Monash University has cemented a deal which makes it the first Australian university licensed to operate in China. In partnership with Southeast University, Monash will offer science and engineering master’s degrees to an initial cohort of 2000 mainland Chinese at a new campus near Shanghai.
Visiting Australia to officially sign the agreement last week, Southeast University president Yi Hong praised Monash’s research credentials and global reach.
“Especially the internationalisation of Monash University, in my personal opinion, is the best in all the Australian universities and also one of the best across the globe,” he told TheAustralian Financial Review.
Monash announced the venture in April following approval from the Chinese Education Ministry for a graduate school, which will be jointly operated with Southeast. The purpose-built school is located adjacent to Southeast’s campus at Suzhou Industrial Park, a research and technology hub developed by the Chinese and Singapore governments.
Monash vice-chancellor Ed Byrne said a fifth of the world’s Fortune 500 companies had a presence in the park, making it “possibly the most exciting innovation campus in the world today”.
“When you stand there for the first time, the amount of investment and activity is almost unbelievable,” he said. “You are standing in the middle of what it must have felt like to be in Silicon valley in the ’70s.”
The graduate school extends Monash’s global footprint. Outside Australia, the university has campuses in Malaysia and South Africa.
It also collaborates with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and earlier this year signed an agreement with Warwick University in the United Kingdom to offer joint degrees and exchange programs aimed at “preparing graduates for a globalised labour market”. Professor Byrne said Monash’s international partnerships would help it climb global university rankings.
“Monash is advancing steadily and will end up well in the top 50 universities in the world,” he said.
“Our major strategic accelerators are our close partnership with Southeast University and the new joint campus in China, a smaller but still significant collaboration in India with IIBT in Mumbai, and our strategic collaboration with Warwick University in the UK.”
Universities around the world are eyeing the opportunities presented by China’s massive investment in higher education and research. As the Financial Revierw reported this year, Beijing rejected applications from 10 Australian universities to teach degree courses in China last year. It is excluding partnership proposals that do not fall in line with priority areas for national development.
In 2011, the Chinese Education Ministry blocked 25 applications by Australian universities to teach courses in conjunction with a Chinese partner, the highest number of rejections for any country. Monash’s latest deal has therefore been warmly welcomed.
“This is the culmination of a great deal of effort and I believe the most ambitious single project that Monash University has been involved in for many, many years,” Professor Byrne said.
“I think it’s got the most amazing potential and just having the first licence of this type issued by the Chinese government puts us in a very strong position.”
Southeast is one of the oldest higher education institutions in China, and one of a handful directly administered by the national education ministry. As such, the facilities at Suzhou are being financed by the Chinese government. Professor Byrne said the partnership with Southeast did not involve any undergraduate teaching and Monash had no plans to establish any other large undergraduate campuses overseas.
Monash’s internationalisation strategy had moved well beyond simply recruiting students to Melbourne, he said.
“The major countries that we’re going to be dealing with in the years ahead are China and india, but China in particular, and our interaction with China needs to be at a deep intellectual level through postgraduate education and training, joint development of intellectual property and industry links,” Professor Byrne said.
“They are the types of collaboration that will build the bridges culturally, politically and financially and ensure success between our two countries.”
The graduate school will accept 350 master’s students and 150 PhD candidates a year, building to 2000 over the next few years. Initially, the campus will cater for mainland Chinese but it is likely to open up to students of other nationalities in the future. (The Australian Financial Review)