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International collaboration key to China’s HE, VET strategy

International collaboration is a key pillar in two long-term strategic plans for higher and vocational education in China, which were released by the government last month.

Both roadmaps encourage collaboration with institutions overseas. Beijing Technology and Business University is one of China's HEIs with an existing approved joint programme with University College Cork. Photo: Wikicommons/Mart Kaukonen.

These international collaborations will help to “establish a good brand and image of Chinese universities”, as will improving teaching quality.

A document detailing the World Class University initiative outlines China’s State Council’s plan to boost quality in teaching, research and management at its top universities by as soon as 2020.

It pledges extra funding for leading universities, but unlike previous plans, it does not specify a list of institutions on which resources will be concentrated.

Universities must “create a favourable environment for international education and research in order to attract outstanding non-native teachers and international students”

Instead, funding will be allocated based on institutions’ performance carrying out a number of criteria laid out in the blueprint.

These criteria include strengthening international partnerships with world-class universities and research institutes, and “[creating] a favourable environment for international education and research in order to attract outstanding non-native teachers and high standard international students”, the document states.

These international collaborations will help to “establish a good brand and image of Chinese universities”, it says, as will improving teaching quality.

“[Universities should also] actively take part in the a) formulation of international education rules/regulation, b) international education evaluation and c) international education approval certification in order to increase China’s international competitiveness,” it adds.

According to the blueprint, the first tranche of universities should become first-class by 2020, with more reaching that status by 2030.

By 2050, China will have reached its goal of becoming internationally competitive in terms of the number and quality of top-class universities and disciplines it has to offer, the document says.

The Ministry of Education will begin publishing five-year sub-plans for the initiative beginning next year, it has said, funded by central financial departments of the government, while a third-party body will be appointed to monitor universities’ spending under the programme.

Other steps universities much undertake to qualify for funding include cultivating more innovative and entrepreneurial graduates with critical thinking and applied skills; prioritising the transformation of scientific achievements into industrial output; and providing “ideological guidance” in line with the Communist Party’s ideology.

As well as improving domestic institutions, the World Class University initiative could also benefit well-ranked or reputable institutions overseas that wish to partner with Chinese institutions, according to Kim Morrisson, CEO of Grok Education Services, an education and market entry consultancy company based in Beijing.

“A qualified Chinese partner institution may have access to additional resourcing to support collaboration with a well regarded international peer under the World Class University initiative”

“A qualified Chinese partner institution may have access to additional resourcing to support collaboration with a well regarded international peer under the World Class University initiative, and this may enable different kinds of engagement that more intensively focus on research, academic or student outcomes than student recruitment,” she told The PIE News.

However, she added that western universities that are not as well differentiated are unlikely to benefit, and that the programme may even make it more difficult for these institutions to secure the commitment and interest of qualified Chinese partners.

Encouraging international collaboration is also one among the goals laid out in a three-year Action Plan for the Innovative Development of Tertiary Vocational Education in China.

This institutions will do this by establishing international exchanges and joint programmes with overseas education institutions, as well as partnerships with multinational companies in order to facilitate further exchange, the roadmap says.

One of the plan’s aims is to “extend the international influence of vocational education” in China, through policy dialogue with more developed markets and engaging in research to develop international standards for professional education, as well as strengthening the brand of Chinese VET in order to attract more international students.

Concrete goals outlined in the VET plan include setting up 1,200 joint student training bases between colleges and companies, 200 leading vocational colleges, 500 apprenticeship pilots and 500 technology innovation centres.

It also aims to standardise teaching of VET through a subject structure with some 3,000 main subject areas.

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