HYDERABAD: It is that time of the year again when acceptance letters in hand, many students are on the path to realizing their dream of a higher education in universities abroad. However, students in the city, who brave the summer sun for guidance on visa application procedures to the satellite information centre of the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) at the Osmania University Centre for International Programmes (OUCIP), are in for a shock. Though it functions as a student information centre, USIEF and Education USA are no longer associated with the initiative.
The USIEF support to the two-year-old satellite centre was withdrawn earlier this month on April 1. Another project of the US Consulate in Hyderabad, a proposed cultural centre called ‘American Corner’ at the OUCIP was also shelved a year-and-a-half after it was approved. Sources cite the spate of disturbances on the OU campus in recent times as a probable reason for the projects being pulled out but officials claim ‘ease of access’ is the primary concern.
USIEF Satellite Centre
Acknowledging its dissociation from the centre, representatives of Education USA said a revaluation of their operations in the state is underway.
“Education USA is currently reviewing its strategy in Hyderabad. We are working on a new plan in Hyderabad and no alternate location has been decided upon so far for the satellite information centre in the city. We understand that it is a crucial time for students heading to the US for higher education and in case of queries, they can e-mail us or call our toll-free number,” Carla Benini, Public Affairs Officer at the US Consulate General, Hyderabad told City Express.
Supported by the US Department of State, USIEF has been a source of credible information for students opting to pursue higher education in the US. The sudden move of USIEF comes at a time when students are looking forward to guidance on visa interviews, driving them to consult often dubious ‘agents.’ Andhra Pradesh accounts for a large percentage of Indian student population in the United States. It was one of the three satellite centres of USIEF apart from Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and four nodal offices located in the metros across the country.
“The infrastructure provided by USIEF for running the satellite centre will remain at the disposal of OUCIP. We plan to convert it into a student counseling centre for Osmania University which will offer information and guidance for various international programmes of study, including those located in other countries such as Australia and Canada,” says Professor C Vijayasree, director of OUCIP.
She explained that the US Consulate had planned to set up the Education USA outreach centre on the consulate premises for better accessibility and centralized location in Begumpet. She added that the new student information centre at OU will be no different in terms of services extended and resources and texts will be updated regularly.
Apart from the USIEF pulling out, the plan to set up an American Centre for the general public at the OUCIP has also been scrapped. The American Corner planned as a cultural centre to familiarize Indians interested in USA with its cultural values at the OUCIP, is likely to be shifted to the premises of the US Consulate in Hyderabad for better accessibility for Hyderabadis.
Sources said the pullout was partly due to the agitations at the OU campus and partly, due to a change in administration at both the US Consulate and the OUCIP.
The work was stopped at a crucial juncture. Close to Rs 43 lakh had already been sanctioned for setting up the infrastructure for the American Corner and the OUCIP had even incurred expenditure from the account for the work in progress.
“The consulate wanted the project to be located at a better location in the city for ease of the public. Now that the premises and infrastructure for the US Consulate in Hyderabad are in place, the idea is to centralize the services. There is no discord between the consulate and the OUCIP whatsoever. They have helped us at a crucial juncture and we continue our association with them,” clarified Professor Vijayasree.
She said the consulate will continue to fund the ongoing operations at the OUCIP till 2013 and the 12th year proposal to the UGC for continuing various programmes would be adequate to support the different ongoing rojects.