Statecraft for transferring business knowledge from Europe to China

While we are on the topic of Europe-China higher education linkages this week, the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai announced, on 30 November, that it was receiving €10.1 million from the European Union (EU) to support a “Europe-China Business Management Training Project”. The Shanghai Municipal Government is also providing “substantial funding in support of this project”. In its broadest sense the initiative “will bring a number of new developments to CEIBS, focusing on the central goal of transferring high level, practically-oriented business knowledge from the EU to China”.

CEIBS was established in 1994 at the height of the rapid changes in Shanghai’s economic landscape, and concurrent changes in the development of the EU’s relations with East Asia, especially China. CEIBS is now regarded as one of ‘Asia’s’ leading business schools, though it is actually a not-for-profit joint venture established by the European Commission and the PRC Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC), with funding and other forms of contributions from the Shanghai Municipal Government, the EU, Shanghai Jiaotong University, and the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD). Further details on CEIBS are available here.

euasia.jpgThis funding announcement has to be viewed in the context of the European Commission’s Asia Regional Strategy (2007-2013), which focuses on three “priority areas:

1) Support to Regional Integration, the key dialogue partners for the EU being Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN regional forum (ARF) and South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC).

2) Policy and Know-How based Cooperation in:
(i) Environment, Energy and Climate Change, through Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP-Asia) and the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme;
(ii) Higher Education and Support to Research Institutes;
(iii) Cross-border Cooperation in Animal and Human Health;

3) Support to Uprooted People.

The EU notes that €5.187 billion has been dedicated to fund this strategy for the 2007-2013 period.

A country-specific strategy (EU-China: Closer partners, growing responsibilities) for China is even more relevant with respect to this particular funding announcement. As the November 2006 strategy document puts it:

  • Education has been an area of particular success, with 170 000 Chinese students studying in the EU in 2005. We should continue to build on existing co-operation through programmes run by individual Member States and through the China-specific strand of the Erasmus Mundus programme. There have been positive examples of work to set up joint degree courses and joint campuses. We should also implement specific projects such as a European Law School. Both sides will continue to encourage EU students to study in China. To strengthen language capability, the Commission will support a specific programme to train Chinese language teachers to teach in Europe.
  • Academic expertise in the EU on China needs to be improved and co-ordinated more effectively. Action is needed by both sides to support effective interaction between European and Chinese academia. The Commission should continue to support an academic network on China, drawing together academic expertise to inform EU policy and coordinating information-sharing within the academic community; and there should be a small number of prestigious professorships on Chinese studies created and made available to European universities. There should be a permanent regular dialogue between European and Chinese think tanks.

This strategy then needs to be linked to key events such as the 10th China-EU Summit (held on 28 November 2007).

This is yet another example of the articulation of state agendas regarding higher education as ‘soft power’, ‘capacity builder’, and development mechanism. Through initiatives like this inter-regional networks are being built with the aim of propelling multi-scalar development processes. One can detect, however, that it is the amorphous regional (in Europe) and the more specific skilled labour/Shanghai/national (in China) scales that are being differentially prioritized.

Kris Olds

Freefall in the Australian higher education market?

Today’s report by Geoff Maslen for the University World News (9th December) – on whether the Australia’s A$11 billion a year education export market is facing a potentially catastrophic fall – must have Australian politicians and university managers shaking in their boots. The figures, it seems, are in something of a free-fall….and any spinning out of control is likely to leave a pretty large hole in the economy. As Maslen notes:

Foreign students now contribute $2.4 billion a year to university coffers. Yet the flow of new students arriving in Australia to undertake university courses has plummeted from double digit increases in the early 2000s to low single-digit increases.

In the first years to 2007, the number of overseas students undertaking university award courses on campuses in Australia jumped by more than 50% to hit 175,000 for the first time. But, over that period, annual enrolment growth fell successively from 17% to 12% to 8% and this year it is down to less than 4%.

Maslen goes on to suggest that a major reason contributing to the fall is the change in the visa processes tied to the skilled migration program. Large numbers of students come to Australia from India and China with the express purpose of gaining permanent residency once they have completed their studies. However, it seems that employers have been complaining about the poor levels of English competence amongst these students, making them unsuitable for much more than casual work. As a result, students who apply to stay on will face stricter tests of their English language competence following completion of their studies and as part of their application for permanent residence.

