Rhode Island’s Bryant University has been cultivating a relationship with China for 15 years through study-abroad and exchange programs, as well as the establishment on campus of the US-China Institute and a Confucius Institute Chinese language and culture program.
Now, the small, private university is heading into a rare collaboration with the Beijing Institute of Technology in Zhuhai, China. It will be the fourth US-China academic joint venture of its kind, following those involving New York University, Duke University and New Jersey’s Kean University.
“This is the logical next step to build a bridge between China and the US with an educational institution in China,” said Bryant University President Ronald Machtley.
On Sunday, at the president’s residence in Smithfield, Machtley, along with Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and US Senator Jack Reed, welcomed Hao Ping, a Chinese vice-minister of education; other Chinese officials to discuss the process of building a cooperative program and moving the joint venture forward.
Bryant University Zhuhai would recruit students from the United States, China and Southeast Asia to study business and earn a US bachelor of science and business administration degree from Bryant.
“As any new startup university, a challenge will be that we get high-quality faculty and a good curriculum blend because we hope most courses will be taught in English,” Machtley said.
Machtley believes the size of Bryant’s enrollment – about 3,300 students – will make it relatively easy to cooperate with the Beijing Institute of Technology in Zhuhai.
“We’re very nimble as a smaller organization,” he said. “We have excellent partners who agree with us on how to go about this joint venture.” Because he has been visiting China at least once a year for over a decade, the university president has been able to establish network in the country. Bryant University Zhuhai will be funded by private partners abroad.
“We have found a great similarity in hope and expectation with the investors,” Machtley said. “The expectation is that Zhuhai is going to be a knowledge district, so we want to be one of the early schools to set up a facility there.”
Zhuhai is one of China’s special economic zones established in the 1980s and a top tourist destination known as the Chinese Riviera. China is in the process of building a 27-kilometer causeway linking Hong Kong to Zhuhai that’s projected for completion in 2015.
“I expect we’ll be the destination place for many business students from other schools in the US who want to go to an accredited US institution in China,” Machtley said.
The Zhuhai campus will open its first academic program this fall in September, upon receiving needed approvals from Chinese authorities and Bryant’s accrediting associations. Further growth will depend on demand and the ability to maintain academic quality.
The university president believes that establishing a joint venture of this magnitude in China requires commitment.
“You’ve got to think about this as a long-term strategy, not as a simple, quick run to China to set up a school. This could be a big step for us, the US and for China, as we begin to integrate our cultures and our education.”