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Mixed Results

Updated: 2011-07-22 10:56

By Wang Chao (China Daily European Weekly)

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Foreign universities plan more local alliances in China to attract greater student numbers amid rising demand

Mixed Results

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Foreign universities are getting ready to grab a bigger slice of the education pie in China by firming up their existing partnerships and forging new alliances with Chinese educational institutions. Much of the optimism in Western academic institutions stems from China's strong economic growth, the increased spending power of its citizens and its growing demand for quality education.

At the same time, several extraneous factors like the global financial crisis and economic weakness in the United States and Europe have also forced several of these venerable educational institutions to seek greener pastures in countries such as China and India to offset their flagging revenues.

Demand for quality education is increasing due to the rapid strides that China is making in the global marketplace with a slew of corporate activities bordering from mergers and acquisitions to setting up new overseas manufacturing facilities.

This economic activity has necessitated the need for a highly educated workforce that is capable of understanding and traversing the modern financial maze. With spending power increasing in China, parents are also no longer shying away and are willing to pay the higher costs at these Western-style institutions.

Though there has been a steady increase in the number of Chinese students studying at overseas universities, the demand for such institutions to be set up in China is also increasing. According to the Ministry of Education, by the end of 2010, there were 157 institutes and 1,138 joint programs in China that were affiliated to foreign universities.

Of these, 33 institutions are permitted to offer undergraduate education, it says. Last year the number of Chinese overseas students reached 280,000, with the bulk of them in the United Kingdom, the US and Australia. Under current regulations, foreign universities are not permitted to set up campuses directly in China.

Issues like quality control, accreditation and regulations are other stumbling blocks for Western universities. To circumvent these issues many Western universities are setting up "hybrid" schools in partnership with Chinese universities or institutions. These schools not only offer quality Western education, but also have a distinctive local flavor in terms of students and practices.

Tuition fees at these institutions are 10 times more expensive than at Chinese public schools. They often range from 50,000 yuan (5,500 euros) to 60,000 yuan every year, equivalent to the full-year income of an average family in China.

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