Maslen may well be right here. However, GlobalHigherEd can’t help but think that this isn’t  the major reason, especially as it is referring to students applying to stay on once they have completed studies, rather than those who are planning to come in the first place and who may at this point feel a lot more confident about their ability to learn and use English.

What surely must also be an important factor in this mix is the growing levels of competitiveness from those who were once smaller players in the education export business – countries like France and Germany – for example, who are now regarded as potentially desirable destinations given a move toward English language instruction at the graduate level and with lower fees and moderate living costs and who are wooing Chinese students.

The USA, too, has had time to reflect on its own position, and is now reporting an increase in overseas student numbers following the post Sept 11 period when things were definitely heading in the wrong direction. US higher education institutions have invested in people and new processes in an attempt to turn around the decline in numbers and it seems that, at least for some institutions, this is paying off.

Finally, relative currency exchange trends are clearly not moving in Australia’s favour in comparison to the country’s competitors, especially the US.

What is clear is that, once in the game, there is absolutely no room for complacency – or the outcomes are potentially catastrophic, not only for the economy but for the institutions most directly affected.

Susan Robertson

The University of Nottingham’s Vice-Chancellor responds to Agora report

Editor’s note: this official response to the Agora report we briefly profiled on 7 December was submitted to GlobalHigherEd today by Professor Sir Colin Campbell, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Nottingham.


Higher education news outlets reporting the conclusions of the think tank ‘Agora have mostly given an account of a handful of parochial views. The conclusions attributed to those quoted are at odds with many distinguished colleagues working in science and engineering across British universities, and also with the United Kingdom’s Research Councils.

unningbo.jpgProfessor Ian Gow, who received an OBE in recognition of his considerable efforts to help us establish a world first – the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (pictured to the left) – could have been reported out of context, but his views as published were unwarrantedly defensive. The manner in which they were presented does little justice to his previous achievement as Foundation Provost at our award-winning and successful China campus.

icuk.jpgProfessor Gow, a social scientist, and the other contributors to the Agora think tank paper which you reported unchallenged, can be reassured that individual UK research councils, as well as RCUK, and the European Union, are fostering collaborative research with China across medicine, science and engineering. They regard it as an important development in their thinking and their funding programmes. Recently a consortium of British universities including Nottingham, King’s College London and Southampton, and more than twenty universities in China, agreed to pool their expertise in order to bring joint innovation to the worldwide marketplace. Innovation China-UK is now supporting academic and business partners in funding proof-of-concept research, and in commercialising intellectual property.

The University of Nottingham has, for several years, been undertaking tripartite plant genetics work with two distinguished Chinese institutions, Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Amongst our shared goals are combining the experience of all three universities in plant genetics. Happily, the venture is also promoting joint applications for international funding, and it is providing exciting training and exchange opportunities for research students and staff in both nations. This is just one example from a vast range across the sciences. It is extremely difficult to decipher in it, and countless research projects like it, any kind of ‘threat’ to British scholarship or to the UK economy, and fortunately the UK Research Councils and the British government agree.

Globalisation means that our country cannot “stay at home”. Nor, to quote Professor Michael Shattock (with perhaps the most depressing view to have emerged from Agora’s exercise) can UK universities “stick to their knitting”. Professor Gow, claimed your article, ‘called British institutions “incredibly naïve” for handing over their research in key disciplines to get a foothold in China.’ In fact, he was cautioning ’emerging’ joint ventures, and not those already well established, but little matter. Leading international universities are very carefully managing the risks involved in any overseas venture, in order to expand their sphere of influence. Research, like student exchanges with China, has to be two-way in order to be sustainable. The “win-win” situation we are being urged in undeservedly panicked tones to “engineer” is in fact already underway, on a fair and reciprocal basis, and it is flourishing. We have huge confidence that the world will be better for it.

Professor Sir Colin Campbell is Vice-Chancellor of The University of Nottingham

To link or not to link? On linkages between Western and Chinese universities

danielbell.jpgEditor’s note: this guest entry has been kindly prepared by Daniel A. Bell, Professor of Philosophy, Tsinghua University, Beijing, PRC. Daniel (pictured to the left) is the author or editor of numerous books including Communitarianism and Its Critics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), East Meets West (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), Confucian Political Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006) and Ethics in Action (New York: Cambridge University Press; United Nations University Press, 2006). He has worked in the PRC, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore, and the USA.


