Higher education is going global by degrees

Updated: 2013-05-31 07:12

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Zhejiang University, one of the top five universities in the country, will establish a campus in London, the latest indication that Chinese universities are going global by degrees.

The university and Imperial College London signed a memorandum of understanding to boost academic collaboration earlier this month.

"Both will explore the feasibility of establishing facilities in the new western campus of Imperial College for joint academic activities. This is an exciting opportunity," said Song Yonghua, vice-president of Zhejiang University.

The details of the cooperation have not yet been worked out, Song said.

The university in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, has about 44,000 students, half of whom half are postgraduates. It has launched a number of joint projects with world-leading universities.

Zhang Xiuqin, head of the department of International Cooperation and Exchanges at the Ministry of Education, said: "I believe that such cooperation not only benefits students and teachers, but also society."

Education is often seen as an important aspect of a nation's soft power, said Liu Baocun, president of the International and Comparative Education Institute at Beijing Normal University.

"Establishing an overseas campus and developing academic research will achieve more positive results than Confucius Institutes," Liu said.

Around 23,000 overseas students received scholarships provided by the Chinese government in 2012, and the number will continue to rise in coming years.

As of January, China has about 1,780 joint institutions and programs, including Shanghai New York University, Wenzhou Kean University and Kunshan Duke University, according to the Ministry of Education.

Chinese universities are increasingly looking overseas to broaden their horizons. However, only about 70 Chinese universities have joint programs overseas, including campuses. The Education Ministry would like to encourage more eligible universities to establish an overseas presence.

Xiamen University, in East China's Fujian province, listed among the top 20 universities in China, announced this year that it will open its first overseas campus in Malaysia in September 2015.

Last year, Tongji University in Shanghai announced it will open its first overseas campus in Florence, Italy. The Florence campus will provide courses mainly in such subjects as art, design, architecture and fashion, according to the university.

Liu Baocun said Chinese universities should be more confident in acting on the world stage and actively present themselves as institutions that people can learn from, in the fullest sense of the word.

"Many elite universities have established campuses in Asia, such as Yale and New York University. Chinese universities should do the same," Liu said.

Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a public policy think tank in Beijing, said foreign campuses set up by Chinese universities will help attract more quality students.

According to a report by the Social Sciences Academy Press, about 340,000 Chinese students went abroad for further study in 2011, including a growing number of students from renowned high schools who skipped China's national college entrance exam.

"More Chinese students, especially the excellent students, want to study overseas. This means Chinese universities must be competitive," Wang said.

"In a world of globalization, education should also be mobile. Students all around the world can freely choose the education they want. Chinese universities must see this trend."


(China DailyUSA 05/31/2013 page5)