W5- NYU Academic Freedom in China

Branch campuses have always been an area of interest to me because it is a clear and physical indication of globalization and how our world is becoming more “flat”, as Friedman would say. I thought it was amazing that students could receive a higher education at an American institution without coming to the United States. Of course, there are financial issues when opening anything in another country; however, one aspect I did not really think about was the academic freedom differences. As the OECD report on internationalization policies suggests, institutions that pan on establishing branch campuses should consider the “political, legal and cultural environment of the offshore campus” and how it may or may not match the institution’s own environment. A case, like NYU’s Shanghai campus, really highlights this point.

Last fall, I read an article about NYU’s Shanghai campus and how the institution is an island of academic freedom and expression in the midst of China’s long-standing national censorship policies and how this impacts students. As critics note in the article “how can universities that prize open inquiry as a fundamental tenet find a home in an authoritarian country without compromising its views?”. The Chinese government has had a long-standing tradition in censorship and denying the freedom of speech to its people for many years.  Websites like YouTube and Facebook are blocked; and terms that allude to the June 4th,1989 Tiananmen Square protests are censored from the public eye.  But, students who attend the NYU Shanghai Campus are able to freely browse the web, as if they were in United States. So, Chinese students, who grew up in a censored society, are being exposed to this information now and are encouraged to be critical about the Chinese government in a public setting.Students that were being interviewed in this article talked about the cultural and political conflicts and isolation they faced when they left the campus and went home. One student said he felt like he lived in “two worlds”: one where he can express his critical political views and one where he must hold his tongue. In relating back to the Dobbins et al. reading we also had, China must have had a market-oriented approach to higher education because it invited NYU to Shanghai and hopes that the school will create graduates that can stimulate the economy. It is clear that these intentions are market-based and economic rather than political.

It is really interesting how the authoritarian chinese government allowed NYU to make its home in Shanghai. It will be even more interesting to see how this campus and most likely many other American campuses can change the political and cultural environment of China in the future. Recently, China has made its internet censorship policies stricter rather than loosen its grip. So it is interesting to see how this dynamic will play out in the future.

W4- Private Funding of International Higher Ed.

International higher education re-emerged on the national policy platform during the Obama administration. As noted in the ACE report on national policies and initiatives, President Obama announced an initiative in 2009 that will encourage 100,000 US students to study abroad in China and to learn Mandarin by 2014. In 2013, the 100K Strong Foundation was created as an independent non-profit by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to oversee this initiative. Not only has the initiative achieved its goal of sending 100,000 students to study in China in the Summer of 2014, but President Obama has announced a new goal of sending 1 million students to study abroad in China by 2020 during a state visit with President Xi this past September. Travis Tanner, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of the 100K Strong Foundation comments “create a pipeline of China-savvy employees in a range of fields…ensure our trade relationship with China continues to benefit the American economy and that the future generation of American entrepreneurs, business owners, journalists, engineers, scientists, doctors, as well as government officials at both the national and state levels, understand China”. The focal motivation of this initiative is train the next generation in helping to build better trade relations with China in the future. This motivation is even more clear when looking at the Foundation’s supporters. Wal-Mart, Ford, Coca Cola, WanXiang Group(US-based company specializing in auto parts) and Caterpillar(specializing in construction vehicles) are all major trading partners with China, and would hope to benefit the most if the next generation of workers are equipped with Mandarin proficiency and chinese cultural appreciation.


There is no doubt that financing international higher education initiatives are expensive. Policies and programs that especially support students mobility require massive amounts of funding to subsidize the scholarships and financial incentives that attract students to these programs. As the report identifies, many of these efforts have been stalled due to the lack of federal funding and congressional support. As the ACE reports mentions, even long-standing programs such as the Fulbright Fellowship has been threatened with federal funding cuts, which could determine the viability of the program.Therefore, initiatives and non-profit organizations are finding other sources of funding for their programs and are not depending of the federal government for funding. As the 100K Strong Foundation did, corporations became private supporters of the foundation. Sources like Foreign Policy question the intentions of China and its supporting companies in subsidizing these initiatives because China might be receiving political favors in return. However, I hope that private international corporations continue to support international higher education because ultimately, these students will help to make their workforce and company better in the future where both the US and China will mutually benefit.  

