varma(Executive Director, Office of Technology Commercialization); James Massey (Admissions Office; he visited several Indian high schools and organized our receptions for alumni and prospective students at three Indian cities); and Jonathan Wilkenfeld (Associate Provost for International Programs, who planned our visit). 

We met with leaders of eight universities, senior government officials in education and commerce, and officials of the largest industrial house in the country. We agreed on joint educational and research ventures, and to continue the conversations to work out the details. 

Delhi University is the top-ranked research university in India, with over 140,000 students and an admissions rate of 4%. The vice chancellor, who had visited our campus, explained that DU has started a new program to teach innovation by forming multi-disciplinary teams of students tasked with creating solutions to real-world issues, such as poverty in India. They are also developing the idea of a "meta-university," a globe-spanning network of institutions with students and faculty working on specific innovation projects. 

The Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad, started three years ago with 700 students, is expected to grow to 20,000 in a dozen years. At the University of Hyderabad, we agreed to jointly sponsor a conference next year, possibly in the area of cyber-security. In Mumbai, we signed an agreement with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay to better position us in our joint application for a $3 million grant on weather prediction technology. 

The Indian School of Business is one of the top-ranked in the world. It has state-of-the-art facilities. It recruits its faculty and students worldwide. I was pleased to see that its faculty includes three University of Maryland PhDs and a former member of our Smith School. 

We met with the vice chancellor of the Indira Gandhi National Open University. It serves some 2.5 million adult learners throughout the country by a mix of distance education and classroom instruction. He invited me to his home, where we discussed how technology can be used to extend the reach and affordability of higher education in India. 

I went with the Governor to meet with the Minister of Human Resources and Development. The Minister suggested that we partner with Indian entrepreneurs and establish a campus in India, as some other U.S. institutions are now doing, in order to make higher education more accessible and affordable in India. I thought that our partnering with selected Indian institutions might be a way to implement their concept of the "meta-university" idea. 

We met with the Ministry of Commerce's food export and standards agency. As you know, we recently opened the nation's first international food safety training laboratory on our campus, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a U.S. manufacturer of food testing equipment. It trains inspectors from exporting countries on U.S. standards and procedures on food safety. India wants to partner with us to establish these training labs in India. This represents another example of the international expansion of our land-grant mission. 

One evening, I met an Indian entrepreneur who was educated in the U.S. and now runs a successful start-up company in India. He said that 20 percent of his job applicants are from the U.S., many of them non-Indian Americans. He runs a global company with customers worldwide, and hires graduates with a global outlook. 

This is why a globally-networked University of Maryland matters. 

Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland