Graduate schools might eventually be built at Manchester University and Tsinghua University, Beijing. The universities are establishing an international research programme with commercial backing, concentrating on engineering and telecommunications.
Discussions have involved senior academics from the universities and senior managers at British Telecom, which is anxious to break into the Chinese market.
Students from Tsinghua, one of China's leading science universities, have visited Manchester and students from Manchester's electrical engineering department will visit Beijing soon.
British Airways has provided 15 return air tickets to support students on the programme.
Wayne Burge, head of Manchester's public relations office, says potential advantages to Manchester include student recruitment and commerce. Tsinghua, he says, is "the Cambridge of China". Linking with it, Manchester enters the global market for funding.