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Joint venture universities set to be the next big thing

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-06 13:15

Cultivating global citizens while keeping students connected to Chinese humanistic and cultural foundations are the key competitiveness of Sino-foreign universities in China, said a senior official from one such joint venture.

"I'm deeply aware that many Chinese parents increasingly want to make sure that their kids don't lose their connection with China while they gain global exposure during their university studies. That's something really important and I think we can provide a solution which parents will be satisfied with," said Denis Simon, executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan University (DKU), during an enrollment talk in Shanghai in mid-December.

Feng Yiyu, the father of a girl who intends to apply for DKU, said this particular characteristic is the main reason why he prefers such joint ventures over universities in foreign countries.

"We don't want her to become an 'expat' with yellow skin. We hope she retains her Chinese roots while being able to view the world from a global perspective," he added.

DKU, which is a Sino-US partnership between Duke University and Wuhan University in Jiangsu province's Kunshan city, was granted accreditation by China's Ministry of Education in September 2013. The university welcomed its inaugural class of Masters students in August 2014.

Simon pointed out that such universities have become increasingly popular over the past few years because many students and parents believe that there are good prospects in China.

Joint venture universities set to be the next big thing

"China is changing so rapidly. If you are away from it for four or six years, you will lose contact with your network and the ability to reintegrate with them after returning," he said.

"So for those who have decided that their future lies in China, they can spend these university years building their relationships here, which will in turn be beneficial to them."

Another such joint venture is New York University Shanghai, a Sino-US research institute established by New York University and East China Normal University. The university bid farewell to its first batch of 280 graduates from 27 countries in May. About half of them went to graduate schools, mainly in the US, while the rest have already found jobs, according to the university.

This summer, DKU will welcome its inaugural class of 225 undergraduate students. The cohort will comprise 175 students from the Chinese mainland and 50 from other parts of the world. Graduates will receive degrees from Duke University and DKU.

These students will undergo liberal arts education, including modules on global China studies, natural science and ethical leadership, in their first two years before deciding on their choice of major at the end of the second year. There will be 20 majors, including applied mathematics and computation, material science, environmental science, global health and global China studies, for students to choose from.

The students will also spend the summer and fall semesters of their junior year at Duke University. Simon noted that DKU could be considered to be even more globalized than Duke University, referring to the number of foreign students it has.

"So far, we've received applications from students from North America, Europe, Africa and West Asia, and our goal is to have 40 percent of our undergrad population made up of international students by our fifth year," he said.

Simon added that many top universities in the West have expressed interest in entering such joint ventures. In 2016, 2,000 academics from Western universities, including Ivy League universities, visited the DKU campus to learn more about the operations.

"The DKU experience will be a parameter for other universities. They will want to see how high the hurdle is to successfully implement such a joint venture," he said.

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