Perhaps the most dramatic change in the Chinese higher education system has been the huge increase of students, without a comparable increase in government funding. Hence, many universities now find themselves in the red. And students often find it harder to get good jobs after they graduate, even those from top universities like Beijing University. If this trend continues, at some point it will become less “rational” (from an economic point of view) to get a university degree. I’ve already heard anecdotal evidence of secondary school students being encouraged (by parents and friends) to find jobs rather than sit through the grueling national examinations for university spots. But I’ve been asked to talk about changes related to “the global” so let me focus on the issue of linkages with Western universities. What I say stems more from my experience teaching at Tsinghua University (I’m hired on local terms to teach political philosophy) rather than from systematic research on the topic.

One clear trend is the effort by Western universities to forge linkages, formal and otherwise, with Chinese universities, especially prestigious universities in Beijing and Shanghai. An administrator friend at Tsinghua tells me he is flooded with such requests and can accommodate only a small percentage of them. The situation at Beijing University is similar and I’ve heard that requests from not-so-famous Western universities are arrogantly rebuffed. Western universities that have yet to enter the market should therefore consider linkages with Chinese universities outside the main cities. The differences in academic quality may not be all that great and there may be higher levels of enthusiasm and cooperation among such universities.

I’ve also heard one important complaint from the Chinese side. When universities such as Stanford and Harvard seek to implement “learning in China” programs, they often insist on bringing in their own professors in the name of “quality control”. One wonders if it’s really worth the effort (and expense) to bring students over to China so that they will be taught by the same professors they’d have at home. And sometimes, what goes in the “quality control” may in fact stem from different understandings of “responsible teaching”. In a Western university, the teacher is supposed to prepare a detailed syllabus, with the topics and readings for each lecture decided at the beginning of term. Few Chinese professors prepare such syllabi and thus they would fail the test of Western-style “quality control”. But the main reason for “vague” Chinese syllabi is that lectures – especially at the graduate level — tend to be more informal, with the ebb and flow of discussion influencing the following week’s topics. Rather than insist on conformity to Western-style norms, it seems to me that Western universities should encourage their students to be exposed to different learning experiences.

Let me say something about academic freedom in Chinese universities, which has been source of worry for Western universities that seek linkages in the humanities and the social sciences. In my experience – and I teach in a sensitive area — classroom discussion has been unexpectedly free and uninhibited. I’ve rarely experienced the fear that seems to grip students in Singapore when the discussion veers towards critical evaluation of the government leaders and policies (I taught in Singapore in the early 1990s and things may have improved since then). Of course, there are some constraints in China – it would not be wise to engage in prolonged and emotional discussion of the events of June 4th, 1989 – but even these constraints tend to disappear during the course of the term, as trust develops between teacher and students. I do not mean to imply that academic freedom should be limited to the classroom – those of us working in China often experience the severe and seemingly arbitrary constraints on publication of our research. But Western universities that seek alternative learning experiences for their students need not worry too much about such constraints.

Daniel A. Bell

Analyzing and participating in the race for global dominance of science & technology/research & development

The National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States is one of the institutions that is intensely involved in mapping out the changing global geographies of investment in science and technology (S&T), and in research and development (R&D). Interest in these themes is to be expected: the NSF was, after all, created (in 1950) “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…“.

Times have changed since 1950, of course, and both S&T and R&D now need to be increasingly analyzed at a global scale, with new ‘challengers’ to US hegemony, but also new research practices that stretch the knowledge production process out across global space. See our recent entries, for example, on the dependence of the US intellectual property regime on an open immigration system, our entry titled ‘Battling for market share 1: the ‘Major Players’ and international student mobility’, our entry about the dependence of key (read geoeconomically important) fields of study in the UK higher education system on foreign students, and numerous graphic feeds we have been creating (e.g., the Rand Corporation’s “research footprints” of US “competitors” in science and technology).

