Degrees Without Borders

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1 Degrees Without Borders U.S. colleges and universities are opening campuses and launching special programs in China like never before all in an effort to fill the growing demand for an American-style education. 28 insight SEPTEMBER 2011

2 cover story By Lauren Hilgers Shortly after Alex Carlson arrived in China from the United States, he assumed he would spend a few years working in Shanghai and then head back home to enroll in an MBA program. Then, life caught up with him. At 33, Carlson found he wanted a degree recognized in the U.S., but he didn t want to leave his job, or walk away from his life in Shanghai. He wanted the best of both worlds. Lucky for Carlson, an increasing number of American universities are arriving in China looking to offer just that. Degree programs like USC s Global EMBA program at Jiaotong University, where Carlson decided to enroll, or free-standing institutions like the China-Europe International Business School (CEIBS) are tapping into a booming education market offering a Western-quality education in a Chinese setting and catering to students from China, the U.S. and around the world. The draw internationally, and particularly China, is that there are many talented students that now have enough funds to pay for an international degree, says Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president at the Institute of International Education. But they may not want to leave the country for the time it would take for a degree program. American universities are already seeing benefits from attracting Chinese students. In 2010, there were over 100,000 students from China enrolled in U.S. universities. Having a presence on the ground in China gives universities the advantage in building their reputation both among international students and at home, where there is an increasing interest in China. While a few programs are in China expressly to make money, most universities say they have long-term goals that go beyond economic benefits. Students on China-based campuses will often feel allegiance to their home campuses, helping expand the institution s alumni network. Students from the home institutions coming to China benefit from having an established base in the country. In general, these programs can help universities to get better known, says Blumenthal. We have thousands of universities and the average Chinese person knows of, at most, around 10. We ve already got a lot of graduates over here, says John Van Fleet, assistant dean and executive director at the USC Marshall School s global executive MBA program based at the Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiaotong University. For USC, opening a degree program fits into the school s Pacific Rim strategy. In addition to attracting Asia-based students who are looking for international credentials, it can help international students transition from Western markets into Asia. The benefits are not one-sided. Chinese students with an international degree are a valuable resource for multinational companies competing for talent. One Chinese student at the USC program, who asked not to be named, says a Chinese degree is of little interest to her. I work for an international company, she says. A Western degree has a lot more meaning for them. In addition to MBA programs with an international focus, Chinese students now have a variety of choices when it comes to Western or Westernized education programs. Exchange programs offer experiences abroad. Some institutions offer online courses. There are programs in the sciences, and an increasing number of undergraduate institutions are opening their doors on Chinese soil. Chinese universities are also taking advantage of interest from Western institutions. China s top educational institutions have consistently fallen behind in international rankings even as Hong Kong universities have climbed. In a report released last year by the British career and education research company QS, China s top two universities Tsinghua and Peking University did not break into the top 10 in a ranking of Asian higher education institutions. Collaborations are an opportunity to improve standards at local universities, learning from the international curriculums and faculty that arrive with the new program. The party is here With more than 2,000 domestic universities and more than 30 million students enrolled in higher Every week another school was showing up and they wanted a student exchange, they wanted a faculty exchange. Everybody wants a piece of the ground here. - John Van Fleet, USC Marshall School, Shanghai Jiaotong University. SEPTEMBER 2011 insight 2 9

