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White House to Name Higher-Education Coordinator for Development Agency

Washington — President Obama is poised to name a senior official to act as a liaison between universities and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The appointee, likely to be a former university leader, also will act as an “internal champion” within the agency for working with higher education, Eric G. Postal, an assistant administrator at USAID, said in a speech here on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

Leaders at the development agency have indicated a desire to rethink how it works with higher education to put greater emphasis on tapping the research expertise of American universities to tackle problems facing developing countries. But USAID may have been moving too quickly—a plan earlier this fall to make deep cuts, of almost 80 percent, in the budget of the group that runs its global higher-education partnerships ran into strong opposition from universities.

The agency swiftly backed away from the proposal, which could have forced the immediate shutdown of some 40 active projects between American and foreign colleges. And Mr. Postal’s speech emphasized the areas of potential cooperation for USAID and higher education. For one, he said, the agency would put in place a “365-day-a-year open call” for proposals to improve higher education in the developing world and for using American universities in development work abroad.

USAID also is seeking ways to use massive open online courses, or MOOCs, to help deliver education in developing countries.

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