… priority will be given to student visa applicants  

Rinzin Wangchuk | New Delhi

Apart from popular destinations like Australia and Canada, Bhutanese students also apply to study, learn, and experience exchange programmes in the United States (US).

Such opportunity, according to officials from the Embassy of the United States of America in New Delhi, is facilitated through the prioritisation of student visa appointments. This assurance comes after many Bhutanese complaints that it has become extremely difficult to get visa appointments in Delhi which many say has been filled until 2024.

Around 4,000 accredited US institutions of higher education welcome qualified international students from all backgrounds and offer world-class faculty and research facilities, flexible degrees across all fields of study, and a broad array of institutional types to meet the needs and interests of all students.

And to promote study in the US, International Education Week (IEW) is being held from November 14 to 18. This year’s theme is “Open for Opportunity,” which underscores that, following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US is open for students to obtain a world-class education at US institutions of higher education.

The previous Open Doors report released by US Embassy indicates that Bhutanese students in the US often begin at community colleges and transfer to four-year institutions to complete their Bachelor’s degree.

As per the 2021 Open Doors data, 73 percent of all Bhutanese students in the US were enrolled in undergraduate programs, 16.4 percent in graduate programmes and 10.3 percent pursued optional practical training (OPT). OPT is a temporary employment authorisation that provided an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus.

Most popular states in the US where Bhutanese students enrolled in colleges included New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California and Texas.

US Officials said that Bhutanese students usually pursue higher education in the United States mainly through government partnerships, special scholarships offered through select institutions, and other opportunities such as Fulbright.

According to officials from the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE), Ministry of Education, there are 15 undergraduate (UG) scholarship students under government funding, 14 self-financing students and three undergoing postgraduate studies in the US.

The DAHE official also said that another 13 UG scholarship students are under government funding and 16 students are under different fee waivers and two students are under the self-financing scheme in Canada today.

As per the record maintained by the US Embassy, the total number of Bhutanese students in 2021 was 116, out of which 85 are pursuing undergraduate courses, 19 are in graduate programmes and 12 students are doing OPT.

UNESCO reports indicate 5,086 Bhutanese students studying abroad, with the United States in 5th place after Australia, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka. “This means the US is among the top five international higher education study destinations for students from Bhutan,” an official from the US Embassy said.

Bhutanese students usually travel to New Delhi, India, for US visa interviews and seek support from the EducationUSA centers in India.

What is IEW?

International Education Week is a joint initiative of the US Department of State and the US Department of Education. It is an annual event to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchanges worldwide.  The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)  organises and leads the department’s efforts for IEW, including the annual release of the Open Doors Report on the International Educational Exchange.

ECA encourages all posts to promote study in the United States during IEW through social media (#OpenForOpportunity and #StudyWithUS, with a secondary hashtag of #IEW22).

IEW will begin on November 14 with the Open Doors 2022 Annual Data Release—hosted by ECA and IIE. The pre-recorded virtual event will be available at 9:30am EST via https://opendoorsdata.org.

International education is critical to solving the global issues of our time—from climate change to gender and racial inequity to challenges to democracy. As Secretary Blinken has said, it is a “foreign policy imperative.” Enrolling international students from diverse backgrounds at US higher education institutions and encouraging US students of all backgrounds and from across our country to study abroad strengthens ties between the United States and countries around the world.

The issuance in July 2021 of the joint statement of principles in support of international education by Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Education Cardona was a historic marker that reaffirmed the US commitment to international education, according to the statement issued by the US Embassy.  “This commitment was further demonstrated by the State Department’s prioritization of student visa appointments at our embassies and consulates around the world,” it stated.

In July 2022, the State Department adjudicated more student visas than any other month since 2016. “And this calendar year we have issued nearly 581,000 student visas.

The press release stated that through its commitment to increase diversity in international education, the State Department is committed to purposefully and deliberately opening the doors of opportunity for more individuals, worldwide.

Tens of thousands of American students study and intern abroad in a wide range of destinations and disciplines, and interest in studying abroad only increased when international mobility was constrained during the pandemic.