Joint Masters Degrees: LSE's great leap forward

It's a first: by joining with Peking to offer a double Masters, the LSE is breaking new ground, says Nick Jackson

This autumn, the London School of Economics will become the first European university to run a double masters programme with a Chinese counterpart, as students arrive at Peking University for the first year of the new double MSc in international affairs.

It is not the first time that both universities have been at the vanguard of innovation, although of a very different sort. While the LSE is still famous for its student radicals of 1968, PKU has spawned some rather more successful revolutionaries, including Mao Tse-tung, who converted to Marxism while working there as an assistant librarian (which, given the Cultural Revolution, makes you wonder what anti-intellectual rage lurks beneath the placid surface of other university librarians...)

The times, of course, have changed since Mao's day, with the giddy rise of China's economy now increasingly dictating so many aspects of our lives, even to what pants we wear. And in that time, Peking University has gone from being a revolutionary hotbed to an intellectual hothouse . Other Chinese universities have not done so well at recovering from the shocks of the Cultural Revolution, and even today, low standards and high pressure drive rich Chinese students abroad, to the welcoming embrace of British universities eager to win five-figure fees to help plug gaps in their budgets.

It is easy to be cynical about British universities' Asia strategies. But when a new one comes along, you have to pay attention, and the LSE's initiative is the first of its kind in Europe in any field. Its timing could not have been better. This month, new figures indicate that China's economy has overtaken Britain's, in having the world's fourth-largest GDP.

Some of the blame for that can be laid at the LSE's door. In recent years, most Chinese students at the LSE have studied finance or business. But for this latest initiative, the LSE and PKU are focusing on international relations. The double MSc is a two-year course, open to 15 students this year. The first year will be spent at the School of International Studies at Peking University, focusing on China. The second year, at the LSE, will be spent on the theory and history of global international relations.

Unlike some British universities' approaches to China, this is not just a means of enrolling more big spenders. The double MSc degree is aimed at quality not quantity, says Dr Catherine Manthorpe, head of partnership programmes at the LSE. "This isn't a way of maintaining our market share in China," she says. "We have no trouble attracting students from any country. The issue for us is to attract the best students." The appeal of the course to students outside mainland China is becoming obvious as applications start to arrive from across Asia as well as from the West.

It is easy to understand the interest. Foreign investors place an understanding of the Chinese mindset alongside supreme patience as one of the most necessary attributes to succeed in business there. And beyond the current buzz surrounding China's unstoppable boom, the course provides a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at the Cold War debate. "The recent history of international affairs has been burdened by an ideological aspect," says Dr Svetozar Rajak, managing director of the Cold War Studies Centre (CWSC) at the LSE. "This joint study of international affairs provides a unique opportunity to overcome this."

Professor Michael Cox, co-director at the CWSC agrees. "It's an interesting dynamic. Students will be working in two very different political environments. In order to really understand the world, and different cultures, you have to study them from within."

But given China's fearsome reputation for silencing internal criticism and trampling on freedom of expression, is it possible to study China freely from within? Yes, says Professor Odd Arne Westad, the other co-director of the CWSC. "There's been a sea change as to what can be discussed, especially at the highest level," he says. "It's just as open at Peking University as at the LSE. There is a kind of straitjacket there for publishing purposes, but it's quite all right for academics to teach in a way that the authorities don't like."

So, only in the lecture hall can non-Chinese students get that insight into debates within China on its future. "We hope that this programme will bring this form of dialogue and discussion on even further," he adds.

While academics at Peking University may be free to criticise, not all of them want to. Critics of the regime are matched by Party members, advisers, and old friends of the ruling élite. "You do get an insight into government, but not an uncritical one," says Professor Westad, who adds that one of the core teachers on the masters at PKU is often consulted by the Chinese leadership on American foreign policy. "It's a fairly diverse picture. There are Marxists and there are non-Marxists."

The partnership also offers the LSE a chance to enter more meaningfully into the debate over the future of China. "The opening up of China is changing the world we live in, and we want to be part of that as an institution," says Professor Westad. "We have something to contribute, and we felt that this was a unique opportunity to get involved."

Dr Manthorpe couldn't agree more: "Over time, it will be a way of developing a cadre of students with exposure to two very different institutions and approaches," she says. "For the students, it is a great chance to network and to make contact with their peer group over there. And strong academic links facilitate research and teaching collaboration. The impact on academic dialogue is huge."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Foundation / Year 1 Teacher - Long Term - Salford

£90 - £130 per day + competitive rates, pension scheme: Randstad Education Man...

SEN Teacher

£120 - £140 per day + ?DOE: Randstad Education Maidstone: SEN Teacher Kent

Year 5 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: KS2 Supply Teacher Position avai...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil