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US schools go East with campuses

By Jack Freifelder | China Daily USA | Updated: 2015-10-09 11:19

 US schools go East with campuses

The campus of Duke Kunshan University is in Jiangsu province.The school's first group of students began classes in August 2014. Provided to China Daily USA

The number of Chinese students at colleges and universities in the United States is on the rise, but reciprocal interest from US and other international students for studying in China has not been as fervent, Jack Freifelder reports from New York.

M any universities and colleges around the world have developed partnerships with schools in other countries to not only burnish their image as truly global educational institutions, but also to attract outstanding faculty and increase their student enrollments.

With its emergence as a global power, China has become a prime location for US colleges and universities to open standalone campuses or create partnerships with Chinese schools.

Among 11 US universities and colleges in China, six have received approval from China's Ministry of Education to operate a branch campus: Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Kean University in Union, New Jersey, Duke University, the University of Michigan, New York University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Other US schools operating degree-granting programs include Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, Savannah College of Art Design in Savannah, Georgia, Johns Hopkins University, Missouri State University and the University of Chicago.

Each school has a domestic partner in China, and classes at all the schools are taught entirely in English. Most of the schools offer opportunities to study in China and the US and two degrees at graduation, one from the US-based school and one from the school in China.

"From a global competitive framework, institutions are looking at their position not just in competition with the institutions across town, but also with ones on the other side of the world," said Kevin Kinser, a researcher and professor at the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY-Albany). "A world-class institution is, by definition, an international institution. It's an institution that engages globally and has a footprint that spans the globe.

"From an institutional perspective, if you are going to be competitive at the highest levels you need to have a global footprint in order to support that ambition," he said. "And in order to solve the world's problems, you need the world's best minds to participate in that."

Kinser, who heads the department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies at SUNY-Albany, is also co-founder and co-director of the school's Cross-Border Education Research Team, known as C-BERT. Kinser established the nonpartisan group with Jason Lane, a fellow faculty member, in 2010.

C-BERT's team compiles data to help analyze trends affecting cross-border higher education opportunities.

Fifty US universities have 81 branch campuses around the world, according to, the website that houses C-BERT's proprietary research.

Top countries

"After China, the top countries are the United Arab Emirates (8); Qatar (7) and Greece (6)," Kinser said. "But it's a little difficult to tell if the trend of branch campuses in China is growing or not growing because we don't have consistent definitions over time that we can easily draft."

"China's definition is unique because they require these kinds of partnerships and independent institutions, but because that's the way China organizes it, we had to rethink how we would apply our definition in China," he said.

Kinser said that China can be a "particularly unique case" when it comes to identifying cross-border education agreements because of all the "different categories of relationships and partnerships".

"There are about 2,000 foreign Chinese educational partnerships around the world that have various levels of these curricular/joint-curricular projects," he said. "In C-BERT, we use a broader definition that basically encompasses institutions that are offering full-degree programs overseas in the name of the home institution."

Tuition at the US schools in China range from roughly 40,000 yuan a year ($6,300) to a nearly 300,000 yuan ($47,000).

The average tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 school year in the US is $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public universities, and $22,958 for out-of-state students at public universities, according to the College Board.

The average tuition for Chinese universities is estimated to be between $3,300 (21,000 RMB) and $9,900 (63,000 RMB), according to China's University and College Admission System, an official online portal for international students applying to Chinese universities.

Initially, US schools thought branch campuses would be "providing these enormous funnels of money back to the home campus," Kinser said.

"What people have realized over the last decade is that they are really not great revenue generating devices," he said. "And capacity to operate in another regulatory system is a big obstacle."

According to the Institute for International Education (IIE), a global non-profit organization that compiles data on international students, in the 2012-2013 academic year (the latest for which data is available), 14,413 American students pursued a portion of their college-level education in China, a decrease of 3.2 percent from the prior year.

Kinser said that China remains an attractive market for partnerships at the university and college levels, but China's policy toward such agreements "has become more restrictive".

"Schools are more likely to do their due diligence now than in the past, and the case for opening [a school] needs to reflect the mission of the institution," he said.

"From a Chinese perspective, what they're interested in is developing full-fledged educational opportunities with foreign partners that offer specifically Chinese institutions directed toward fulfilling Chinese interests."

Minking Chyu is dean of Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute (SCUPI) in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The joint program was established in 2013.

SCUPI has enrolled 100 undergraduate students this year, and plans call for 1,600 full-time students over the next seven years. The school has hired 10 faculty members from Canada, China, England, Japan and the US.

Students major in one of three undergraduate engineering programs, with the first two years spent in China and then have the option to study in the US to earn two degrees.

"There is a lot of coordination between Sichuan University and the University of Pittsburgh," Chyu said. "One of the major tasks in this early stage of establishment is to find a common ground between two different systems. That is one of the challenges for me as a dean, in addition to dealing with the faculty and the students."

The need for multitasking was echoed by Denis Simon, the executive vice-chancellor of Duke Kunshan University (DKU), who said that one of the key components for operating a branch campus in China is the coordination of all the "local players".

"The city of Kunshan, the people back at Duke and Wuhan University, the people in Jiangsu, we have to make sure all are in alignment on things," Simon said.

Duke University

Duke and Wuhan's partnership was approved by the Ministry of Education in September 2013. The school's first group of students began classes in August 2014.

Simon said there are 37 graduate students from 14 countries in DKU's master's degree programs in global health, medical physics and management studies. Plans call for a full-scale undergraduate program in Fall 2018, Simon said.

DKU also offers a non-degree undergraduate semester program in Kunshan, the Undergraduate Global Learning Semester, which has 53 undergraduate students - 15 percent are international and 85 percent are Chinese - for the 2015-2016 academic year.

"The Ministry of Education has created a special bureau that is responsible for oversight and management of these joint-venture universities," Simon said. "There are new things on the Chinese and foreign sides, but the responsibility is twofold. They want to ensure compliance with certain rules and regulations and make sure that the ground remains fertile for these universities to do their thing. In other words, to bring to China the quality of education, the type of pedagogy and the research capability that was committed to from the very beginning."

Kent Steward, executive director of university relations and marketing at Fort Hays State University (FHSU), said that in recent years the Chinese government has improved its college education system, including partnerships foreign schools.

"The big program that we have there is what we call a cross-border agreement," Steward said. "And we have two dual-degree partnerships in China right now, so the students end up with a dual degree either from Shenyang Normal or from Sias International and Fort Hays State."

FHSU operates the dual-degree program along with Sias International University (Xinzheng, Henan province) and Shenyang Normal University (Shenyang, Liaoning province) where Chinese students study in English toward undergraduate degrees in business administration, global business, information networking, organizational leadership and political science.

Opening doors

"It gives many young people in China an opportunity they would not otherwise have," Steward said. "They get a good education and having an American degree really does open some doors for them."

"All of those things have allowed our students to broaden their horizons," he said. "China hasn't been our biggest growth area, but it's been part of our overall effort to grow our enrollment. We are in western Kansas, which is sparsely populated. The population is declining and aging, which is a double-whammy for a university, so we've had to broaden our horizons in a lot of ways."

He said that during the last academic year there were nearly 3,200 Chinese students enrolled in Fort Hays's programs at its partner schools in China. The school began operating in China in the early 2000s.

There are some issues that do come up for students, like the use of new technology in the curriculum, Steward said.

"In China that doesn't always work real well," he said. "Part of that is a firewall that can create problems, and that's why we can't use online education as our main tool in China. It's been difficult at times to try to figure out how we can take advantage of what computers can do."

A location near the international business hub of Shanghai was one of the main reasons that the University of Michigan chose to partner with Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2006, James Paul Holloway, vice-provost for Global and Engaged Education at the University of Michigan, wrote in an e-mail to China Daily.

"Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) is one of China's top universities," Holloway wrote, and that makes them "a natural partner for us". The JI also provides a "large landing zone for UM students to take courses in China".

Chinese and international students attending the school have a chance to study in Shanghai and Ann Arbor for two years to complete their dual-degree program.

There are 1,217 Chinese students enrolled at the school in Shanghai and 26 international students, including one from the US, in the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Comfort zone

"For both US and Chinese students, spending time to study and work in each other's country provides all of the important benefits of study abroad - it requires students to live and achieve outside of their comfort zone, in a place where practices and expectations are different. This develops flexibility, creativity, persistence, and the ability to appreciate and deal with differences."

