Saturday, 14 April 2012

Shanghai New York University: How many Tigers on the Mountain?

Last week saw a raft of news stories covering developments at Shanghai New York University (上海纽约大学).  SHNYU have been going head to head with Duke University to become the first high-level US university to form a JV in China. Wenzhou University and  Kean University (New Jersey) announced in December 2011 that they had received approval from the MoE to establish a JV university in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, with alleged funding of $250m provided by the Wenzhou and Zhejiang governments.  Nevertheless, all eyes are really focused on the big hitters: NYU and Duke.  

Various sources, including news reports on CCTV (中央电视台), China's national broadcaster, covered some important announcements on key positions at SHNYU.  Shanghai New York University is established under the 2003 Regulations Sino-Foreign Cooperative School Management, and is a JV between New York University (USA) and East China Normal University  (华东师范大学), ranked by the Chinese Academy of Management Science as the 4th ranked university in Shanghai behind Fudan University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and Tongji University.  However, as those familiar with Chinese HE will know, China's universities are not easily compared.  ECNU is a leading "teachers" university and competes very strongly in education, humanities and the social sciences in China; is in the elite Project 985 group of universities, and is one of the the most competitive universities in China in terms of admissions standards.  

On the 4th April, Minister for Education Yang Guiren (杨贵仁) expressed his view that the MoE hopes SHNYU will become a leading example for other reforming institutions in China's vast HE system.  

Under Chinese HE Law, the President of SHNYU must be a Chinese citizen.  This position has been taken by President Yu Lizhong who is the current President of ECNU.  It is my understanding (from knowing the arrangements at other JV universities) that the President Li will continue as President of ECNU, with the Presidency of SHNYU being a largely ceremonial role involving duties on the Board of SHNYU (essentially equivalent to the role of Chancellor at a UK university)

It was reported in the China Youth Daily (青年日报) that Professor Jeffrey S. Lehman has been appointed Deputy President and CEO of SHNYU.  I believe this may be an error of translation.  Deputy President (副校长) is likely to be translated as "Vice-Chancellor" in English, removing any confusion as to the role Professor Lehman has been appointed to.  Vice-Chancellor is the typical title for the defacto President of universities in England.  Nevertheless, he should perhaps be referred to in Chinese as 执行校长 or Executive President, rather than 副校长 Deputy President, which does not accurately describe his role.  Perception is everything in China and 副校长 does not accurately capture the nature of his appointment.  Professor Lehman will be the defacto President (or Principal Administrator) appointed by the Board of SHNYU and responsible for the establishment and day-to-day operations of SHNYU.  Vice-Chancellor in English and 执行校长(Executive President) in Chinese would appear to be the most accurate terms for Lehman's role.  

Interestingly, Duke Kunshan University (DKU), the proposed JV between Duke University (US) and Wuhan University in the city of Kunshan, Jiangsu (on the border with Shanghai) have also elected to advertise for a "Vice-Chancellor".  I had expected that the title "Provost" would be used in both situations, given its common usage in US HE.  I had also speculated privately in conversations with some contacts that DKU would move for Professor Lehman, especially given the apparent good fit for the DKU Vice-Chancellor job decription.  It appears NYU got there first, and it is probably significantly to their advantage that they did so, given Lehman's US and China experience.  

Professor Lehman served as Dean of the University of Michigan Law School between 1994 and 2003, under then President Lee Bollinger (who, interestingly, as the current President of Columbia, recently dismissed the possibility of Columbia establishing a JV in China - possibly Nanjing - on the basis of concerns over academic freedom).  Professor Lehman then became the 11th President of Cornell University in 2003.  

In 2007 Professor Lehman became the founding Dean of the Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen (PKU-STL).  PKU-STL offers J.D. degree programmes to Chinese students and was attempting to be the first school in China (possibly outside the US - unable to confirm) to secure accreditation by the American Bar Association.  

Since his appointment as President of Cornell University, Professor Lehman has spoken often of his passion for transnational education.  Since leaving Cornell, he has certainly attempted to bring US style education to China, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.  