Making sense of both structural change, policy change in the West (in the jostling for ‘market share’), and the ways in which Asia is framed (in a socioeconomic imaginary sense) by both the US and Europe, is an important task for anyone interested in the global higher ed scene. One of the starting points to do so is the NSF’s Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS). Their most recent report is Asia’s Rising Science and Technology Strength: Comparative Indicators for Asia, the European Union, and the United States (August 2007), from which these graphics are taken.


As the press release to the report puts it:

Heavy investments in science and technology during the 1990s by some Asian nations are paying notable economic dividends in high-tech areas important to the United States, according to a recently released report by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Since the mid-1990, Asia’s national investment in research and development (R&D) as a share of the total value of goods and services produced grew faster than in the United States or the European Union, according to NSF’s Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS), titled Asia’s Rising Science and Technology Strength.

Asia’s R&D activity may have surpassed the European Union in 2002, and by 2003, was nearly 10 percent greater. According to these data, in 2003, Asia’s R&D investment may have been as much as 80 percent that of the United States, largely reflecting Chinese growth. While precise comparisons are technically problematical, there is little doubt about China’s rapid advancement into the group of leading R&D nations.

“There are a number of reasons the findings are important to the United States,” said Lawrence Rausch, SRS senior analyst and project director. “Improved science and technological capacity in Asian countries create new market opportunities for U.S. business. In addition, it can lead to new opportunities for U.S. researchers and businesses to collaborate overseas.”


The report, which is well worth reading, is both an analytical document, but also a document designed to help push US policy-makers and politicians to become both more concerned about rising knowledge production capacity in Asia (especially China), and at the same time in a direction that might enhance S&T/R&D linkages with Asia (including China, and countries with strong ties to China). One example of the linkage drive is the NSF’s relatively new East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. Graduate Students (EAPSI) initiative.

It is any wonder then that the UK is also pushing in the same direction, though in a less analytical sense for a range of reasons. For example the UK has been supporting the establishment of institutional linkages via the establishment of university campuses in Asia, visiting scholar programmes (e.g., the British Academy/ESRC Chinese Visiting Fellowships), and now with respect to greater institutional representation in Asia. On October 30 Research Councils UK, for example, announced the establishment of their first office outside of Europe. The RCUK Office in China has three “strategic tasks”:

  • to improve knowledge about each country’s research systems and strengths, via a dedicated website;
  • to identify the scope for closer cooperation between the UK Research Councils and the Chinese research support agencies; and
  • to develop a programme of activities aimed at lowering the barriers to international research collaboration.


This development should be situated in the formal international strategy that Research Councils UK published in July 2007.

GlobalHigherEd will be tracking these developments over time. For the time being, though, readers of our blog are advised to bookmark these NSF Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS) sites (some of which have RSS feed functions) for they demonstrate the better analytical capacity of US agencies versus those in the UK as we seek to shed more light on the competition taking place on the global higher ed landscape, especially with respect to Asia:

Kris Olds

World Bank Report says that China can enhance competitiveness through lifelong learning

It is worth looking at the World Bank’s recent report Enhancing China’s Competitiveness Through Lifelong Learning by World Bank experts Dahlman, Zeng and Wang for several reasons. Like all powerful signifiers, the idea of ‘lifelong learning’ has a ‘feel-good’ ring about it. Who can be against learning, or learning over a lifetime? Any model that makes what is now a rather disjointed system more accessible, equitable and enjoyable–even if our learning is in the service of making the nation more competitive–should be looked at more closely. China is no exception here.

GlobalHigherEd can report that the WB Report is advancing is a very particular model for life-long learning in China. The key ideas are these are:

  • Get more of the population into some form of basic and ongoing education and training
  • Let the market drive the changes, with much more private provision of education
  • New ‘transparent’ information systems for the market to operate more effectively and for parents to make choices about education
  • Embrace standardised international tests of quality, including IALS, TIMMS and PISA
  • Quality assurance mechanisms coordinated by the state
  • New pedagogical models that promote ‘learning how to learn’
  • A stronger and more efficient loan system for students in the higher education sector
  • Harnessing the potential of distance education

In moving the report forward, the World Bank concludes:

The challenges of building China’s lifelong learning system are immense; however, so are the opportunities of drawing on the experience of other countries, and on the potential of new pedagogical techniques, new information technologies, and new providers.

