China: The phantom menace?
10 Dec 2007

China: The phantom menace?

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on

10 Dec 2007

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a discussion paper, “British Universities in China: The Reality Beyond the Rhetoric,” published this month by Agora, a British organization focused on higher education. Paul Mooney writes in the Chronicle:

Ian Gow, an expert on Asia and former provost of the University of Nottingham at Ningbo, China, expresses similar skepticism toward dealing with that nation. British universities “must stop pussyfooting around this aggressively ambitious country,” he writes.

“Make no mistake: China wants to be the leading power in higher education, and it will extract what it can from the U.K.,” writes Mr. Gow, who now heads the business school at the University of the West of England.

Mr. Gow also describes the challenges of working in China, including finding high-quality staff members, the lack of “enabling regulatory frameworks” for joint ventures with foreign institutions, and partners that are constantly changing their terms.

I have no doubt that China wants to become the preeminent global power in education in 2050. They have the will and the investment capital to build fine institutions. I have doubts that they will achieve it, however. Their strategy to import technologies and ideas from abroad is somewhat flawed. Rather than piggybacking on ideas generated elsewhere, should they not instead leapfrog the competition to create knowledge spaces that are both indigenous and world-class in quality?

Perhaps non-Chinese universities need to assert themselves better and renegotiate their terms of cooperation with Chinese institutions. But, does this need to be a priority? If China is in a state of continuous catch-up with their foreign competition, what harm is there in collaboration?

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