Thursday, 16 May 2013

Zhejiang University to establish campus inside Imperial College London

Today (16 May), Xinhua news announced that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Zheijiang University and Imperial College London to establish a campus of Zhejiang University inside Imperial. In London

Below is a translation.  Any errors of translation are mine.  

"Zhejiang University and Imperial College (London) will establish a united college following the signing of 'Zhejiang-Imperial United College Cooperative Memorandum of Understanding'.  Zhejiang University Party Secretary and University Affairs Committee Director JIN Deshui and Imperial PResident (Rector) Keith O'Nions both signed the MoU with Zhejiang Governor LI Qiang, MoE Vice Minister HAO Ping and Zhejiang Vice-Governor LIANG Liming also in attendance.  

According to the agreement, Zhejiang University will establish an overseas campus on the western campus of Imperial College.  This is first case of a Chinese University establishing an overseas campus within the campus of a world-renowned university.  The establishment (of the institution) will begin in 2014.  

Zhejiang University's will establish the campus through social financing and overseas campus infrastructure funds.  As their core work, they will establish two schools for the joint training of postgraduates and doctoral candidates; establish a joint laboratory for the common interest of major research areas at the forefront of international issues, and carry out high-level personnel training, high quality science and research cooperation and pursuit of technological achievements.   

Previously, Zhejiang University has formed relationships for collaborative disciplinary research and graduate cooperation with 16 world-class universities in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan."

It is unclear from the available online information what the specific disciplinary focuses of this institute will be, though with the strong science, technology and medical focus of Imperial College, it would be reasonable to speculate that the emphasis in the PG and Doctoral centres will focus here.  I would also very much expect to see many of the areas reflected in those key areas outlined in the Medium-Long Term Science and Technology Reform and Development Plan of the Ministry of Science & Technology.  This is due to the nature of funding at elite Chinese institutions such as Zhejiang, which compete for national supremacy largely through competition for MoST research grants such as Project 863, Project 973, National S&T Major Projects, and National S&T Supporting Projects.  S&T research funding has rocketed in the 12th 5 Yr plan era (2012-2016), but to give an idea of the sheer financial power of the MoST in directing research agendas in China, and especially at the elite Project 985 universities, MoST committed over RMB200bn to these 4 projects alone between 2006-2011 (11th 5 Yr Plan).  This was supplemented by significant private sector investment, in the case of National S&T Major Projects receiving RMB50bn from the MoST and RMB50bn from the private sector.

Interestingly, this news follows an announcement by Xiamen University that they will establish a campus in Malaysia several months back which is being personally pushed by Jia Qinglin (former PSC Standing Comittee member and Party Sec of Fujian).  The next post will look at the link between China's geopolitical rise and the discourse surrounding "going out (走出去)" as a strategy to promote more favourable ties between China and other nations.  A strategic manoeuvre to promote China's development model as a viable alternative to western-led consensus and Pax Americana?  Or a benevolent long-term plan to combat the perception of China as a threat to western dominance?  HE will certainly be at the vanguard of such soft power efforts and it is intriguing to see two such ventures announced in quick succession.  

On another note, I wonder how Chinese netizens will react to this news and, particularly, given the history between the two nations, the motto of Imperial College: "Scientia Imperii Decus Et Tutamen (Knowledge is the adornment and protection of the Empire)".  But then, the Zhejiang University motto seems to capture this new venture perfectly: 求是创新* which is translated as "Seeking the Truth and Pioneering New Trails"

* - 求是创新 qiushi chuangxin; lit. seek the truth, create the new)