The other full-scale branch campus school operating in Shanghai is New York University, which opened in the fall of 2013.

NYU Shanghai is home to 141 full-time faculty and roughly 1,000 students - equally divided among Chinese and international students - in the full undergraduate program, according to Thomas Bruce, a senior counselor at the school. The goal is 2,000 students a year.

NYU's partnership with East China Normal University is part of an effort "to carry out small experiments with approaches to higher education that are different from those generally used at Chinese universities", Bruce wrote in an e-mail.

"A campus in Shanghai advances NYU's overall 'global network' vision," Bruce wrote. "The scale of China along any dimension - its own educational aspirations, and its importance geopolitically and culturally - make it an important place for NYU to be."

A focus on interdisciplinary work helps NYU Shanghai provide students with "a unique, cross-cultural experience," he wrote.

NYU Shanghai offers roughly 20 different areas of study, with undergraduate students eligible for two bachelor's degrees. Students studying for master's and PhDs in the graduate program receive one degree from NYU.

Some 20 miles away from NYU's US campus is Kean University in New Jersey. In 2012, Kean received initial approval from the Chinese government to operate a branch campus through a partnership with Wenzhou University in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province. Wenzhou-Kean University (WKU), welcomed its first class in the fall of 2014.

Holger Henke, associate vice-president for academic affairs at WKU, wrote in an e-mail that the partnership "offers an American university education to Chinese students as well as an opportunity for Kean's New Jersey students to study in China".

"Like other foreign universities operating in China, WKU offers a Western curriculum and pedagogy to Chinese students," Henke wrote. "WKU will also enhance the creativity landscape of Wenzhou by fostering programs such as graphic design and architecture," Henke wrote. "In turn, future demand for new programs at WKU may become an incentive to begin such programs at Kean University in the United States."

Educational exchanges

On June 19 during a visit to the Confucius Institute at the University of Pittsburgh in a meeting with university officials and Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, Liu Yandong, China's vice-premier, stressed the importance of educational exchange between China and the US at all levels.

After Pittsburgh, Liu stopped in Houston, Texas. During a June 22 keynote address for the US-China University Presidents Roundtable at Rice University, Liu emphasized people-to-people exchanges between China and the US and the role of universities.

"Universities are pioneers for people-to-people exchange between our countries, and [they] act as pioneers for human progress," Liu said. "They are where different ideas and cultures meet and merge with each other, and also the binding force for China-US relations."

Chyu, with Pitt, said: "Every university has different objectives when they're doing this type of collaboration - both from the US and the Chinese side. The bottom line is everyone is trying for better programs policy-wise."

Simon of DKU said: "China has become more globally engaged, and as a result there's a greater willingness to look into things like a liberal arts university. There's a willingness to experiment. That wasn't always the case."

Kinser said his team sees more proposed campuses by US schools in China on the horizon, "so the trend is not slowing appreciatively".

"But the trend is likely toward more joint programs and campuses that focus on research connections, in addition to stand-alone educational institutions," he said.

As for US-based colleges and universities enrolling Chinese students, Kinser said as their ability to enroll domestic students decreases they are looking to overseas students who can afford the tuition.

In the 2013-14 academic year, 886,052 international students studied at US colleges and universities, an 8.1 percent increase year-over-year according to IIE, and students from China accounted for nearly 31 percent of that total, 274,439.

China became the No 1 country sending students to the US in the 2009-2010 school year, and it has maintained that position with seven years of double-digit increases, according to IIE.

But Kinser said part of the challenge with schools looking for students from China is that many have "banked their finances" on China continuing to funnel students to US universities.

"As China continues to build its capacity by building these [US] partnerships, it is increasingly able to educate its own students according to Western quality standards," Kinser said. "At the same time, it is maintaining educational sovereignty, and there might be a turning point."

"Right now Chinese students represent something like a third of all globally mobile students," Kinser said. "It might continue for a while longer, it certainly can't continue until perpetuity. So what happens when China stops providing all these international students?"

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