The GW School of Business came one step closer last week to attaining degree-granting status in China after establishing an official partnership with the Suzhou Industrial Park.
The agreement, which gives GW teaching and office space in the Suzhou Dushu Lake and Science Education Innovation District in eastern China, is the first deal signed with a Chinese government body after the University partnered with Renmin University in Suzhou last fall.
“A direct relationship with the Suzhou government will give us a better chance to get full ministry level approval to become a full degree-granting operation there,” business school dean Doug Guthrie said.
GW will join four other international universities, including the National University of Singapore, in using the new complex, which will be completed in June, Guthrie said.
For the ceremonial signing March 14 with officials from the Suzhou Industrial Park, University President Steven Knapp, Provost Steven Lerman, D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins and Guthrie traveled to eastern China.
“Having a D.C. official there was a good thing for us and we’re thankful for the D.C. government,” Guthrie said. “In China, the government and the market are closely tied so they always have people representing the public sector and private sector.”
The University plans to use the space for its advanced programs in finance and accountancy, potential non-degree executive level programs and an undergraduate business degree, which Guthrie said last month could be offered to Chinese students by the fall of 2013.
The business school launched its master of science in finance for 22 Chinese students last October and will add a master of accountancy next fall. The programs are both “1+1,” meaning students will spend one year in Suzhou at the new complex and one year in D.C.
The undergraduate business program, which would be run through both the business school and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, could hold classes on three continents, contingent on approval by the country’s Ministry of Education.
“We are committed to establishing an enduring presence in China,” University President Steven Knapp said.
Developing a curriculum for the program will be difficult, said Karin Fischer, a senior reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education who specializes in global education.
The Chinese education system, Fischer said, consists of “a lot of lecturing and not a lot of group and project work, which is very common in business schools.”
Fischer, who went to China in January to report on higher education trends there, predicted that students will want to ensure that they will receive the same education in Suzhou as they would in its D.C. counterpart.
At New York University’s Shanghai program, which was announced last year as part of a global network of international campuses, “cultural differences have not been an issue in developing the curriculum,” Mattie Bekink, the program’s director for NYU Shanghai, said.
The business school will also look to capitalize on Chinese students’ booming demand for American education.
A poll released Monday by the higher education consulting group Art and Science Group found that 78 percent of Chinese high school students were interested in attending college in the U.S. About 45 percent said they were worried they would not be academically prepared.
Guthrie said Chinese students expect a change from Chinese institutions when they sign on for classes with an American university.
He said the University’s use of its own professors instead of “local adjuncts” would help distinguish the program from neighboring branch campuses and set a high academic bar.
“In any group you have to adapt,” Guthrie said. “But our teaching methods won’t be too different. We’re offering a GW degree, so we want them to be innovative. They’re coming to a U.S. university for that reason.”
Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.