Especially considering the challenges that appear to be confronting SHNYU.  Of course, these are, as always, my own speculation as to the situation in which SHNYU finds itself.  But there are a number of key issues which need to be resolved:

1.  Tuition Fees
NYU fees are eye-wateringly expensive.  US$45k approx per annum.  The recent announcement on SHNYU detailed that 51% of the initial 300 students projected to be enrolled in 2013 must come from the Chinese National University Entrance Exam admissions system (gaokao 高考).   Current fees for other JV universities (see below) do not exceed 60k RMB for students recruited through the Gaokao.  It remains to be seen what fees SHNYU will be permitted to charge Gaokao students as these fees are set by the Shanghai municipal education bureau.  Anything in excess of 60kRMB per annum would be highly surprising.  Is it the case that SHNYU will cross-subsidize these students with full-fee paying international students (making up the remaining 49% of students)?  Will SHNYU be able to find 150 US students will to enrol at US$45k in 2013 without access to US educational financial aid?  It is probable that some spin will be put on the limiting of fees for Gaokao students, with SHNYU possibly preferring to say that only the best students will be recruited and given significant scholarships.  For example, rather than set Chinese student fees lower, SHNYU will say fees are US$45k with talented Chinese students (all of those admitted) receiving a scholarship calculated as: NYU fee - Maximum Fee chargeable by SHNYU to Gaokao students = SHNYU Scholarship (i.e. US$45k - US$9k (60kRMB) = US$36k Scholarship)

2.  A Nest of Vipers
This is a major flagship operation in China's financial capital.  Fudan and Shanghai Jiaotong universities are unlikely to welcome the competition, and these two universities wield an immense amount of political influence.  China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) is also likely to emerge as a strong competitor, especially if SNHYU move into graduate education, which they undoubtedley will at the earliest opportunity.  SHNYU will have the support of the Pudong government and those officials, cadres and academicians loyal to ECNU, but it could be tough going if the machinations of Chinese politics and HE are brought to bear on SHNYU (this could happen for any number of reasons).  

3.  Tigers on the Mountain
VC Lehman must have the political nouse to balance the interests of several very powerful interested parties, most notably the MoE, Pudong government, ECNU and NYU (in that order).  Far from implying VC Lehman will be unable to balance these interests, which already appear to be coming to fore in terms of tuition fees arrangements, this is simply an acknowledgement of the monumentally powerful vested interests tied up in SHNYU.  VC Lehman's lot is likely to be a thankless task.  If it goes badly, he'll get the blame; if it goes well, they'll be plenty of other people willing to take the credit (this is why the title VC Lehman has in Chinese and English is incredibly important).  Lets hope he's got some good people around him who (a) understand this delicate balance and (b) have a deep appreciation of the highly political and strategic nature of Chinese culture.  Such people are thin on the ground.  

I genuinely wish SHNYU the best of luck, but worry that the spotlight will shine brightly and at a very high temperature on SHNYU.  

Below is a little background on the exalted company which SHNYU joins in becoming a new Sino-Foreign JV university in China.  

Joinining the JV Crowd
Foreign universities are not permitted to establish campuses in China, but must form Sino-Foreign Joint Ventures (usually formed as a cooperative joint-venture, as opposed to an equity joint venture).  Several high profile JV's have already been established since the 2003 Regulations on Sino-Foreign Cooperative School Management were promulgated:

1.  University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China (UNNC)
Established in 2004, UNNC is the first Sino-Foriegn Joint Venture University between the University of Nottingham (UK) and Wanli University, a private (民办) university in the city of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.  The Founding Provost and CEO of UNNC  was Professor Ian Gow OBE who is the current Principal and CEO of the Sino-British College in Shanghai (see below).  

2.  Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University (XJTLU)
XJTLU was established shortly after UNNC and took its first students in 2006.  Located in the city of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, XJTLU is a JV between Xi'an Jiaotong University and the University of Liverpool.  Xi'an Jiaotong University (西安交通大学), the Chinese partner, is one of the most prestigious universities in China.  It is a member of the C9 Group, China's Ivy League, and a founding member of the 985 group of leading research intensive universities.  

3.  Sino-British College (SBC)
The Sino-British College is a slightly different model.  It is a JV between University of Shanghai Science and Technology (USST - 上海理工大学) and several universities in the north of England known as the Northern Consortium, including Sheffield, Manchester, Bradford and Leeds.  

4.  United International College (UIC) 
Established as the first cooperative university between PRC and HK, UIC is a JV between Hong Kong Baptist University and Beijing Normal University (北京师范大学).  

5.  Wenzhou Kean University (WKU)
Recently approved in December 2011, this raised a few eyebrows.  Firstly, because the decision to grant a licence for this JV seems to ride roughshod over the unwritten rule that only Top 20 universities from foreign countries will be considered.  Kean is certainly not in that category.  Secondly, because the application for a licence was submitted to the MoE in 2006, with Kean having been in talks with Wenzhou since 2004.  Speculation attributes this decision to the possibility that it has been influenced by the leadership change coming in PRC in October 2012.  Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as Gen. Party Secretary of the CCP in October (and then as President in March 2013), was Party secretary of Zhejiang Province when this project was initially launched.  Thats not to suggest there's any pressure coming from Xi himself, more that rubber stamping projects launched during his tenure in Zhejiang could be seen as a sign of loyalty to his incoming administration.  


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