Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nottingham Ningbo announce RMB170 investment for Research and Training Centre

The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) this week announced a major initiative to establish a new "International Doctoral Innovation Center" (国际博士创新中心).

The total investment, put forward by UNNC, University of Nottingham UK, Ningbo Education Bureau and Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau, comes to a total investment of RMB1.7 million (£17m approximately).

The IDIC will be located in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, where Nottingham established their Sino-Foreign Joint Venture Campus, in partnership with Wanli Education Group, in 2004.

A press release, issued jointly by UNNC and the Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau, states that RMB120 million in research grants has been provided by the Chinese authorities, with UNNC and the University of Nottingham (UK) committing an investment of "at least £60m" over the next 6 years.

Given the parlous state of UK HE funding, it will be interesting to observe reactions to this level of investment, if any cash is actually being invested at all. Given that the Nottingham contingent has stated clearly that 100 Full PhD Scholarship will be provided, this would account for approximately £6m, assuming that Full scholarships are comprised of £10k Nottingham PhD (international) tuition fees per annum and a £10k living allowance per annum for the full 3 years of the PhD.

While this is merely speculation, such an arrangement and commitment would not only provide UNNC with a small army of inexpensive graduate teaching assistants (GTA's), but would also prepare a ready made alumni network of academics in China.

The IDIC will be active in several areas highlighted as central to China's development plans, with a focus on renewable technologies and reducing carbon emissions and, in addition, will help Ningbo develop its already burgeoning automotive sector, with a focus on reducing carbon emissions. To those of us watching Chinese Higher Education, the establishment of such a centre will come as little surprise, especially considering the stated objective in the recent CPPCC, NPC and 2010-2020 Education Plan of China's desire to create a high-tech, creative and innovative scientific and technological sector to rival the those in the advanced nations.

However, the further commitment of Nottingham with such an apparently large investment, at a time when UK higher education is facing enormous cut-backs in both teaching and research funds, as well as a massive hike in student fees, is bound to attract some comments.

If, indeed, investment is in the form of PhD scholarships, then it will be interesting to see whether the approximate £3m in tuition fees is ever remitted to University of Nottingham (UK) by UNNC, or whether University of Nottingham (UK) are simply waiving the fee and calling it an "investment" of £3m. The latter scenario would appear to be a poor deal for Nottingham's UK campus, whereas the former would require UNNC to pay the £3m in fees and a further £3m in living stipends to reach the stated total investment of £6m.


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