Higher education gets biggest gift in China’s history

A sod-turning ceremony at Tsinghua University in Beijing last Thursday marked the future location of Schwarzman College, a state-of-the-art residential institute designed specifically for the new Schwarzman Scholars programme. The event was recorded as the largest ever internationally funded philanthropic effort in China’s history.

Philanthropist Stephen A Schwarzman – chair, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, an alternative asset management company – said at the ceremony that US$260 million (¥1.6 billion) had been raised for Schwarzman Scholars, the elite international scholarship programme announced in April this year.

The programme was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship, and designed for a 21st century world that will require future world leaders to have a deeper understanding of China, according to a press statement.

The scholars will be housed at Tsinghua University, one of China’s oldest and most respected institutions, which among other things is dedicated to interaction between Chinese and Western cultures.

Schwarzman personally contributed US$100 million and is spearheading a campaign to raise an additional US$200 million from private sources to endow the scholarship programme in perpetuity.

This will support 200 scholars annually, mostly from America but also from China and around the world, for a one-year masters at Tsinghua University in one of the following disciplines: public policy, international relations, economics and business and, later, engineering.

It is hoped that construction of Schwarzman College will be completed in the spring of 2016, although admissions will open in 2015.

Selected students will live in Beijing for the year of study and cultural immersion, attending lectures, travelling and developing a better understanding of China.

Schwarzman announced in April that the programme would be founded and endowed with US$300 million, making it the largest charitable effort in China’s history, with funds coming largely from outside the country.

Within 12 months he has almost attained that goal, with US$260 million raised for start-up expenses, construction costs and to endow the programme.

This includes Schwarzman’s US$100 million personal gift and US$100 million in pledged funding from private donors announced in April. He and Tsinghua University have succeeded in raising another US$60 million in pledged funding over the past six months.

“Breaking ground on Schwarzman College and surpassing our fundraising expectations is an important milestone and speaks volumes about the positive international response to the programme,” he said. “The steps we have taken over the past six months have set Schwarzman Scholars on a sound footing figuratively, financially and programmatically.

“My vision for these students is to help educate a future class of leaders who will advance relationships of mutual respect between the West and China, reducing tensions and leading to a new era of mutual prosperity.”