Base expands Chinese link

A university aims to attract research investment with 'collaborative centre'. John Morgan writes

October 13, 2011

The University of Birmingham has established a research base in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, paving the way to its first overseas campus as it seeks to take advantage of high research spending in rising economic powers.

Birmingham has set up a "collaborative centre" in Guangzhou, the largest city in Guangdong province, starting three biomedical research projects and signing agreements on joint working with the city government and local higher education institutions.

The move comes as Birmingham also looks to establish itself in Brazil, where the government, like that of China, is investing heavily in research.

David Eastwood, Birmingham's vice-chancellor, said the aim in Guangzhou was to establish a strong Chinese presence based on quality rather than quantity.

It would entail a graduate school "built from those research projects in the first instance", he said. "We are discussing it as a campus, but what we are not doing in this, significantly, is going into volume undergraduate education."

Professor Eastwood, who is a former chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said another goal was to establish an "international student hub" in China.

The hub would be set up in collaboration with local institutions in Guangzhou and would not involve Birmingham degrees being offered locally, but could prepare students to move on to study in Birmingham or at its Guangzhou graduate school.

The model is different from that pursued in China by the University of Nottingham - with which Birmingham is building a close partnership. Nottingham offers principally undergraduate courses at both its Ningbo campus and a similar centre based outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Asked why Birmingham had chosen to focus on research, Professor Eastwood said: "Partly because we wanted to signal very clearly that we are a research-led university, and partly because we are already in Guangzhou with significant research partnerships in the health area."

Earlier this summer, Birmingham and Nottingham undertook a joint mission to South America as part of a much-publicised partnership between the two.

Professor Eastwood said this venture was "progressing well" and that key partnerships with institutions in Brazil were being lined up.

He added that the Brazilian projects would be "predominantly research focused" with the emphasis on research studentships and fellowships.

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