3 A rendering of the Duke Kunshan University Academic Center. Image courtesy Duke. education programs in 2010, China is home to one of the most active higher education markets in the world. I think the education sector in China is similar to the wider economy in a few key ways one of them is that many people in education, as in business, believe that, in terms of growth and opportunity, the party is here, Van Fleet says. Establishing a program in China, however, is not simple. Quality concerns, regulatory approval and the cost of establishing a remote program are all hurdles U.S. universities arriving in China must clear. The majority of Western universities choose to arrive in China with a degree program, rather than a complete university, offering graduate or undergraduate programs in a single discipline. To do this, however, China s Ministry of Education requires international universities partner with domestic institutions. As China has gotten more popular, qualified domestic partners have found themselves in demand. Before working at the USC program, Van Fleet served as an advisor to the foreign affairs office at the Antai School. Every week, another school was showing up and they wanted a student exchange, they wanted a faculty exchange. Everybody wants a piece of the ground here. Among the most popular programs are MBA and EMBA programs, which are usually the most profitable programs for business schools and are in demand as multinational companies continue to expand their bases in China. The popularity of these programs, however, has made the approval process for new programs competitive. The USC Marshall School has been partnering with Shanghai Jiaotong for nearly a decade, offering students the same degree awarded to those enrolled in the EMBA program at USC s home campus in Los Angeles. The classes are conducted in English and the curriculum is based on USC s EMBA program in Southern California. While the USC program offers only the single degree, Van Fleet says he has seen an increase in programs that offer dual degrees from both institutions, or even programs that award degrees from the domestic institution alone. Historically the theory was that a degree from a Western institution was a guarantee of quality, Van Fleet says. Now, however, the Ministry of Education favors programs in which domestic universities, according to Van Fleet, have some skin in the game. Because the ministry places a quota on the number of degrees a single institution can confer, requiring programs to include a domestic degree helps ensure that the domestic partner believes in the program. Programs that confer only the international degree could potentially be used solely as a revenue generator with little concern for quality. American universities may also choose not to confer an international degree for their own reasons. MIT s business school, for example, was one of the earliest American universities to begin collaborating with Chinese universities. Unlike USC, which maintains a student body that is around 70 percent international, the 30 insight SEPTEMBER 2011

4 MIT program is focused primarily on domestic students. Since the 1980s, the university has worked with both Tsinghua University in Beijing and Fudan in Shanghai on an MBA program that involves a faculty exchange, inviting professors from the Chinese universities to the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The students in the program do not receive an MIT diploma. Instead, they walk away with a degree from the domestic university and a certificate from MIT. We felt that any major business school should understand the China-based economy, says Alan White, senior associate dean at MIT s Sloan School of Management. Tsinghua and Fudan, on the other hand, wanted to develop areas of their curriculum, including marketing and Western economics that were weak. White says it will take some time before China s top universities can offer truly world-class programs, particularly in the areas of business administration and management. Over the years, MIT has hosted more than 250 faculty members from Chinese institutions. They attend classes at Sloan and develop curriculum to take back to their home institutions. Some areas of the curriculum developed under this program have become the national standard, White says. The faculty they are seeing arriving at MIT are also increasingly sophisticated and, increasingly, doing their own research. Still, MIT feels it doesn t have to confer a degree to build its reputation in China. offering Western-standard curriculum. Autonomy is also an important factor in maintaining a program that adheres to Western standards for curriculum and teaching. Most American universities demand autonomy from the get-go. They are looking to learn, says Robert Parker, the associate dean of the University of Michigan and Shanghai Jiaotong University Joint Institute, a program offering degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering. Why would you want to support two mechanical and two electrical engineering programs if they end up being run in the same way. Jiaotong, says Parker, has been consistent in allowing the joint institute autonomy from the beginning. The institute runs like a miniuniversity, reporting to a board of directors rather than a provost from either collaborating institution. The board of directors includes UM s president Mary Sue Coleman, the dean of the university s engineering school and the dean of the medical school. The institute was inaugurated in 2005 and is currently attracting 250 to 300 new students every year. Classes are taught in English by faculty hired based on western standards, all with experience studying or teaching in the U.S. The joint institute between Michigan and Jiaotong is the only program of its kind in engineering and an example of how collaborations Quality control Although education standards are improving across China, maintaining quality is a primary concern for American universities in China. Van Fleet of USC says controlling the curriculum and faculty is key. Because we give a USC degree, USC faculty are controlling the curriculum, he says. And we have the same faculty control that we have in Los Angeles. USC also selects its students carefully. Seventy percent of the program s students are international; only 30 percent are Chinese citizens. The USC name is recognizable enough that the program attracts students from the U.S., Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and elsewhere. The diversity of the student body is often a good indicator for the quality of the program. It ensures that English is the predominant language spoken. A program attracting a large number of international students is also more likely to be Duke s Blue Devils and China s National Team square off in China. SEPTEMBER 2011 insight 3 1

