Saturday, 16 January 2016

US Law Degrees in China: New Announcements by Arizona and Case Western Reserve Scrutinized

The National Law Journal, a major US publication, reported recently that two US universities are branching out to provide US law degrees in China. 

The article outlines two initiatives, by the University of Arizona and Case Western Reserve, to provide US legal education to students at two Chinese universities, Ocean University of China and Zhejiang University. 

According to the article:

“The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, which offers the only bachelor’s degree in law in the United States, has launched a dual degree enabling Chinese law students, while remaining in China, to obtain both a bachelor’s in law from Arizona and an LL.B.— the undergraduate law degree model adopted by many foreign countries.

Meanwhile, Case Western Reserve University School of Law has partnered with Zhejiang University Guanghua Law School to offer a dual Juris Doctor and LL.M. program, allowing Case Western Law students to spend their third year studying in China.”

So let’s look a little further at these, starting with Arizona’s “dual degree”. 

According to the records of officially approved China Foreign Cooperative Runnings School (CFCRS) database, this is not a dual degree.  Only 15 Law degrees (see Table 1 at the end of this article) are permitted for delivery in China with foreign universities.  Arizona’s is listed, but only for delivery of a Chinese law degree.  So what does this mean?

Firstly, it means that this is not a dual degree.  Rather, it is a Chinese degree that is delivered in partnership, usually in the form of teaching by Arizona Professors, on the Ocean University Chinese law degree. The implication of this is that, while the University of Arizona may issue a Bachelor in Laws to students completing this degree over 4years in China, that US degree will not be recognized in the PRC.  Students will still receive the Ocean University Chinese law degree, but any US degree will not be recognized within the PRC and graduates will not be able to use the Arizona degree in application for postgraduate study or jobs within the PRC. Why? Because all PRC citizens must register their degree through one of several processes with the PRC Ministry of Education, devised to combat foreign certificate fraud and foreign HE programs not approved via the correct channels.  This can only be done if (a) the student has studied overseas and had the degree certificate verified by the PRC Embassy in the country where it was delivered (this includes checking the student’s passport to ensure they had the necessary student visas for the duration of the degree); or (b) that the foreign degree is approved for delivery in China.  As Arizona’s students, in this case, will have neither, they will be unable to register their foreign degree, and universities and employers will be unable to verify the authenticity of this degree when double-checking with the Ministry’s database. 

So what is the degree good for? Its valid for students applying for postgraduate study overseas.  I expect that many students will go on to study at Arizona on an LLM, or at other US institutions.

The table below shows all 15 degrees (1 closed in 2012).  Two Joint Education Insititutes offer dual degrees in law: an LLM offered alongside the Chinese Masters at the China-EU Law School, and Reading’s NUIST Reading Academy in Nanjing which offers a dual UG degree in Law.  Only two other Joint Education Programmes (JEPs) exist offering dual degrees at the UG level: Coventry University (UK) and the University of Western Oregon (US)

So the 14 officially approved law degrees involving foreign universities account for 0.97% of the 1445 Sino-Foreign degree programs approved by PRC authorities since 1995, with the first approved law degree only occurring in 2003.  Dual law degrees in Law account for less than half of that, only 4 (or 0.27%) of all 1445 Sino-Foreign degrees. 
TABLE 1 – Sino-Foreign Law Degrees approved under CFCRS
Chinese Uni
Foreign Uni
Chinese Degree
Foreign Degree
Established
China University of Political Science and Law
University of Hamburg (Germany)
Masters of Laws
LLM
Est 2008
Nanjing University of Information and Engineering
University of Reading (UK)
Bachelor of Laws
BA in Law
Est 2015
China University of Political Science and Law
University of Minnesota (US)
N/A
Masters of Laws

Est 2006
Closed 2012
Tsinghua University
Temple University (US)
N/A
Master of Laws
Est 2011
East China University of Political Science and Law
National University of Singapore (Singapore)
N/A
Master of Laws
Est 2004
East China University of Political Science and Law
City University of Hong Kong
BA in Law
Certificate of Attendance (Non-degree)
Est 2003
Southwest China University of Political Science and Law
Coventry University (UK)
Bachelor of Laws
Bachelor of Laws (Commercial Law)
Est 2014
Nanjing Normal University
University of Maryland (US)
N/A
Masters in Criminal Justice
Est 2013
Yantai University
University of Western Oregon
Bachelor of Laws
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
Est 2013
China Ocean University
University of Arizona (US)
Bachelor of Laws
N/A
Est 2015
Heilongjiang University
University of Leeds (UK)
Bachelor of Laws
N/A
Est 2013
Harbin University of Science and Technology
Novosibirsk State Technical University
Bachelor of Laws
N/A
Est 2012
Northeast Forestry University
Vladivostock State University of Economics and Service
Bachelor of Laws
N/A
Est 2013
Daqing Normal University
Blagoveschensk State Pedagocical University
Bachelor of Laws
N/A
Est 2013

As you’ve probably noted, Case Western Reserve’s tie-up with Zhejiang University, and referred to in the National Law Journal, is nowhere to be seen.  Why is this? 

This is likely due to the fact that CWR faculty will not be involved in teaching in the PRC.  Only 2 CWR students will attend Zhejiang each year, with 2 Zhejiang students going to CWR for a year of study.  

The CWR students will receive their CWR JD degree, but also a Zhejiang LLM, following a year of study at Zhejiang.  TheLLM they gain from Zhejiang for this year will also contribute credits towards their CWR JD degree.  For the two Zhejiang students who go to CWR, they will study towards a CWR LLM, which Zhejiang will recognize towards their own JD. 

So this tie-up is not a dual degree either, but rather a mutual exchange and credit recognition arrangement that is approved by CWR on the US end, and by Zhejiang Education Bureau on the Chinese side.  However, because the Zhejiang students will go to the US and study 1 year for the CWR LLM, they will be able to get this degree recognized by the PRC Embassy in the US prior to their return to China.  This means that, unlike the Arizona arrangement, they will graduate with a Chinese JD and a US LLM, both of which will  be recognized in the PRC. 

This latter model works only because the US  LLM component is delivered in the US, not in China.  And because the arrangement can be processed through exchange agreement protocols and mutual credit recognition, it is a common method used to circumvent to CFCRS regulations, at least with regards to professional legal education which often allows students to pursue LLM during their pursuit of a JD qualification.  It isn’t really a model that works for academic qualifications though: there would be little point offering a Masters degree as part of a doctoral programme as doctoral programmes are (a) research focused, not classroom based, taught; (b) many doctoral candidates will hold a Masters prior to applying for a PhD, and (c) why pursue a Masters degree if already enrolled on a PhD programme? 

This article caught my attention largely because it is yet another example of universities pushing out the marketing speak to claim they are “the first” to be doing this type of programme in China.  That’s categorically not the case in either example, and the claims of dual degree status are certainly misleading if viewed from the Chinese regulator’s perspective.  Arizona’s model is the same as those of the University of Leeds’ (UK) arrangement with Heilongjiang University, and with three Russian universities, all of which were established in 2012 or 2013.  Case Western Reserve’s model is constituted of two exchange arrangements both of which have been used for a long time by other law schools.  Case’s model is arguably the better one, as it removes any ambiguity over the validity of the US degree issued: Case’s LLM will be recognized in China. 

But what is really interesting about these cases is that it shows that US universities are actively engaging in teaching collaborations without getting those degrees approved through CFCRS. This is a point which is almost completely missed in commentary on foreign university activity in China, and which these new Law degrees announced by Arizona and Case Western Reserve illustrate quite well.  Most discourse centres around “academic freedom”, largely due to a very paranoid, and usually incorrect, outsiders perspective on how the CCP and PRC government authorities operate in Chinese universities.  But a much greater issue for all forms of Sino-Foreign collaboration is that of institutional autonomy.  The CFCRS regulations require all degrees to be approved prior to recruitment of students. 
If we look at the seven Sino-Foreign Joint ventures, there are zero Law degrees approved, and only two at the 57 Sino-Foreign Joint Institutes, with a further 12 approved as joint programmes.  In China, degrees classed as deliverable under a Law Faculty also includes Politics, Sociology and other social science subjects.   Only one single Sociology degree has ever been approved for delivery through Sino-Foreign collaboration over a period of 20 years from 1995 to 2015: a BA in Sociology which awards a Hong Kong Baptist degree at United International College.  A certificate of study is awarded by Beijing Normal University, but no Chinese degree.  Not a single politics or political science degree (Chinese, Foreign or Dual) has ever been approved for delivery through the CFCRS regulatory system.  Related social science degrees, such as in social work, have only been approved for foreign-only degrees (this means they must recruit outside the Chinese NCEE or NPEE university entrance exams).  Invariably, those that have been approved are degrees in subjects such as Public Management, Social Work, Sustainability and Environmental Management at the UG and PG levels.


Such limits on institutional autonomy are a far more significant reality within the Sino-Foreign HE landscape than censorship, self-censorship or CCP interference in curriculum.  In fact, in a decade on China and working in and around Sino-Foreign collaborations, the only examples of this have been of textbooks which failed to make it passed overzealous import officials at the port.  And even then, the import authorities either simply refused to allow them to pass, or they arrived heavily and clumsily censored.

With the approval of degrees, however, China does maintain a strict control over what degree programmes are approved.  And as far as approving degrees or majors in subject such as Law, Politics, Sociology and other social sciences, there remains a clear indication that PRC education authorities are not yet comfortable in allowing foreign universities anything like the level of freedom they have in developing degree programmes in Business and STEM.  

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