School's in for first overseas campus

Updated: 2013-06-17 17:02

By Luo Wangshu in Chongqing, Cao Yin in Beijing and Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Soft power and beyond

Education is often seen as an important part of a nation's soft power. Supporting China's universities to establish overseas campuses will help improve China's soft power, extend its influence and help people better understand the country and its culture, according to Liu Baocun, director of the International and Comparative Education Institute at Beijing Normal University.

"Establishing campuses overseas and developing academic research will see more positive effects than Confucius Institutes, of which there are more than 700 abroad that teach the Chinese language and promote Chinese culture," Liu said.

Xu at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences agreed that a country's educational development also reflects its soft power.

"If the campus is run well, it'll bring rich results for China," he said.

China is experiencing soaring economic development, but it also wants its culture to be appreciated by other countries, Xu said, that is why such campuses will have far-reaching significance.

Song Yinghui, a researcher of Southeast Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said she believes overseas campuses will be of benefit not only in the field of education but will also have a positive effect on business and politics.

"Take Malaysia as an example. The country has just undergone a national election. The new government has an open attitude and is starting to pay attention to Chinese elements across all industries," she said, applauding Chinese universities' plans to establish campuses abroad.

"Xiamen University's campus will attract big enterprises in both countries and will inevitably boost their economic development. This campus is helpful not only for education but also for other industries," she added.

Foreign campuses of Chinese universities will help them attract high-quality students and maintain their competitive edge, said Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a public policy think tank in Beijing.

Over the past seven years, the number of students who took China's college national entrance exam has declined. One reason is students are more likely to study abroad, even from an early age.

"More Chinese students, especially excellent students, are seeking higher study overseas, which inevitably puts pressure on Chinese universities. In this regard, they have to compete for more students," Wang said.

He said that the foreign campuses may help attract more quality students and increase the number of those from abroad.

"This is also a step toward adapting to the trend of globalization. In a world of globalization, education resources should also become mobile. Students all around the world can freely choose the education they want to have. Chinese universities should see this trend," Wang said.

Benefits for Malaysian students

China can increase its soft power and international influence through overseas campuses, while for Malaysian students it will mean more choice.

"Not everyone can afford to study abroad. Some of my classmates have to work first and save money for overseas study later," student Loke said. "But the triviality and difficulties in life sometimes destroy their ambitions and many young people have to leave their dreams behind, which is sad.

"However, if a good overseas university such as Xiamen University can open a campus in Malaysia, it's a great opportunity for many Malaysian students to taste a global education."

Bong Meen Szer, another Malaysian student at Xiamen University, is also excited the school is going to open a campus in her homeland.

"It is good news for Malaysian students that another prestigious overseas university is coming to our country, providing more choice," she said.

Ong Ka Ting, the Malaysian prime minister's special envoy to China and a visiting professor at Xiamen University, said he believes the educational establishment has a great reputation in Malaysia, according to the People's Daily.

He also speaks highly of Xiamen University's soft power, saying it represents China's global influence and that it will benefit Malaysian students.