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Chinese Universities Start to Open Overseas Branches

GB Times - Xiamen University announced plans to set up a campus in Malaysia in February of this year. This marked the first such move by a Chinese university to set up an overseas presence.

Xiamen has since been followed by Zhejiang University, which announced plans in May to set up operations in London.

The trend over the past decades has been for foreign universities to set up campuses in China, attracted by the strong demand. The Ministry of Education says there are now 1,500 foreign operations and joint programs in place in China. It is now the turn of the Chinese universities to do the same overseas.

Separate Campuses and Joint Programs

Many experts agree that such campuses will be good for China’s growth and its reputation overseas

The two expansions announced so far demonstrate different methods of operation in foreign countries. Xiamen University will build their own independent university campus near Kuala Lumpur, with a 60 hectare site estimated to cost US$205 million to develop. It is planned to open in 2015.

The new campus will offer initially five of the main Xiamen courses, namely Chinese language and culture, Chinese medicine, economics, computer science, and electronic engineering. Further course expansion is already planned. The university said that they plan to offer tuition fees slightly lower than the other international campuses in the country, and aim to attract 5,000 students by 2020; two thirds of which are expected to be Malaysian or Chinese.

Zhejiang University is taking a slightly different approach and basing their expansion on strengthening operating relationships, in particular with Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. Details of their planned curriculum have not been released yet.

Rich Results for China

Many experts agree that such campuses will be good for China’s growth and its reputation overseas. Liu Baocun, director of the international and comparative education institute at Beijing Normal University explains in China Daily how such campuses can achieve results overseas. He says, “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.”

Song Yinghui, a researcher of Southeast Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, explains the further benefits such ventures could bring for Chinese business and politics. She said, “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.”

There are challenges too, of course, including recognition of Chinese qualifications in certain countries (including Malaysia) and issues of mixed race and employment. But such large-scale first moves indicate there may be much more activity to come in this area.