Why, then, if the challenge is to draw on the experience of other models, is the World Bank model so singularly neo-liberal in its approach – markets, information, choice, loans and so on? It is a ‘one size fits all’ model that the Bank have been trying to promote in developing countries that are very diverse from each other.  Maybe the answer to ‘why this model’ lies in the fact that China is regarded as a potential huge market for investment. This includes education as a billion dollar business and a new global industry. In ‘setting the rules of the game’ – as the Bank summary states it is trying to do – it should be seen as setting the rules in the interests of private firms and western centred economies.


An 86 minute long World Bank video on themes contained in the report is available here. It was recorded on 17 September 2007.

Battling for market share 4: China as an ‘Emerging Contender’ for internationally mobile students

This week GlobalHigherEd has been running a series of in-depth reports on the battle for market share of higher education. Our reports draw from a major study released last week by the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) on International Student Mobility: Patterns and Trends. The Observatory report identifies four categories: (1) Major Players; (2) Middle Powers; (3) Evolving Destinations and (4) Emerging Contenders.

Today we look at the fourth category – ‘Emerging Contenders’.

China, Singapore and Malaysia are viewed as emerging contenders each having 7%, 2% and 2% respectively of global market share. Between them, these 3 have 12% (around 250,000-300,000 students) of global market share (compared with 45% for the Major Players, 20% for the Middle Powers, and 13% for the Evolving Destinations). The reason for the OBHE report locating these 3 countries into this category is that:

  • they have all taken active measures to recruit overseas students
  • they have all increased their competitiveness over the past couple of years
  • all three have allocated resources to become ‘world class’ institutions over the next decade
  • changing mobility patterns suggest that they are having some success in getting some market share
  • all three are using more English as the language of instruction, making them more attractive to students
  • all have relatively low fees, and hence are a potentially attractive alternative to the US, UK and Australia


Shanghai in 2002 (courtesy of Henry Wai-chung Yeung)

China has 7% of global market share (pretty impressive, given its new arrival status – and compared to the US which has 22%). In 1999, less than 45,000 foreign students were enrolled in Chinese universities. In 2005, it was more than 140,000. The largest majority come from South Korea (25%) and Japan (20%) while Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are also source countries. More significantly, there are students also coming from the US ( in year abroad programs) and Russia. It would appear that international students see some part of their education in China being a strategic investment. This could be enhanced if China engages with the Bologna Process – at present for its own internal restructuring purposes – but it might also make it a more attractive destination for European students, as well as vice versa.

Singapore has 2% of market share. In 2005, 66,000 foreign students were enrolled. While historically Singapore higher education enrolled students from around the region, its recent Singapore Global Schoolhouse strategy has meant that it has sought to recruit students globally. The OBHE in their report noted:

It is Singapore’s demography that makes it an especially attractive destination for international students, especially those coming from Asia and the South Pacific. With a population consisting of ethnic Indias, Malays and Chinese, Singapore has the capacity to provide regional students with a ‘Western’ education in a familiar socio-cultural environment.

However, recent developments in Singapore, most notably the withdrawal of the University of New South Wales Asia campus from Singapore, suggests that there is considerable volatility in the market, and one that might make future investors and students somewhat cautious.

Malaysia has 2% of global market share – like Singapore. Traditionally its international students have come from around the region – with Chinese students accounting for around 35%. However, over the past decade, Malaysia has tried not only to invest in its own institutions and dissuade its own nationals from leaving, but it has managed to make some inroads in on the Middle East – a fast growing region with ambitions of its own. It has also set up a campus in Gaborone, Botswana – in order to create a bridge into the African region.

While highly ambitious, the OBHE reports that:

…bureaucratic difficulties are arguably impeding Malaysia’s competitive progress in the global education market….[this will require] substantial funding toward the development of quality assurance schemes…

All three players – China, Singapore and Malaysia – should be regarded as serious emerging contenders in the global higher education market, not only because of their potential attractiveness (for instance fees, living costs, language of instruction) but also because, historically, they have been major sending countries. If each of these contenders is able to generate a sufficiently attractive environment to keep their own nationals at home, as well as entice foreign fee-payers, this will surely create a major headache for countries (such as the UK with Malaysian students) who have depended on these students for their own growth.

Susan Robertson