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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Much ado about Nanjing

    There’s been a lot of buzz about the UA’s latest international venture – an agreement to provide “”academic services”” to China’s Nanjing International University. The UA’s communications office described the deal as a “”landmark agreement,”” and UA President Robert Shelton called it a “”tremendous opportunity”” that “”really is unique.””

    With all the hullabaloo, students looking for a spot abroad to spend the summer are no doubt eager to check out UA’s new program. But they may want to cool their jets: Nanjing International University hasn’t even been built yet.

    It may seem crazy for the UA to jump into the hyperactive higher-ed market in China, but this new agreement is an excellent step towards building a global presence, at a time when international experience is more important than ever for undergraduate students.

    Opportunities for UA students to study abroad are ever growing, thanks to active recruitment by the UA to create international partnerships with other universities. But our new Nanjing agreement goes beyond the short-term exchange of students. The university-to-university memorandum encourages more collaboration and partnership in developing academic programs and services and recruiting potential graduate students.

    The collaboration also allows NIU students to gain UA degrees while studying in Nanjing. The inspiration may be largely academic, but the architects of the partnership readily admit the financial incentives for a UA-NIU collaboration. Not only will the UA receive tuition from NIU students achieving UA degrees, but the UA will tap into the burgeoning Chinese market for minds as well. That’s a winning situation for a university with a strong research mission facing an uncertain fiscal future.

    But the UA isn’t the only university getting a foot in the door in the Far East. Over the last several years, the number of U.S. higher-education ventures in China has exploded as universities scramble for a piece of the nation’s enormous demand for higher education. Some estimate that China will need at least 800 new colleges in order to educate the millions of students expecting to enter college over the next several years – and American universities want a piece of the action. Rightfully so: The UA’s agreement with NIU has the potential to be an excellent arrangement for the university.

    Although the UA isn’t necessarily breaking ground by expanding abroad, the choice of China is a good one. According to Henry Tsang, a UA alumnus who has spearheaded many of the university’s efforts in China, “”If all goes well, UA is in a position to leapfrog other universities in terms of being a gateway to China.”” With China representing one in every six people on the planet, the UA and Tucson could benefit enormously from an international relationship.

    Not only does the latest move highlight the UA’s strength as an institution ready to compete with much richer American universities in the jostle to garner the most global footholds, but it also promises to attract academic talent, research grants and other funds which will reap rewards for the campus.

    All of that is in addition to the individual returns to students and faculty to work and study in China. Cross-cultural and academic exchange in a complex and rapidly growing environment like China is surely to provide Wildcats and faculty a competitive edge in research and the job market.

    Nanjing International University could be a stellar resource for the UA – at least, as soon as they finish building it.

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