University sets up first international campus

Leicester’s bold initiative to develop our first foreign campus will see over 10 per cent of our undergraduate population being taught in China by 2020.  This initiative reinforces our University’s ambition to enhance our status as a global player in higher education.

Already one of the UK’s most international universities, the appointment of the UK Research Councils’ International Champion Professor Paul Boyle as President & Vice-Chancellor set Leicester in a new direction and helped to bring the Leicester brand to the attention of new international markets.

Announcing the University’s strategic plan exactly a year after taking office he declared: “Our students and staff have a duty to address global challenges and opportunities.

“Our University’s student, staff and alumni communities are now self-evidently global.  Our students are increasingly studying abroad as part of their educational experience, and we are active in research enterprise, teaching and capacity-building collaborations globally.

“We will also ensure that our students – wherever they are – benefit from a truly internationalised approach to their learning. As part of our global initiative, we will develop new research and teaching centres and focus our strategic partnerships in areas and regions where we can make a real difference.

“We will focus our efforts and energies on ensuring that we build on this foundation and continue to exert influence and create impact for our students, our staff and for our international collaborators.”

The announcement that Leicester’s ambition to set up its first international campus in Dalian University of Technology, Panjin Campus, follows approval by the Chinese Ministry of Education which has been liaising closely with the Leicester and Dalian teams.

Heading the Leicester team is Pro-Vice-Chancellor International, Professor Sarah Dixon (pictured, right), who came to the university having a successful track record of brokering international partnerships in higher education.

“Leicester is part of a wave of UK excellent education expansion in China over the past two years or so,” she said. “We are at the vanguard of institutions looking for collaboration beyond Europe which will be key to our future success. We need to go to the students rather than hope the students come to us.

We are part of a new international campus at Dalian University of Technology, Panjin - it has fantastic new labs, new equipment, an amazing stadium and lots of international activities.

“Ten years ago there was talk of the ‘China bubble’ bursting – but the demand for overseas education in China is strong. It is connected to a national pride. China is an economic powerhouse and this partnership provides our students with the knowledge and experience to become global citizens through an international education.

“Our students will be able to get two degree awards from Dalian University of Technology in China and Leicester in the UK. We want more and more of our UK and Chinese students to be better qualified with an international education and a better world outlook by having at least part of their education overseas.

“We will also seek, as a next step, opportunities for internships and apprenticeships for our Institute students in both the UK and China.”

She added that Leicester would also explore the possibility of seeking support in developing the students as global citizens and providing scholarships for students traveling to China or vice-versa as part of their degree.

In developing international campuses, Professor Dixon emphasized that the investment from Leicester would also be in the form of intellectual property (IP) in order to create the learning opportunities for overseas students in their home country.

The Leicester International Institute, Dalian University of Technology is located on the Panjin campus of Dalian University of Technology (DUT) which is a 985 university, counted among the ‘Ivy League’ of Chinese universities”.

Says Professor Dixon: “This group represents world-class universities and consists of the crème-de-la-crème in Chinese higher education. In 2016 DUT has also been classified as a dual first-rate university (world class university and first-class discipline - 双一流) a new category aimed at supporting the best universities to move up in the international rankings.

“These institutions are committed to enhancing excellence through linkages with top international universities. There is an endeavour not only to improve teaching and learning but to enhance research outputs. The drive is to make excellent Chinese universities event more excellent in terms of ranking and research output. This is underpinned by a new category of ‘doubly excellent’.”

Professor Dixon said there was a demographic concern in China with fewer young people accessing HE in the aftermath of the former one-child policy. Even though the programmes at Dalian University of Technology, Panjin Campus, would be more expensive for Chinese students, they would obtain a top-class UK education at a fraction of the cost.

“I would personally like to thank the many people who worked really hard and put a lot of time into the project. We will now have a real overseas campus in China and a collaboration with a top-ranked university. This is also very much to the credit of the College of Science and Engineering, and in particular the efforts and dedication of Ian Jarvis, the College International Director.

“Our partnership with DUT enhances many years of collaborative work between the University of Leicester and institutions in China involving different departments and including research collaborations. The College established the University of Leicester’s first -Ministry approved - Joint Education Programmes in China in Engineering at China:  initially in Electrical Engineering and Automation at undergraduate level with China Three Gorges University and then at postgraduate Master’s level in Computer Science with Jiangxi Normal University.  Both of these programmes have been successfully certified by the Ministry of Education after four years’ operation, this being a pre-requisite for the approval of a new Dalian/Leicester CEI.”

For Head of College Professor Paul Monks (pictured, left), Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science and Engineering, the new campus represents a major investment in STEM subjects empowering future generations with a technology-led education.

It also provides opportunities for students to take their entire four year degree in China and earn Bachelor’s degrees from both Leicester and DUT.

Students could also spend one year at Leicester –or more. What is more, the same option is planned to be available to UK students.

This means that a UK student could study in China, earning a Leicester and Dalian degree, at less than the cost of a UK degree as the fees are payable in China are lower than in the UK.  In addition, accommodation and subsistence costs are lower.

Courses taught in English are available in Applied Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics (from 2018), teaching a steady-state at full capacity of approaching 1,200 students, representing 30% of the College’s undergraduate population and 10% of the total undergraduate population of the University.

