The Chinese are reaching out
Top universities in China are keen on foreign students.
Learning curve: Delegates from India who visited Chinese universities recently.
China is throwing open its top-of-the-line universities to international students and faculty and collaborative ventures from both East and West, confident that it can offer world-class education at the undergraduate, postgraduate and research levels at competitive rates.
Flush with State subsidies, these universities offer plush new campuses with aesthetically landscaped green belts and water bodies scattered amidst multi-storeyed buildings, departments boasting the latest technological facilities and laboratories, cafeterias, hostels and health and sports facilities.
They are the drivers meant to ignite a 21st century “culture of innovation” aimed at making China a force to reckon with in the coming decade.
These developments are in keeping with the 17th Party Congress placing renewed emphasis on the “bring in” and “go global” policies to spearhead industrial, technological and cultural innovation through educational collaborations with universities across the world.
This has resulted in the broadening of the Chinese university curricula in line with those designed for cutting-edge international colleges in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
There is in place a tiered system of fees that is advantageous to students coming in both from the West and the developing nations.
An increasing number of Indian students are heading for China. Indian educational institutions are also making a beeline to Chinese universities for alliances, tie-ups and collaborations.
Four institutions from Karnataka signed Letters of Intent on November 2 with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University as part of India’s first-ever Mission to China for Universities and Institutes of Journalism and Mass Communication from October 29 to November 4. They were Kuvempu University, Surana College, Maharani Lakshmi Ammani College for Women and Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology.
The Mission, representing 15 institutions from India, was organised by the India China Alliance Centre and covered visits to six top Chinese universities — Communication University of China and Tsinghua University (Beijing), Shenyang Normal University and Liaoning University (Shenyang) and Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai).
The Letters of Intent officially placed on record for the participating institutions on both sides “our mutual interest and intent to establish means of cooperation and to promote collaborative agreements and arrangements in the areas of Mass Communication, Media Literacy and Studies, Journalism, Broadcast and TV Media and integrated Design and Media inter-disciplinary studies.”
Areas of interest
The specific areas of intent for cooperation and collaboration are: Student Exchanges, Faculty Exchanges, Research Projects, Lectures through Video Conferencing, Chinese and Indian language learning and other viable projects.
The Indian institutions will now follow up individual opportunities with each of the Chinese universities visited.
With the Chinese laying greater emphasis on learning of English, Indian institutions have felt the need to introduce the study of Chinese language, culture and traditions at home.
This can be done by Indian institutions setting up Confucius Institutes (a la the Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institut or British Council).
In China, B.S. Sherigara, vice-chancellor of Kuvempu University, made an offer to take in four Chinese students per year to study either English Literature or Engineering at the postgraduate level.
These students, in turn, would commit a certain number of hours to teach the Chinese language in return for the waiver of fees and help with accommodation and a small stipend.
There is, however, a downside to the rapid expansion and equipping of the Chinese universities and their push for global acceptance as a quality standard.
Official statistics indicate that the Chinese universities have accumulated about 200 billion RMB ($ 26.7 billion) in debt as a result of the rapid enrolment expansion since 1999. Enrolment expanded more than five-fold last year compared to 1998.
The China Daily reported on November 1 that given the soaring price of commercial houses, many universities are looking for a “lifeline” financial remedy to their debt problems by transferring part of their vast campus land into the hands of real estate developers.
The growing desire to exchange land for money was fuelled by open encouragement from high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Education.
But the Ministry of Land and Resources has bluntly forbidden the fund-burdened universities from getting out their plight through land transfers.
Regulations clearly stipulate that university land should be for educational purposes only and any change in status should be subject to government approval.
One way the Chinese universities can increase revenue is to “bring in” international students and to forge profitable, even commercial, collaborative ventures with international corporations and educational institutions. This openness is also extended to India.
The author is senior faculty with the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, and was part of the recent Mission to China for Universities and Institutes of Journalism and Mass Communication. He can be reached at email@example.com
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