Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Education in China - one of the UK's best exports?

Given the origins of this blog was to provide information to perspective students considering the UK as a destination for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, the recent FT article that examines the role of the UK in China's education system is pertinent.

I believe this blog is still banned in China so my original aims have been somewhat undermined.

Of particular interest is the article on the University of Nottingham's foray into China by means of a Chinese campus development. The point but forward from Nottingham is that all surpluses generated in China will be reinvested in the China campus is an excellent one. As long as the reputation for quality is closely monitored it is likely that the international exposure Nottingham will have gained through this development is potentially worth every penny.

The success of this strategy is evidenced by the increase in the global University rankings that Nottingham has achieved.

New school ties [FT]

Chinese parents have a thirst for British education for their children that creates huge potential opportunities for British companies and charities.

Asked why this is, British education experts all use the same two key words: educated Chinese people worry the “didactic” style of Chinese teaching is less suited than the more “questioning” style of British learning to the increasingly knowledge-based global economy.


UK universities are also increasingly likely to offer degrees in China. Universities UK, which represents university vice-chancellors, estimates that about 11,000 Chinese students study in their own country for British higher education awards. The market is attractive partly because the fees are less heavily regulated than back home – allowing universities to charge more per student than they can for English and other European Union students coming to the home university in England.

The same universities can charge many students relatively high fees for studying in the UK. But there is a different market for Chinese students who would rather cut living costs and stay close to family by studying at home.

The most common way in which British universities offer degrees in China is through the campus-free model. Staffordshire University is one of many institutions that have enthusiastically embraced this, offering degrees through partnerships in China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Oman and Europe. Peter Reynolds, director of the international office, says: “Building a reputation overseas helps with our recruitment.”

The University of Nottingham, one of Britain’s elite group of Russell Group universities, has taken the biggest risk of all to entice foreign students by opening its own campuses abroad: one in Malaysia and one in China, at Ningbo near Shanghai in 2004 (see below).

Prof Christine Ennew, pro-vice chancellor for internationalisation at Nottingham University Business School, plays down the financial motive. Prof Ennew wants the foreign campuses simply to generate ”sufficient surpluses” to support their future expansion. “We would like to see both grow significantly over the next three to five years,” she says.

Instead of being a money machine, the campuses in China and Malaysia “are contributing quite significantly to our reputation globally. We’ve moved quite a bit up the Times Higher Education league table” – a worldwide set of rankings based largely on the opinion of academics.

The ambition of Nottingham and its first mover advantage mean that the chances of success are good despite the inherent risks. This is one experiment to watch carefully.

Education and the environment are two of China’s toughest challenges and the University of Nottingham, honorary award winner at the 2007 Cathay Pacific Business Awards, was the first overseas institution allowed to establish a satellite campus inside the country.

In Ningbo, a booming port of 8m people in Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai, Nottingham’s campus is home to almost 4,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students and more than 250 teaching and administrative staff. In just three years, the university has rolled out first and second degree courses in international business, international communications, international studies, computer science, sustainable development, English studies and engineering.

Demand for English-language education in China is rampant. And while more than 20m students are enrolled in tertiary education in China, critics say that reforms have so far failed to develop a pedagogy that encourages critical and creative thinking.

Prof David Greenaway, the University of Nottingham’s vice-chancellor, says he wants to double student numbers at Ningbo. “I’m not sure we could replicate everything we have here in the UK, from theology to veterinary science,” he says, “but we will be adding natural and social sciences in the next year or two.

“Tuition fees cover the running costs there, and in a couple of years the campus will be generating surpluses which will be reinvested in Ningbo – there’s no intention to suck them back here,” he adds.

Prof Greenaway also wants to increase the number of UK students spending time at Ningbo. While some 50,000 Chinese students study in the UK, considerably fewer British students head in the opposite direction. Of the UK’s 130 universities, only about a dozen have centres for Chinese studies.

“We want to diversify the experience of Nottingham students, so they can spend six months in China,” says Prof Greenaway. “Deep immersion in another culture will make them so much more attractive to employers back in the UK.”

Nottingham has had student exchange agreements and joint research projects with Chinese universities for some time, but signalled its intent to develop a more significant presence in China when it appointed Yang Fujia as its chancellor in 2001. So in 2003, when Chinese law was changed to allow foreign universities to set up, Nottingham was in pole position.

Christine Ennew, pro-vice chancellor responsible for internationalisation, says social networking is a fundamental building block of doing business in China.

“We have a joint venture partner, the Wanli Education Group, but because we have been working in China for quite a long time we have lots of informal networks of people to whom we can turn to for advice and support,” she explains. “It’s very difficult to go in cold to China, so those networks were extremely valuable.

“We were also keen from the outset to signal that we see this as a long-term commitment and that it wasn’t a case of us coming in to tell the Chinese how to do things. It’s a reciprocal arrangement – the Chinese may get benefits from learning about western-style pedagogy, for example, but we also expect benefits in terms of our understanding of China.”


Wikinomist said...

your blog contains new information for me. wanna exchange link?


that is actually a new blog.

but thx anyway.

Joe said...

Actually your blog is obviously not banned in China, if so, I am unable to comment right now. Most banned websites abroad have been opened since the BJ Olympic, and we can view the wiki, youtube, and so on today.