The Newsletter 77 Summer 2017

Joint venture universities in China

Tansen Sen

Studying at Chinese universities in Beijing as an Indian in the 1980s was a fascinating and memorable experience. I entered Beijing Foreign Languages Institute (now Beijing Language and Culture University) for a four-year BA program in Chinese language and literature when I was still in my mid-teens. I had no prior knowledge of Mandarin and the instructors spoke no foreign languages, yet they possessed the best pedagogical tools to teach Mandarin to novice foreign students.

I was struck most by the intimate relation between the instructors and foreign students at a time when contacts between foreigners and locals were still restricted. Our Chinese laoshis were not merely teachers, but also our host families, counselors, and friends. Thus, we received an education that went beyond class lessons and textbooks. It involved insights into the daily lives of people and a society that was on the verge of experiencing dramatic social and economic transformations.

After passing the national exams I enrolled in the MA program at Peking University. Suddenly I was taking courses with Chinese students that required significantly advanced Chinese language skills. Despite the strenuous curricular demands, the three years at Beida were equally remarkable. I had a motherly advisor, participated in various scholarly seminars, and even made trips to Tiananmen Square during the 1989 student protests. Education at the two Chinese universities has unequivocally shaped my academic career as well as personal life.

The collection of articles in this section focuses on the new rise of Sino-foreign joint venture universities. In addition to offering new educational opportunities and programs, these campuses foster unique bonding between Chinese and foreign students, faculty and staff members. While Chinese and foreign students also engage in similar opportunities at universities in Europe and the United States, the setting in China with pedagogical tools inducted from the world's leading academic institutions provide a distinct educational value, a range of innovative curricula and unprejudiced perspectives. With such shared educational training and experiences, graduates from these universities, as the articles imply, are expected to make significant contributions to the multicultural collaborations that define the globalized world of today.

Tansen Sen, Founding Director of the Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai (