<%-- Page Title--%> Education <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 152 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 30, 2004

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China's Latest Offer of Friendsship: Higher Education

Aasha Mehreen Amin

China is one country that the world is watching with awe and sometimes trepidation. With a population of over a billion people and a physical size of 9,600.000 square kilometres, any statistic that comes out of this country, tends to be phenomenal. It is one of the fastest growing countries in the world with a growth rate of around 10 percent. One of the many major breakthroughs this country has achieved is its remarkable development in higher education. China has over 2000 universities and colleges with more than a million enrolments in total. This includes a large number of foreign students. At present over 300 universities and colleges have foreign students--around 4471 according to a 1999 official estimate-studying at their campuses. A two-day expose titled '2004 China Education Exhibition' in Dhaka on April 15 and 16 brought along quite a few pleasant surprises for Bangladeshi students interested in higher education abroad.

The fair, held by the China Scholarship Council, was jointly organised by North South University and the Chinese Embassy here, at the Sheraton Hotel in Dhaka. Twenty top universities of China were represented with colourful booths and English-speaking officials of the respective institutes to answer the questions of the visitors. Among the participating universities were institutes of science and technology, agriculture as well as regular universities offering the conventional range of subjects. The good news for Bangladeshi students is that many of these institutions, while offering programmes at fairly reasonable cost (compared to the US or UK), are also providing substantial scholarships and stipends.

The Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a research institute in basic science and technology and heavily supported by the Chinese government, exclusively caters to post graduate students studying for Masters and Doctoral degrees. It is the biggest graduate school with around 22,400 students and a faculty of over 4,500 professors. Many of the research projects are commissioned from the central government, says Shidi Zhang, Director, Foreign Affairs Office of the university and an associate professor. "The research is very high tech and this benefits the students", says Zhang, adding that a good number of scholarships are available to foreign students. This may come in the form of free accommodation, tuition waivers or monthly stipends. "But this is a real opportunity even for self-paying students as the costs are much less than those of universities in most western countries." Zhang predicts that job opportunities for students, will be expanding over the years as more and more Chinese companies will be scouting for highly qualified individuals with such wide research experience as the Academy offers.

The Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), founded in 1920, on the other hand, has both exclusive programmes for scientific research and engineering as well as management and liberal arts programmes. HIT too, offers full or part-time scholarships for foreign students to attain BA, MA or PHDs. Around 800 foreign students are enrolled each year.

One of the concerns for all foreign students is the medium of instruction at these universities. At most institutes, foreign students are required to learn Chinese for about a year, which gives them enough proficiency to understand lectures in Chinese and also be acquainted with Chinese culture. But many institutions like Zheijiang University have English speaking professors and in some universities students can hand in their thesis in English as long as a Chinese translation is provided. Zheijiang University in Zheijang Province and established as early as 1897, offers 180 doctoral programmes, 272 Masters programmes in eleven subjects such as philosophy, literature, science, medicine and management. It is the second largest university in China with six campuses, 873 full professors and the largest library of its kind in China. Foreign students number around 1000 from 80 countries.

Specialisation is one of the key factors of China's higher education success and there are exclusive schools catering to specific disciplines. The Agricultural University of Hebei, founded in 1902, offers numerous programmes on agronomy and forestry besides seven other fields. It has subjects as diverse as Farming Electrification and Automation, Irrigation and Hydraulic Power Engineering Crop Genetics and Breeding and Processing and Storage of Agricultural Products.

This is the first time that a fair representing Chinese educational institutions has been held and the response, says Yang Xinyu, Deputy Secretary General of the China Scholarship Council, has been fairly encouraging. "Over 2000 visitors came and they were very interested in the programmes, in checking out the websites or directly asking detailed questions to the representatives” Xinyu adds that around 45 scholarships have been offered for various undergraduate and post graduate programmes.

The Beijing Language and Culture University, for instance, provides Friendship Scholarships to foreign students who help them continue their study in China. The programmes this University offers are for liberal arts students and are mainly related to Chinese culture, language, literature, art etc although there are Masters programmes on Comparative and World literature, International Politics, English Literature and Language and Linguistics, to name a few.

The China Scholarship Council (CSC), a non-profit institution, established in 1996 and affiliated with the Ministry of Education, provides financial assistance to Chinese citizens wishing to study abroad and to foreign citizens who want to study in China. "We want to develop links with universities in Bangladesh (and other countries)", says Xinyu ,"to promote educational, scientific and technological and cultural exchange and economic cooperation between China and other countries. It is good (for Chinese universities) to have international students to exchange ideas and to understand different cultures."

While full or partial scholarships are the greatest appeal for Bangladeshi students, getting a high quality, international education at a fairly affordable cost is also an incentive. Tuition fees compared to say the US or UK is far less in Chinese universities. The Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) charges an annual tuition fee of US$2,800 for its Bachelor programmes and US$3, 100 for Masters and US$3,400 for PHDs. Fudan University, that has 66 undergaduate programmes, 148 master's and 103 doctoral programmes, charge 23,000 -- 42,000 RMB (1USD=8.27694 RMB) per year for graduate students, 26,000-48,000 for Masters students and 30,000 RMB for doctoral candidates. Accomodation facilities (on and off campus) at most of these universities are also very reasonable.

While the appeal of going to the USA or UK is still there, it has lessened somewhat with growing difficulties in obtaining visas and financial aid or mustering the funds to finance such exclusive higher education. The prospect offered by China of acquiring a high quality education in the most specialised fields and that too with financial assistance, is certainly encouraging for students who have the brains but not the funds to pursue their academic dreams. It is definitely an opportunity that should not be missed.

Participating Chinese Universities

Heibei University of Economics and Business www.hebut.edu.cn
Agriculture University of Hebel http://www. hebau.edu.cn
Yanshan University www.hust.edu.cn or www.tjmu.edu.cn
Normal University
Heibei University of Technology
Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics
University of Science and Technology Beijing http://www.ustb.edu.cn
Harbin Institute of Technology http://www. hit.edu.cn
Beijing Institute of Technology www.bit.edu.cn
Tsinghua University www.tsinghua.edu.cn
University of Science and Technology of China http://www.ustc.edu.cn
Huazhong University of Science and Technology www.hust.edu.cn or tjmu.edu.cn
Wuhan University of Technology www.whut.edu.cn
Southwest China Normal University Technology www.swnu.edu.cn
XI'AN Jiaotong University
Fudan University http://www.fudan.edu.cn
Beijing Language and Culture University http://www.blcu.edu.cn
Graduate School of The Chinese Academy of Sciences www.gscas.ac.cn
Zhejiang University http://www.zju.edu.cn
Wuhan University http://www.whu.edu.cn
North South University




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