Purpose of the Study
Since initiating a series of economic and political reforms in the early 1990s, the Chinese government has been regarding internationalization of higher education as a tactic to strengthen its international economic competitiveness (Ennew & Yang, 2009). As a result, the economic and political significance of China’s rapid expansion of investment in higher education has attracted the interest from many European universities. Among them, British universities collaborated with top Chinese universities and established two international branch campuses in China: University of Nottingham Ningbo and Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University.
This paper is based on a study investigating the development of international branch campuses in China. The purpose of the study is to explore the rationales and approaches in China’s efforts to strategically internationalize its higher education sector through international partnerships, with a specific focus on the Chinese-British collaborative universities. This study is guided by the following research questions:
- How is internationalization of higher education in China manifested in policies and practices that support international branch campuses?
- How have educational stakeholders perceived the benefits and challenges regarding the development of international branch campuses in China?
China’s higher education system is shaped by many factors that reflect political, economic, and cultural changes, which has become the basis for increasing Chinese-European higher education partnerships. This study draws on key political and economic ideas of globalization and neoliberalism (Altbach, 2013; Harvey, 2005), Socialist Market Economy (Mok, 2005, 2008), and the Post-Confucianism (Marginson, 2011, 2013).
Altbach (2013) contends that it is important to consider the impact of neoliberal globalization on international branch campuses from both national and international perspectives. At the national level, international branch campuses in China represent the changing relationship between the Chinese government and higher education institutions. As Chinese society moves toward a greater market economy, the government of China is experimenting on changing the tight central control model of the past to allow more private and international providers for its higher education (Altbach, 2013). International branch campuses also represent the changes in financial diversification and shifting model of university administration (Ennew & Yang, 2009).
Socialist Market Economy, also known as Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, is an ideology and economic model employed by China. The adoption of market principles and practices of Socialist Market Economy has affected not only the economic system in China but also the educational sphere. Mok (2005, 2008) maintains that the Socialist Market Economy has changed the highly centralized governance model in Chinese higher education with increasing privatization and marketization. The British university campuses in China are examples of Chinese government’s attempt to exploring alternatives to publicly funded universities.
Marginson (2011, 2013) suggests that there is a rise of a post-Confucian model permeating China’s higher education system. Post-Confucian model has been manifested in the planning and practices in Chinese higher education. Onsman (2012) comments that the Confucian heritage in Chinese higher education makes China’s process of internationalization a unique model of international higher education with Chinese characteristics.
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