Monash first in country to break into China’s university market

Following months of tortuous negotiations with Ministry of Education officials in Beijing, Melbourne-based Monash University is to open a graduate school near Shanghai with Southeast University.

Monash is the first Australian university to be granted a licence to operate a campus in China.

According to a Monash media release, the new campus will start offering advanced postgraduate education later this year, with 350 masters students and 150 PhD candidates being added each year, building to a capacity of more than 1,400 by 2017. Students will graduate with degrees from Southeast University and Monash.

Monash Vice-chancellor Professor Ed Byrne had flagged establishment of the postgraduate school with University World News a year ago. But he asked that details not be published until the Ministry of Education had endorsed the plan.

To be known as the Southeast University-Monash University Joint Graduate School (or Suzhou for short, as the new campus is to be located in Suzhou near Shanghai), the institution will run courses in a range of disciplines.

These include nanotechnology, biomedicine, environmental science, transportation, industrial design, economics, and software, thermal and mechanical engineering.

Byrne said the partnership with China was the next step for “a globally engaged university”. Monash is Australia's largest university and has six campuses around Melbourne as well as international campuses in Malaysia and South Africa, and research centres in India and Italy.

“This is an exciting development for both Monash and Southeast University. The partnership allows us to prepare students to be international citizens, equipped to meet the rigours of a workforce in transition,” Byrne said.

“China has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with an impressive record of innovation. This makes it an ideal location for a progressive university such as Monash.”

Britain’s University of Nottingham claimed to be the first foreign university to establish an independent campus in China when it opened its Ningbo Campus in 2005 in the historic city of that name on China's eastern coast close to Shanghai. It was developed in partnership with the Wanli Education Group.

In a report in January, University World News Asia editor Yojana Sharma wrote that China was reviewing international branch campuses and foreign higher education providers as part of a comprehensive evaluation of joint Sino-foreign university programmes.

The evaluation was to prepare clearer guidelines for foreign universities regarding the type of partnerships China was willing to support.

The Ministry of Education listed the number of Sino-foreign education programmes at around 1,200 while the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education said in a report at the time that the number of international branch campuses in China had increased from 10 to 17 between 2009 and 2011, with at least seven more being planned – five from the US and two from the UK.

A number of new foreign joint programmes took place last year, including New York University’s campus in Shanghai in partnership with East China Normal University, and Lancaster University in the UK linking with Guangdong University of Foreign Studies to set up a new campus in Guangzhou called Guanwai-Lancaster University.

Sharma wrote that the University of California, Berkeley, had signed a deal last year with Shanghai to establish a university in the city while a joint campus was to be run by Kean University from New Jersey in the US and the government of Wenzhou in Eastern Zhejiang province. Although approved by the municipal and provincial governments in 2006, the latter project had taken a further four years to secure ministry approval.

“Despite the spate of approvals, according to the ministry more than 70% of the applications for joint Sino-foreign university programmes presented by China’s provinces and cities during 2011 were rejected,” she said.