The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 that aims to develop the infrastructure and investments in nearly 70 countries and international organisations in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Although higher education wasn’t a direct focus of the initiative, the benefits for students living in the countries along the way is undeniable. China has seen an increase in the number of students from countries such as South Korea, India and Pakistan, as well as from a number of other smaller nations.
I would like to share with you how BRI education is shaping the lives of young students like me, who usually hail from the developing regions of this world.
As part of the cultural and educational exchanges, universities in China have been offering a number of partially and fully funded scholarships for students from countries included in the initiative. They range from scholarships for language studies to fully fledged degree programmes at master’s and PhD level.
This serves as a wonderful opportunity for students from developing countries to gain a quality education at an affordable price.
The full and partial scholarships have not only made higher education accessible for students, but have also enabled young people to fulfil their dream of pursuing one of their desired courses such as medicine and engineering, which are quite hard to gain admission to.
World-class education and research facilities
With ambitious initiatives such as Project 211, Project 985 and the Double First-Class University Plan, China has been making considerable efforts to make its higher education world class.
Evidence of this is the rapid rise of Chinese universities featured in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings over the years. A large number of top-class Chinese universities have been offering better facilities for international students, making the country a more attractive study-abroad destination.
As a result, numerous young people from developing nations of the world are studying in China and gaining professional qualifications and much-valued technical skills.
Some universities are also developing courses that relate directly to the Belt and Road Initiative, such as foreign language courses that promote the native languages of smaller countries or courses that can help to improve infrastructure along the route.
Specific colleges dedicated to the Belt and Road Initiative have been set up at prestigious Chinese universities, including Peking University, to build initiatives across the network.
Cultural immersion and global exposure
Chinese universities are a great place to gain global exposure, especially when you get an opportunity to study with classmates from many different countries from all over the world.
Chinese language proficiency is fast becoming a desirable skill among employers, and Chinese universities offers students a great opportunity to learn the language with friends from across the globe while embracing China’s local culture.
Increased university collaboration
There has been a rise in the number of collaborations between universities in China and universities along the BRI route.
One of the biggest is the University Alliance of the Silk Road (UASR), which was established in 2015 and is thought to involve 150 universities across 38 countries. Most of these institutions are along the immediate Belt and Road route, but there are also some UK and US partners involved.
Links such as these are a great way for universities to share ideas, and student exchange programmes allow students to spend some time studying abroad at a university that they might not have otherwise thought to study at.
Chinese universities have also been exporting their education to other countries to provide courses that might be otherwise unavailable there, thus offering students in nearby countries a quality education. Xiamen University’s Malaysia campus is one particular example of this.
Interaction with students from all over the world
This is something I have experienced since studying at university in China. I would have never been able to understand how students from Africa or the Middle East feel about global trends such as modernisation, online education or even spiritualism had I not come to China.
Because the majority of students in China come from the developing world, it is a great opportunity to better understand the aspirations and expectations of the youth from the developing world.
The Belt and Road Initiative has not only been helping countries build physical infrastructure, it has been transforming lives by offering young people the most precious opportunity – quality education and experience.
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