GW grows relationship with China with business forum

The University is adding another partnership to its growing number of ties in China, teaming up with Fortune magazine to present a global business forum in the country this summer.

The Fortune Global Forum will bring together business leaders in June to discuss international economic and political issues in Chengdu, China. GW will be the sole education partner for the three-day event, which will likely feature an appearance by China’s new president, Xi Jinping.

University Steven Knapp said in an interview Tuesday that the partnership, organized by the Office of External Relations, will help lift GW’s name as it continues to attract more students from China and create more academic programs there.

“This will give us greater visibility, not only in China, but in whatever city the forum is held. I think it’s just good for us to be a part of, and for our students and faculty to share their expertise and get something in return,” he said.

University spokeswoman Jill Sankey declined to disclose the financial details of the partnership.

Knapp said the main tangible benefit for students and faculty will be their online access to the conference’s content, which includes videos of top business leaders. The University may send professors to the conference as well, he added. Top University leaders will also travel to the conference, Sankey said, though administrators are still ironing out the details.

The greater visibility in the country may prove most important as GW works on churning out more China-related programs in the next several years.

The University will launch a Confucius Institute this month, offering non-credit Chinese language and culture courses to professional students. It is also looking to add another academic program in the country, using its partnership with Renmin University of China to start a two-year undergraduate program with time split between China and France.

Richard Edelstein, a research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at University of California at Berkeley, said partnerships like these help a University’s name power overseas.

“While gaining some visibility is positive, it only can be translated into real value if it is followed by specific actions and investments of time that signal a serious effort to engage with individuals and institutions on specific projects over time,” he added.

Knapp said while the University’s aspirations in China relate to its decade-long strategic plan, which stresses globalization, it is also following a trend in higher education.

“I think everyone across higher education is becoming increasingly aware of how interconnected all of our societies and economies are so that you can’t just study anything in isolation of everything else,” he said.

Knapp noted that the University draws its highest number of international students from China – 1,239 total undergraduate and graduate students, which is about 40 percent of GW’s foreign student population. The number of students from China has also increased about 440 percent since Knapp came to GW in 2007, a trend mirrored nationally.

That growth has been propelled in part by the country’s growing number of families with disposable income to spend on higher education, Knapp said.

“The wealth of the Chinese has increased. There are more millionaires living in China than in the United States,” Knapp said. “As China has built its middle class, more and more families are interested in sending their daughters and sons abroad, particularly to English-speaking universities, because they see English as the language of their future.”

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