5 NYU President John Sexton and Yu Lizhong, president of East China Normal University, at a groundbreaking for NYU Shanghai, Pudong New Area. Photo courtesy NYU. While a few programs are in China expressly to make money, most universities say they have long-term goals that go beyond economic benefits. between universities are starting to expand from the traditional platforms of study abroad and MBAs. The institute is primarily focused on its undergraduate program, offering majors in mechanical and electrical and computer engineering. Students can pursue either a single degree or dual degree program, pursing a diploma from both Shanghai Jiaotong and the University of Michigan. Parker calls this the 3 plus 2 program because it typically involves three years studying in China and two in Michigan. The students must pursue two majors one in Shanghai and another in Michigan. While Michigan first envisioned the program as a platform for exchange a home base for its own students hoping to get experience in China the joint institute soon proved it offered other benefits. The students at the Institute, Parker says, are both smart and extremely hard working. There are close to 200 students studying at the University of Michigan, Parker says. Those students are diversifying the student body on the Michigan campus. Graduates of the program often pursue further degrees at top engineering schools in the U.S. Chinese students are popular in engineering programs across the world, and they are often accepted despite shaky English skills and educational backgrounds that don t quite match with Western expectations. Students from the joint institution, on the other hand, have been studying in English for the past four years, following the same curriculum as students at the University of Michigan. Standing alone Although degree programs remain the most popular means of entering China, a handful of universities are going a step farther and opening stand-alone campuses. Duke recently announced the groundbreaking on a campus in Kunshan, a space that will first house a branch of the school s Fuqua School of Business and then expand to accommodate other disciplines. Most U.S. campuses realize that it takes a huge investment of time, academic administration and faculty effort to really launch one of these branch campuses, she says. Despite the challenges, New York University broke ground earlier this year on one of the most visible branch-campus projects in China. Globalization is changing the way that information and students flow around the world, says Mattie Johnstone, the director of public affairs at NYU Shanghai. The decision to open a Shanghai campus was part of a global strategy to create a network of international campuses, giving students the option to study at NYU campuses across the world. The campus is being built in Shanghai s Lujiazui district, and the land was provided by the Shanghai government. This kind of local investment is often a prerequisite for a successful branch campus, Blumenthal says. It both helps offset the costs of an expensive new campus and assures the foreign university that it has local support. Johnstone says NYU was given autonomy over its operations almost without question. NYU 32 insight SEPTEMBER 2011

6 imaginechina has complete discretion with faculty students and course work, she says. That was an important point for NYU. When the first class, an expected 150 to 200 students, arrives in 2013, the NYU program will be focused on undergraduate studies, aiming to build a student body that is 50 percent domestic students and 50 percent international. Although there is much to be decided before then, Johnstone says NYU will be developing it s curriculum with collaboration from faculty in New York and from professors at East China Normal University, where NYU currently runs its study abroad program. Johnstone says NYU Shanghai Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan will require students complete a core curriculum similar to the requirements in the U.S. The tuition structure, she says, has yet to be worked out. Opening a branch, she admits, takes time, investment, a dedicated partner and support from home faculty. This is a balance often not easy to strike. In the past, a number of universities have faltered after announcing plans to build a China campus. Kean University announced plans to build a satellite campus in Wenzhou in 2006, but the program stalled waiting for approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education. Even Duke s plans have run into some bumps in the road this summer as faculty at the Fuqua School Business have raised concerns about the cost of opening the Kunshan campus. Establishing a legacy While universities are rushing to enter the Chinese market, Blumenthal believes the costs and complications of stand-alone campuses will deter many institutions, leaving partnerships as the most popular options. One of the best examples of a successful combination of investment, time commitment and a working partnership, says Blumenthal, is the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, a partnership between Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) in Baltimore, Maryland and Nanjing University. The center was established in 1986, offering a one-year program of study that would mix international and Chinese students. It s not just about being in China, says John D. Patent, the American codirector of the center. It s about living with each other, being in class with each other, using the language day in and day out. Curriculum at the center is designed jointly by faculty from both institutions. Admissions is handled by Johns Hopkins on the American side and by Nanjing University in China. Despite the program s success, even the Hopkins-Nanjing Center has felt the pressure of increased competition. Five years ago, the center started offering a dual degree masters program in international relations, for American students, and American studies, for Chinese students. There was concern that the center was going to start becoming less relevant, says Patent. There are more students coming to China and they are getting more demanding we needed to offer more choices. The masters program is based primarily on the existing courses at the center, with American students required to take two thirds of their coursework in Chinese and Chinese students required to maintain a similar balance with English. Even as other schools enter the Chinese market, Patent believes the formula Johns Hopkins has perfected will be hard to imitate There are a lot of universities who would like what the center has achieved, he says. It works because it s collaborative all different people from all different branches of the universities are involved and dedicated. Lauren Hilgers is a freelance writer based in Shanghai. Globalization is changing the way that information and students flow around the world. SEPTEMBER 2011 insight 3 3

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