The path of British universities opening branch campuses in Asia is a well-trodden one, littered with some successes and a few failures. There is far less travel in the opposite direction — but the dean of a Chinese business school with a UK outpost hopes this move will encourage other mainland institutions to follow in its footsteps.
Peking University HSBC Business School’s UK branch, based on a former Open University campus just outside Oxford, is set up to teach international business strategy from a Chinese perspective, and has been open to students from China, the UK and the rest of Europe since March 2018. Believed to be the first Chinese branch campus in Europe, the school’s launch coincides with the UK’s exit from the European Union, increasing pressure on the UK to form new international collaborations and attract foreign talent.
However, Wen Hai, the school’s dean, told Times Higher Education that the move realises a much longer-held ambition for the university. “We had an idea we should set up a campus as a bridge to bring people from the UK to China,” he says. “UK students want to learn Chinese business, and Chinese students have always wanted to come here, not just because of Brexit — they have always admired the UK education system. Having a (UK) base (would mean) forming more partnerships with UK institutions and also increase our global reputation. Then, two years ago we heard that (this site) was being sold. What an amazing opportunity. That does not happen very often.”
Eventually, Prof. Hai hopes to expand the student population to upwards of 200, “the minimum size in order for it to be a great graduate programme”. The campus will admit mainly postgraduates, with some shorter-term exchange students, and aims to maintain the same system and standards as in Shenzhen. In short, this means a Masters degree from the branch will take up to three years to finish compared with the UK’s standard one year.
The reaction so far to the school’s presence has been positive. “We appreciate how the UK education system is so open… China should learn (from this) how to open up (its) education to the world,” says Hai.