W3: China, China, and more China

We’ve spent the last few weeks discussing the different motivations behind why countries pursue internationalization in higher education. These motivations range from economic to diplomatic concerns — and everything else in between. Because I live and work in the United States and have a particular interest in U.S. history and politics, I have found myself always relating internationalization back to the U.S. — what are we doing well, versus the (many) things we need to work on. This week, in both the reading and in my professional life, I have been particularly interested in China’s strategies for internationalization in higher education. I will first discuss what I found interesting in this week’s readings and then I will explain what piqued my interest about China this week at work.

In this week’s reading, I was particularly interested in learning about China’s Confucius Institute in Africa, which began in 2000 and has “resulted in an increased number of Chinese government grants for African students in 2012, the establishment of 100 joint research and development projects, and the strengthening of the teaching of the Chinese language in Africa” (American Council on Education, 2015 pp. 47). Reading this, I immediately wondered if this huge investment in higher education in Africa is a way to increase the ROI of China’s economic investment in African countries; according to The Economist“China has become by far Africa’s biggest trading partner, exchanging about $160 billion-worth of goods a year; more than 1m Chinese, most of them labourers and traders, have moved to the continent in the past decade.”

A report from Peter Kragelund, a Professor of Sociology at Roskilde University in Denmark seems to back up my initial inkling. Kragelund’s paper “sets out to explore the extent to which this collaboration resembles a new type of South- South collaboration in higher education or rather resembles soft power initiatives of the Africa’s ‘traditional’ partners” (Kragelund, 2014, pp. 2). By South-South collaboration, he is referring to political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental collaboration between what are often referred to as “developing countries”, whereas “traditional partners” refers to relationships between developing countries and Western countries, which have historically had colonial or neocolonial undertones. Kragelund states that the history of higher education in Africa “is also the history of external support, academic partnerships and adherence to Western standards that either directly or indirectly have shaped the particular outcome of the present‐day universities in Africa” (Kragelund, 2014, pp. 3).

Kragelund ultimately concludes that the Confucius Institute more closely resembles the “traditional” Western types of partnerships, “i.e. partnerships dictated by the external partner exhibiting highly uneven power relations, and not necessarily in line with the vision and strategy of UNZA [University of Zambia, which he specifically studied]”. (Kragelund, 2014, pp. 15). Like all other countries who are internationalizing in higher education, China is mainly concerned with promoting its own interests. Given its economic investment in Africa, it makes sense that it would also seek to increase its cultural investment through the Confucius Institute.

On the professional front, this week I learned about Schwarzman Scholars, a scholarship program “created to respond to the geopolitical landscape of the 21st Century”, which funds a 1-year Master’s program in Public Policy, Economics and Business, or International Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This program is brand new — its inaugural class was just selected and will begin classes in August of 2016. According to a recruiter for the program who spoke at Roosevelt House last week, around half of the inaugural class is American, a quarter are Chinese, and a quarter come from other countries. Classes will be held at Schwarzman College, which is a residential college within Tsinghua University.

I am particularly interested in the structure of the program — a new college solely dedicated to this particular program within an established university. Going off of this week’s readings, “to offer formal degree programs in China, a foreign university must establish a joint legal entity with a Chinese partner institution. Such programs must be approved by the Ministry of Education and subsequently operate under the ministry’s supervision” (American Council on Education, 2015 pp. 41). As it stands, independent foreign institutions cannot have nonprofit status and cannot grant degrees, which, I imagine, is why the program is hosted at a U.S.-built residential college within Tsinghua University.

With China playing an increasingly important role in global affairs, it makes sense that the scope and ambition of its higher education internationalization efforts will continue to increase.