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Universities in China and the US to Step Up Collaboration

Universities in China and the US to Step Up Collaboration main image

Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and US Secretary of State John Kerry recently co-chaired the fourth China-US High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE). The consultation, held in Washington DC, resulted in an “important consensus” being reached between the two countries: they will establish a new model of relationship, leveraged by factors such as the increased collaboration between universities in China and the US.

The China-US CPE (first held in 2010) aims to increase cooperation in six areas: education, science and technology, culture, women, youth and sports. Outcomes of the latest consultation include the maintenance and expansion of international student exchange programs, and the launch of bilateral and global science and technology forums.

Lui Yandong spoke of the introduction of think tank exchanges between scholars, expressing a hope that “Chinese and American scholars will carry out more joint research programs on such topics as how to build the new model of major country relationship”, which would facilitate policy recommendations. Meanwhile Kerry predicted that greater collaboration between universities in China and the US could have global benefits, by bringing together “the two largest polluters on earth to help combat the serious challenge of climate change”.

Promoting two-way international student exchange

Kerry praised last year’s CPE, which facilitated the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistance Program, which enables students in the US to learn Mandarin from Chinese instructors. He said US participants have learned not only the language, but also about life in China.  ”Our educational exchanges are truly more widespread than ever before. And if I’m able to encourage that, as I hope to, they will be even more widespread over the course of these next years.”

An important component of this plan is the 100,000 Strong Foundation, an independent organization that started out as a US State Department initiative called the 100,000 Strong Initiative. This was instigated by Obama in 2009 and launched in 2010 with the goal of sending 100,000 US students to study in China by the end of 2014. The foundation provides scholarships, credit transfer programs, academic exchanges, summer study schemes and many more. It has also received substantial support from the Chinese government, which has made 20,000 scholarships available under the initiative.

While international student exchange between the two countries is still predominantly in one direction – from China to the US – there are also signs that a growing number of US students are choosing to spend time at universities in China. Over 235,000 Chinese students studied in the US last year, a growth of 21.4% from the previous year, while almost 15,000 US students studied in China in 2011/12 – a growth of 2% from the previous year. Up to 8,000 of those US students were participants in the 100,000 Initiative.

The internationalization of universities in China

Greater collaboration with the US is just one factor in the ongoing internationalization of universities in China. Taking advantage of legislation passed in China in 2003, the UK’s University of Nottingham opened a campus in Ningbo, China in 2004. It caters for 5,000 students, who are all taught in English and awarded University of Nottingham degrees, while still experiencing Chinese culture.

China hopes to achieve something similar in the UK – a non-binding agreement has been signed regarding the establishment of a joint campus in collaboration between Zhejiang University and Imperial College London.

In September this year, China’s first joint venture university with the US, NYU Shanghai, opened to 300 students – half from China and half from overseas. Students are given a Western-style education and classes are taught in English, meaning that Shanghai locals can get a taste of what it’s like to study abroad, without actually leaving home.

In another first, Xiamen University will soon be opening a branch in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, making it the first Chinese institution to open a branch campus overseas. It aims to enroll one third of its students locally, one third from China and the remaining third from other countries, and is expected to be operational by September 2015.

These advances reflect a commitment to investment in the internationalization of universities in China in various forms, both by inviting more overseas students and scholars into the country, and by establishing new initiatives overseas.

New ranking of universities in China and other BRICS countries

On the first leg of her recent US visit, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong pointed out that while “China has established the largest higher education system in the world”, its enrollment rate of 30% still “lags far behind advanced countries [and China] is ready to learn from universities in the United States and other countries”.

In light of the challenges facing universities in China and other emerging markets, QS is preparing to launch a new university ranking dedicated entirely to the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The results of the first QS University Rankings: BRICS will be announced on 17 December 2013, and have been compiled using a methodology adapted from the QS World University Rankings® to reflect major priorities in the BRICS countries. Head of research at QS, Ben Sowter, has said the ranking should help raise the global profile of more BRICS universities as it “places less emphasis on internationalization factors and more on factors such as proportion of faculty with PhD”.

Jane Playdon's profile image
Written by Jane Playdon
Jane Playdon is a TopUniversities.com author and blogger.

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