Foreign university education has been an important tool in China’s knowledge-based economic roll-out, and there are currently 950,000 Chinese university students being educated overseas that way according to Education Department Deputy-Director Shen Yang. These extra students have proved extremely useful for western universities laboring under economic difficulties – what might the effect be though, were this flow to be reversed?
There are currently a further 31 million Chinese university students studying back home (up 35% in the past 5 years) and 250,000 foreign students too. This adds up to huge capacity and a wealth of lecturing experience. According to Shen Yang again there is already talk of turning China into the world education hub.
The largest number of foreign Chinese students is from Korea, followed by America and Japan. In order to meet her new target of 500,000, Shen Yang speaks of attracting foreign university students from the European Union, Asia, Africa, South America and the Arab World too. This will be achieved in terms of a model of multi-national cooperation involving student exchanges as opposed to one-way traffic, but built around the concept of China as the world education hub.
Shen talks of a network of credit transfer agreements and reciprocal recognition of academic credentials that could eventually make education a free trade area too. She has a glowing vision of every leading foreign university setting up campuses in China to become part of the action too. We aim to welcome more world-class universities to come to China to participate in our development, she added.
What might this mean to leading universities semi-slumbering on in the western world and dreaming that their flow of foreign students will go on forever? How well will they cope with a determined new boy on the block, and how willingly will they embrace (or how strongly will they resist) China’s vision of becoming the world education hub?