10 December 2018

Chinese cities go all out to lure top-notch universities

A 30-minute ride on the Shenzhen Metro from the downtown area to Longgang {龍崗} district will take you to the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Shenzhen campus. The 100-hectare campus — construction just finished this January — is almost on par in size with CUHK’s main campus in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district and has a total floor area of 450,000 square meters, the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reports.

Despite the worsening land shortage in Shenzhen, municipal authorities managed to set aside a large chunk of land for the university and even reserved a nearby plot for expansion.

Shenzhen also footed the 1.5 billion yuan (US$247 million) initial investment. It didn’t send any representative to the CUHK Shenzhen’s governing board, which is chaired by CUHK Vice-Chancellor Joseph Sung {沈祖堯}. And there won’t be a Communist Party committee to oversee operations at the campus.

One way of explaining this outpouring of generosity is that for years, there has been an embarrassing dearth of reputable higher education institutions in China’s fourth-largest municipal economy. Since waiting for its indigenous schools to achieve some level of prestige is way too time-consuming for cadres seeking immediate breakthroughs, inviting overseas universities to come over and set up a campus there is a more convenient approach for the cash-rich city.

Being one of the finest in Asia and home to four Nobel laureates, CUHK is without doubt a most ideal partner.

A source close to the Longgang district government was quoted as saying that CUHK Shenzhen will start admitting its first batch of students this September with the long-term goal of boosting its student headcount to 11,000.

Shenzhen is not a standalone case. Just like the rush to attract foreign investment, many Chinese cities have also engaged in a fierce contest to woo scholars at a time when some of the world’s renowned universities beat a path to the east in search of fresh fields for future development.

Leading the charge is the eastern port city of Ningbo, which opened a University of Nottingham campus in 2004, the first Sino-foreign university in China.

Premium land and solid financial support are among the usual incentives on offer — Ningbo built a 144-acre campus in the city’s picturesque higher education park that is virtually a replica of the university’s main campuses in the United Kingdom and further promised subsidies of up to 50,000 yuan for each undergraduate student enrolled there.

All degree programs are taught in English to the same standards at the University of Nottingham, regarded as one of the UK’s top 20, and graduates are awarded a UK degree.

Ningbo municipal authorities even helped the university secure approval from the Ministry of Education to confer doctorate degrees. It is also said that students at the university’s Ningbo campus are exempted from attending a set of Communism courses, a compulsory program for all students at other Chinese universities, and, Facebook and Twitter are fully accessible on the campus.

Meanwhile, Shanghai has stepped up construction of its New York University campus in the bustling downtown area of Lujiazui, and the first batch of students began their studies at the East China Normal University campus under a tentative arrangement last October.

Xi’an Jiao Tong University and Liverpool University have been operating a joint college in Suzhou since 2006, while Duke University is also finalizing talks with officials in Kunshan {崑山}, a county under Suzhou’s jurisdiction, about establishing a campus there.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



EJ Insight writer

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