“What we have on offer are robust programmes with a top-notch Chinese university.  We will have “flying faculty” teams providing block teaching at the DLI, over a shorter more intense period, while having full tuition for student learning during other times. We will not be relying simply on existing staff but will also recruit other leading academics in order to deliver on our commitment. Our partnership will make a valuable contribution to the internationalisation of higher education in China and support China’s aim to develop a globally-competitive workforce.

“The degree programmes will be complete mirrors of each other- students can study at Leicester or DUT Panjin”. The major incentive for Chinese students is that they can get a UK education at a competitive cost without the visa issues and the UK costs of accommodation and subsistence.

“DUT Panjin is a regional hub and we expect students from surrounding areas, including other countries, coming to DUT Panjin to read for a Leicester degree. But we think many Chinese students will want the ‘real English experience’ and come to Leicester for part of their degree.  We hope that this may also encourage some students to choose Leicester for their Master’s studies.

“For UK students, there is a real incentive to get an international education in one of the fastest growing economies in the world. China is a white-cauldron of science and innovation and DUT is right at the forefront of that.

“Our students can experience science, learning and innovation in a top-tier research university – one that will challenge your preconceptions. DUT is so serious about this, they are ‘refurbishing’ a purpose-built teaching building to include the latest UK teaching-facilities enjoyed by our students in Leicester, and even putting western food into their cafeteria!

“I am really excited by this project as a whole-it is a big thing for us. It is notoriously difficult to set up these kinds of projects because of the cost of science but the DUT infrastructure provides for state-of the art teaching and research facilities in a new purpose-built campus.

“These are as good and, in some cases, better than what we have here. This will also be part of the appeal for flying faculty as they have the potential to accelerate part of their career through the R&D facilities there.

“Our partnership will make a valuable contribution to the internationalisation of higher education in China and support China’s aim to develop a globally-competitive workforce”.

Chinese students enrolling on the Leicester programmes at DUT Panjin will undertake a four-year programme. The first year- equivalent to a UK foundation year- will equip students with the language skills and requisite mathematics and science knowledge to prepare them for the degree programme that is based very much on the Leicester degree course.

Professor Monks added: “The University of Leicester is a much richer institution because of its international cohort. One of the issues has been the dynamism of that market- this provides us an opportunity to structuralise our relations with key Chinese partners.

“We are helping to prepare students for the modern era with a global education.”

For Ian Jarvis, the International Director in the College, this partnership with China is a culmination of many years of collaborative working with highly ranked HEIs in the PRC:  “The relationship with DUT was initially between a relatively small number of academic staff at the University and DUT, which highlights the importance of individual academic contacts when developing relationships at the wider college and faculty level in many parts of the world,” he said.

He added: “This is a multi-million pound undergraduate teaching initiative that, once established, will involve a total of 1, 200 China-based students across the three subject areas.

“One of the College’s strategic aims for a number of years now has been to establish a multi-discipline state-approved collaborative link with a high-level Chinese university, which is recognised for its research quality as well as its teaching excellence.  DUT comfortably satisfies our aims on both fronts.  In addition to the undergraduate programmes, DLI will present research opportunities to the majority of our College departments and also expansion into other University of Leicester subject areas, including Medicine, Business and Management.

“This heralds a new era for the University of Leicester in China and presents us with our best opportunity yet to promote the University in the PRC.”

Suzanne Alexander, Director of the University’s International Office, added: “The University of Leicester has been active in China for more than 20 years, working closely with Chinese institutions and government bodies.  Our focus has been primarily on attracting students to our campus, and it is the logical next step for us to be able to deliver high quality degree programmes to more Chinese students in China, and offer greater opportunities for Leicester students to study in China.”

In support of the University’s internationalisation agenda, a Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (China), Charles Cao Quin was appointed in 2016. An office located in the southwest of China Chengdu, with an in-country Director of the University’s China Operations Ms Hui LIU, was established in December 2016 to support the implementation and growth of existing activities in China and facilitate new initiatives and opportunities

The partnership complements a range of other initiatives in, including in the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology.

Discussions are also taking place for the possibility of establishing a Confucius Institute with a business and enterprise focus.

Dawei Gu, Professor in the Department of Engineering, said: “The graduates with a degree from a leading Chinese university such as DUT and a leading UK university such as Leicester would have a major advantage in an increasingly competitive job market in China as well as in the world.

“The establishment of Dalian University of Technology, Panjin Campus, with high quality graduates and cutting-edge research helps the economic and business development of the region and contributes to the revitalisation of this used-to-be most important industry base of China, which is the current national strategy of the Chinese Government.”

Lili Jin, an Engineering student from Dalian, studying at Leicester said: “I did some research about the University and found that it was a really suitable place for me. I love the historical city because it's opposite to my hometown Dalian which is only about 100 years old.

“I love the peaceful atmosphere of the University. The staff here and my classmates are awesome and I can always find someone who is willing to help me with my studies or general life questions.

“I love the arrangement of the curriculum for my course. The lectures, computer work and experiments are all matched, so I understand what I'm learning. The course content also makes me happy because I already know how to make a 3D model step-by-step which makes me proud

“I'm still half new in Leicester, but I can say: if you wish a university life with both academic and entertainment, the University of Leicester is your first choice.”

Professor Boyle visited Dalian University of Technology, Panjin Campus, in March to formally launch the partnership. A Leicester International Institute, Dalian University of Technology, Panjin Campus, delivery programme has been set up in the College of Science and Engineering with a view for students being recruited and the degree programmes being up and running by September 2017.

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