Student Exchanges, Research Partnerships to Expand
By Jill Gambon
With three new partnerships with leading Chinese universities, UMass Lowell expects to soon host a growing population of Chinese students.
On a recent trip to China, Chancellor Marty Meehan signed agreements with three of the country’s top schools: Northwest University, Shanghai Technical University and Xi’an Jaiotong University, laying the groundwork for academic and research partnerships and student and faculty exchanges.
“These partnerships advance our goal of becoming a more international university and will help prepare our students to take their place in a global economy,” Meehan says. “Our students, faculty and the entire community will benefit, as China is a critical partner in terms of education, research and economic development.”
The partnerships will support the exchange of undergraduate and graduate students; enable faculty exchanges for research, teaching and other academic work; create opportunities to develop joint research and educational programs; and promote cooperation in cultural and other student-focused activities. They add to the list of institutions that the University is already working with in China, including Tsinghua University, Shandong Academy of Sciences, Nanfang College of Sun Yat-sen University and the China Education and Research Network.
As a result of the new agreements, plans are in the works for a “three-plus-two” program, under which Chinese students attend their home university for three years and then come to UMass Lowell for two years, earning a bachelor’s degree from their home institution and a master’s from UMass Lowell. A five-year program will shave about two years off the time it typically takes to earn both degrees in China, says Prof. Jie Wang, chairman of the Department of Computer Science and director of China partnerships. The three-plus-two program is expected to begin next fall and will initially be open to computer science and computer engineering students.
China represents a “huge” potential market because there is strong interest among Chinese students in studying at U.S. universities, where there’s an emphasis on critical thinking, creativity and innovation, says Wang. Because of surging economic growth, a growing number of Chinese families can now afford to send their children to the U.S. to attend college.
“We opened a door and now we have a platform to raise our visibility in China through the students at these top universities,” Wang says.
The partnerships with the institutions in China could result in as many as 600 to 700 Chinese students coming to UMass Lowell within in the next four years, Wang estimated. “That’s a large number of students and that will have an economic impact on Lowell. They will live here and pay rent and pay tuition and fees,” Wang says.
New opportunities for UMass Lowell students and faculty to travel and study in China will help foster understanding of the country’s culture and business climate. That experience, in a country that now has the second largest economy in the world, is a key to a global education, Wang says.
The number of international partnerships has been growing as the University seeks to expand opportunities for collaboration with institutions around the globe. UMass Lowell has academic partnerships with more than 60 universities in 25 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Australia. On campus, UMass Lowell’s international student community has also been growing, with students from more than 50 countries represented.