Lerman to faculty: GW will set ‘very high bar’ for Chinese partnerships

Provost Steven Lerman outlined a set of requirements that would determine whether GW would build a campus in China. Corey Zagone | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Provost Steven Lerman said GW would consider a set of principles while deciding how to move forward in China. Corey Zagone | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Provost Steven Lerman expressed caution about the possibility of a GW campus in China on Friday, warning that GW won’t go ahead with any program or partnership unless it meets strict academic standards.

GW has been in talks with Chinese universities to create a campus in Beijing, but Lerman told members of the Faculty Senate that administrators were “nowhere down the road on anything like that.”

For GW to consider building a campus, the China university must demonstrate the same academic quality and a similar strategic plan and the partnership must be financially self-sustaining partnership and earn faculty buy-in, Lerman said.

“We’ll probably want to set a very high bar, and it doesn’t seem likely to me that any offer we’re likely to get would beat those four principles,” Lerman said.

A faculty committee will spend this year evaluating programs that other universities have in China and deciding whether GW should lean more towards teaching or research – and how far the University should go in either direction. The committee was formed this fall after faculty complained that they had been largely shut out of discussions for two years.

If GW chooses to pursue a campus in China, it could take years to maneuver the planning phase, including working with the Chinese Ministry of Education.

New York and Duke Universities, which have both gained degree-granting status in China, held years of discussions with the Chinese government and partner schools before being approved.

Only a handful of universities have achieved degree-granting status, and Lerman said it is likely that only a few more will.

“It’s a difficult and complicated environment for us because there are explicit rules and of course, the system of governance is quite different,” Lerman said. “China does want engagement internationally, but only of particular types.”

Lerman took control of the University’s initiatives in China in late August, after Doug Guthrie was fired as dean of the School of Business and vice president for China operations.

Guthrie oversaw the growth of several initiatives in China, including master’s of finance exchange programs in finance and accountancy. He secured GW classroom space in Suzhou National Park in 2012.

Faculty criticized administrators for allowing Guthrie to lead the expansion of China programs mostly single-handedly.

Charles Garris, a professor of engineering and chair of the professional ethics and academic freedom committee, said administrators were right to form a faculty committee reevaluating GW’s direction in China.

“I think things started off in the wrong direction when Dean Guthrie was in charge, but I think now they’re straightening out the things that are going on. He said everything right,” Garris said.

Garris added that while Chinese universities have a special interest in business programs, foreign engineering and science programs have been less successful.

– Cory Weinberg contributed to this report

This post was updated on October 14, 2013 for clarity.

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