UK university set to open a 4,000-student campus in China

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The Independent Online

Thousands of Chinese students will soon be able to experiencea British university education without leaving their homeland.

Nottingham University yesterday became the first British institution to announce the establishment of a campus on the Chinese mainland, taking advantage of legislation passed by the Chinese government that allows foreign education enterprises to be set up in the country.

The campus will be at Ningbo, a historic city on China's eastern coast about four hours' driving time (and 25 minutes flying) from Shanghai. The first students will be recruited this autumn and by the end of the first phase of the development in 2008 university officials expect to have enrolled about 4,000 students.

Initially, the campus will concentrate on arts and social science subjects, which will account for 3,000 of the students. A further 1,000 will be recruited to post-graduate courses.

Students will be charged the equivalent of £3,800 a year to attend courses at the Chinese campus, compared to the £11,000 charged as an overseas fee to those who study in the UK, but enough, it is hoped, to ensure the scheme is a money-spinner. Initially staff will be supplied by Nottingham but eventually the university hopes to recruit internationally.

Most of the students will come from China, but other nationalities will be allowed to apply. Students based in Nottingham will also have the opportunity to study in China for part of their course.

The university is tapping into a massive expansion in higher education planned by the Chinese government. At present only 1 per cent of the population in China goes to university, compared to 44 per cent in the United Kingdom.

For the £40m venture Nottingham is going into partnership with the Wanli Education Group, a private education consultancy that has the ear of the Chinese government.

The number of Chinese students studying in Britain has leapt from 6,000 to 25,000 in three years. That figure is expected to continue rising, next year, to about 30,000. Nottingham has been in the vanguard of the recruitment drive, with 957 Chinese students enrolled compared to 102 four years ago.

Sir Colin Campbell, the vice-chancellor, said: "The university has a particularly high reputation within China, arising from more than 10 years of sustained activity at national and state governmental level, and through grassroots research and teaching links.

"China itself has moved to a new stage in its relationships with foreign educational institutions and recent legislation permits and encourages foreign institutions to establish campuses in order to modernise their higher education system."

University sources said they expected other higher education institutions in the UK to follow Nottingham's lead.