University President Mary Sue Coleman has made it clear that she wants to expand the University’s involvement in China. Coleman traveled to China in 2005 and has frequently worked to strengthen the University’s relationships with institutions there.

She reaffirmed her commitment to working closely with China this month, hosting 23 top Chinese education officials for two weeks of discussions about expanding current partnerships and initiating new ones.

The delegation spent the last two weeks in southeast Michigan discussing how to advance partnerships between the United States and China and create autonomy in Chinese universities.

The delegation included presidents, vice presidents and other high-level officials from Chinese universities, as well as representatives from the Chinese Ministry of Education and National Academy of Education Administration.

In addition to meeting with faculty and administrators from the University, the members of the delegation also visited Michigan State University and Wayne State University.

“The (Chinese) universities are economic engines for their regions, just as the University of Michigan is an economic engine for southeast Michigan,” Cook said. “As are Michigan State University and Wayne State University.”

The discussions with 23 top officials from 18 leading Chinese universities and government agencies marked the conclusion of the University’s “China Now” theme year.

“Stronger relationships between China’s and Michigan’s universities will ensure that our students and scholars are better prepared to cooperate on the emerging opportunities that are shaping the global marketplace,” Coleman said in a written statement.

Both China and Michigan are set to benefit from these relationships, Cook said.

From 1999 to 2005 the number of students earning degrees from Chinese universities quadrupled, and Chinese officials are now looking to update their higher education systems.

Cook said the Chinese officials were interested in moving towards an administration structure that more closely resembled the University’s.

“They see how effective that is at the University of Michigan, to have a more decentralized decision-making structure and more powerful deans,” she said.

Linzhong Yu, president of East China Normal University, said in a written statement that the Chinese higher education system puts too much power in the Ministry of Education.

As Chinese universities grow, he said, they need to adopt the models used by successful universities in other countries.

“We need a lot of autonomy,” he said.

The centerpiece of the University’s current partnership with Chinese universities is the University of Michigan – Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute formed in 2005.

The institute, housed on the campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, grants a joint degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong and the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering.

Dexiu Ma, chairwoman of the SJTU University Council, met Friday with representatives from the University and discussed ways to expand the joint institute over the next three years.

College of Engineering Prof. Jun Ni, dean of the joint institute, said the institute wants to “expand beyond engineering” and serve students from other colleges at the University.

Administrators also looked to create new partnerships during the discussions. Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, will visit Beijing next fall to finalize plans to establish a Confucius Institute, a center for Chinese language and culture, on the University’s Ann Arbor campus.

“Through the Confucius Institute, we hope to expand on the already substantial opportunities for students and faculty in China, especially those interested in Chinese arts,” Monts said in an e-mail interview.

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