Cover Story

Mixed Results

Updated: 2011-07-22 10:56

By Wang Chao (China Daily European Weekly)

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"It was hard in the beginning, but things are improving now," says Nick Miles, provost & CEO of the University of Nottingham Ningbo. "When we started in 2004, over 80 percent of the students came from Zhejiang province; but now only 40 percent are from Zhejiang, which means our influence has spread beyond the province."

Most of the first set of graduates in 2008 have either got admission for overseas postgraduate programs or been hired by companies. "Our biggest employer is the Bank of China," Miles says.

Mixed Results
Top left: Huang Chengfeng, the Chinese coordinator of the Nanjing-Hopkins Center. Top right: Nick Miles, provost & CEO of The University of Nottingham Ningbo. Above: Shen Weiqi, registrar at The University of Nottingham Ningbo. [Photos Provided to China Daily]

The school enrolled 4,300 students in 2010, with 95 percent of them being from China; and employs 240 faculty and staff members, with most of them foreigners from over 30 countries. "Thanks to the increased student intake, we managed to break even financially in 2009, one year after the first set of graduates passed out," Shen says.

The Ningbo campus has redbrick buildings, a green pond and a tower resembling the Big Ben, creating the illusion of another UK campus.

Miles says when the university broke ground in 2004, the neighborhood was a desolated place with just weeds and bushes; "But now the school is surrounded by restaurants, apartments, hotels and office buildings. We have a good footprint here; and this school adds to the local prosperity."

According to the Ministry of Education, most "hybrid" programs are undergraduate programs, with very few masters or doctoral programs. Of the 157 institutes, only Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University is entitled to grant its own degree, while others offer degrees either from the foreign school or the Chinese side.

Hybrid pyramid

Hybrid schools in China can be broadly categorized as a pyramid with Ningbo, Liverpool and NYU the top. They are independent legal entities that occupy several sq km of land, and are ready to absorb several thousand freshmen every year. But the base of the hybrid pyramid comprises of myriad small-to-medium sized programs, possessing no more than a building in a Chinese campus, and a dozen English-speaking teachers.

The Nanjing-Hopkins Center, a joint postgraduate program between Nanjing University and the Johns Hopkins University, is one such small joint program. It never posts advertisements or appears on education fairs. But its graduates are in demand among multinationals and the local government as they speak fluent English and Chinese, and are well versed in both cultures.

Every year the center recruits 100 certificate students, with 50 of them selected by Nanjing University and the rest by the Johns Hopkins University. In addition, since 2006 the center has begun a two-year MA program and currently there are 70 students working for their degrees.

"It's a pure academic institute that focuses on international politics, international economy, international law, Chinese studies and American studies," says Huang Chengfeng, the Chinese coordinator of the center, adding that even though Sino-US relations are often tense, the students in the center can sit down and discuss the situation peacefully, as scholars.

The center has two coordinators, one Chinese and one American. Like dealing with diplomatic issues, the two coordinators discuss everything, from the wording of a regulation to an email response to students.


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