Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Meeting in the Middle

As China has increased its presence in global affairs over the past few decades, Georgetown has taken action.

With China’s higher education system evolving significantly since the 1970s, the country has sought heightened relations with Western universities, and Georgetown is one of them. The university has cultivated a close relationship with Chinese educational institutions since the end of last century, forming partnerships that send professors, administrators and students back and forth between the United States and China and launching programs that foster cultural and academic exchange.

Georgetown developed a formal partnership with the Central Party School, where mid- to high-level Chinese government officials undergo education and training, in addition to signing a cooperative agreement with Beijing’s Renmin University in 2004. The partnerships enable collaboration on academic and research endeavors for both professors and students.

And in May, the university reached a partnership with Fudan University in Shanghai, in which the two institutions agreed to work together in law, medicine and journalism, as well as to offer dual graduate law degrees.

University President John J. DeGioia has made four trips to China over the past two years, and he said in an interview in September that he often lectures in Fudan. Additionally, Frank Wong, a research associate professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, is at the forefront of an HIV research project in collaboration with Fudan’s School of Public Health.

Samuel Robfogel, director of Georgetown’s Office of International Initiatives, said that Georgetown reaps many benefits by forging partnerships with Chinese scholars and universities. Chief among them, Robfogel said, is the opportunity to advertise and bolster Georgetown’s science reputation overseas.

“The idea is that the reputation of Georgetown science programs are enhanced by greater contact with Chinese scholars in those fields,” he said. An improving science and research reputation in China will contribute to Georgetown’s overall image by boosting the university’s rankings and attracting the best scholars and students to Georgetown, Robfogel said.

China’s involvement with Western institutions like Georgetown can be largely attributed to the changing face of its education system. With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese higher education drew inspiration from the Soviet Union model, in which universities were more narrowly focused and specialized than Western universities.

The 1970s marked a turning point in the system – it was during this time that the government allowed private institutions to award diplomas, permitted Chinese students to study abroad and made higher education more of a priority. The next two decades saw the passing of the 1986 Compulsory Education Law, which requires nine years of schooling for Chinese citizens and the allocation of increasing amounts of its budget to education.

Today, Chinese higher education is resembling the Western system more and more, and closer relations with Georgetown and other U.S. universities are helping it along the way.

“China is a very assertive player in higher education, seeking ways to join the leading universities in the world in strategic relationships, to place themselves in the forefront of knowledge creation in the world today,” DeGioia said meeting with faculty members on Sept. 25, according to the university’s transcript. “In the past decade they have doubled the percentage of their population pursuing higher education.”

Additionally, this year, the China Scholarship Council-Georgetown University Fellowship Program kicked off. The program allows Chinese fellows to conduct research at Georgetown and return to their country with their findings and the promise of continued ties to the university. Fourteen Chinese scholars are currently on campus as part of this program.

The first Chinese student matriculated at Georgetown in 1926. Last year, 91 students from the PRC were enrolled: three at the undergraduate level, 19 at the Law Center, seven in the Office of Educational Partnerships and 62 in graduate programs besides law and medicine, according to statistics from the OII. In addition, in the fall of 2006, nine students from Hong Kong were enrolled.

Conversely, many Georgetown students study abroad in China at the undergraduate level. According to the OII, in the 2005-2006 school year, 45 Georgetown undergraduates studied abroad in the PRC and Hong Kong.

Exchange programs are not limited to students. From July 2005 to June 2006, 131 visiting professors from China came to Georgetown, most of them working in the science departments, according to the OII.

Georgetown faculty members have also taken advantage of work and research opportunities in China. Almost two decades ago, Georgetown’s international relations field chair Robert Lieber researched at Fudan University’s Center for American Studies in 1988. More recently, sociology and anthropology professor Fr. Dennis McNamara, S.J. spent part of the 2006 spring semester at Renmin University. And in January of this year, Yuye Tong, a professor in Georgetown’s chemistry department signed a collaborative research agreement with a professor at Fujian Province’s Xiamen University.

McNamara said that “we have the benefit of experience” in working with Chinese institutions in several areas. “Georgetown students and faculty have long found ways to work productively in other socialist societies, in non-Christian societies,” he said.

College Dean Jane McAuliffe visited China last year and is planning another trip next spring to bolster relations. “Like other parts of the university, Georgetown College is exploring increased connections with Chinese universities and academic institutes,” she said.

McAuliffe added that she will be meeting with College faculty in the next few weeks in efforts to develop a teleconferenced course in conjunction with Fudan University. “The College would like to take advantage of the fact that Georgetown has recently opened an office in Shanghai as a way of facilitating further conversations and connections in China,” she said.

Georgetown has already made several steps in its larger goal of strengthening the working relationship between the university and China, but its work is not yet finished as it continues to search for ways in which to extend its presence across the Pacific Ocean.

“We do not know exactly where our explorations and new relationships with China will lead, how they may unfold and develop, or how they will support the overall goals of this university,” DeGioia said at the Sept. 25 meeting. “But there is one thing of which we can be certain: when Georgetown held its first classes, at the dawn of our republic, we had six students, one building, no endowment and no substantial financial support of any kind. Today, we stand on the threshold of becoming a truly global institution.”

– HOYA Staff Writer Michele Hong contributed to this report

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya