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Forward Thinking
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In the first part of our new series of looking at China in 2020, Professor David Greenaway and Professor Shujie Yao argue that there will be a new era of global learning and academic cooperation between China and the UK

Higher education has, in a very fundamental way, always been globalised. Ideas and scholars have to respect borders, but are not deterred by them. Border measures, which restrict the international exchange of goods and services the world over, have little impact. There has never been a better time to ship ideas around the world.

The globalisation of higher education has accelerated in recent years. In 2009, 3.3 million students studied outside their country of domicile; six times the number of a generation ago. Broadly speaking, mobility is ‘North to South’. Member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) host around 80 per cent of these students, but supply just 20 per cent.

Host countries are dominated by the English-speaking world, with the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand home to almost half of all international students. Of the countries sending students overseas, China and India, combined, account for 20 per cent.

But these patterns are changing and are likely to continue to change over the next decade as the global centre of gravity shifts east. It is the dynamism of Asia – and in particular China – that will drive an increase in the globalisation of higher education even as funding cuts in the West impact on the international mobility of students and faculties.

In its bid to increase its impact on the global economy, China has welcomed an increasing number of students from overseas, mostly from Africa, Latin America and other Asian countries. But in recent years, a rising number of EU and US students are choosing to study in China as well. More than 400,000 overseas students are currently studying in around 200 universities in China.

Simply because they will no longer feel tied to their 'home' universities for financial reasons, students in developed economies will become more footloose as public subsidies decline. In 2012 tuition fees will increase in the UK from a little over £3,000 per annum to between £6,000 and £9,000.

At that point fees at the University of Nottingham campuses in China or Malaysia will be lower than at the University of Nottingham in the UK, as will the cost of living. There are many places where it will be even cheaper. A mass exodus of UK students will not occur, since even at £9,000 per annum the return on the investment of a good degree from a good university remains attractive. However, some substitution will occur.

China, through the simple fact that it will become the biggest economy in the world, is a huge magnet for young people who are beginning to realise just how important a role the country will play in their world. A growing number of students are spending time there and learning the language because it will help them do business in the future.

China, on the other hand, is intent on becoming a knowledge-based economy as it progresses to the next stage of economic development. To catch up with the most advanced economies in higher education like the UK and the US, it will continue to encourage students to study overseas, particularly as per capita income in China grows.

As the Chinese economy expands further, specialist academic study of the region will intensify in the West. In the last few years the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham has grown from a very small base to a full-scale academic school with more than 40 staff members, about 2,000 students taking China-related degree courses and 900 British students studying Mandarin. The last of these is a particularly startling development. The school is also sending large numbers of UK students to China, itself becoming an important driver of the globalization of education.

One of the key consequences of this globalisation is the move by universities in the developed world to establish branch campuses in emerging economies like China – the equivalent of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Due primarily to high upfront costs, there are few examples of full-scale branch campuses. Nottingham is an example, with the University of Nottingham Ningbo and the University of Nottingham Malaysia having 9,000 students between them. Other examples include Monash University, and New York University, which is co-establishing a campus in Shanghai with East China Normal University.

Links between Western and Chinese scholars will strengthen further over the next decade. East-West collaboration drives much of the academic research carried out by Nottingham’s Globalisation and Economic Policy Centre and Stanford University recently announced the establishment of a new centre in Peking University to act as a base for its academics conducting research in China.

A recent report by the Royal Society found that China could overtake the United States as the world’s dominant publisher of scientific research as soon as 2013, with the UK in third. China’s welcome ascent up the science ranks will not only benefit its own development, but that of the UK and global society as a whole.

Professor David Greenaway is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham and Professor Shujie Yao is head of the University of Nottingham’s School of Contemporary Chinese Studies.

For further details or to submit your ideas please contact:

In the UK: Chris Cotton


Tel: +44 (0)207 802 2000

 In China: Fiona Huo


Tel: +86 10 8525 1111ext. 313

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