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Program strengthens ASU-China ties

February 05, 2008

A group of more than 25 deans and directors from Sichuan University (SCU), ASU’s sister institution in China, spent three weeks analyzing the university’s structure and visiting its campuses.

The training program, requested by SCU and part of the collaboration agreement between the two institutions, is meant to help deans and directors learn how public American institutions work and operate, with a focus on the administrative structure and management styles at ASU.

Chinese officials attended 17 presentations by ASU executive leaders and dozens of subgroup meetings with university counterparts that covered everything from Internet technology management, student services and branding to global engagement, economic development and innovation.

“Sichuan University is making great strides to meet the challenges and opportunities of the rapidly growing urban region of Chengdu – and, more broadly, the breathtakingly rapid expansion of China and its role in the world,” says Anthony “Bud” Rock, ASU vice president for global engagement. “ASU and SCU have much in common, as Phoenix, like Chengdu, experiences astounding growth and impact. This process requires progressive, forward-looking university design and administration.”

Rock discussed ASU’s global engagement initiatives, exchange programs and international projects with the Chinese delegation.

In general, China faces many of the higher education challenges that the United States is experiencing. As a sister institution, SCU shares many similarities with ASU.

SCU is a comprehensive public metropolitan research university, with more than 60,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students on three campuses. As one of the key national universities directly under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, SCU has been moving at an accelerated pace to establish itself as one of the world-class universities.

But the general culture of universities in China is different from the United States.

The training program’s brief, prepared by Mengying Li, strategic planner in the Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement, cites that issues of enrollment, retention and remedial studies are virtually nonexistent in China. Since Chinese higher education is dominated by high-stakes testing, and admission criteria are primarily based on the scores of the National College Entrance Exam, only high achievers have the opportunities to go to college, so dropping out is the last thing one would expect to do there.

A study conducted by UNESCO in 2006 concludes that because Chinese universities did not start collecting tuition until 1995, financial aid and student services have become an important issue in that country. With significant enrollment expansion, there’s also been a concern for maintaining quality standards in the face of limited resources.

“It is always helpful to learn about best practices and challenges that other institutions face,” says Mariko Silver, director of strategic projects and a special adviser in ASU’s Office of the President. “For this group, they were able to get a sense not just of ASU, but also of the American higher education system and approach to tertiary education in general. ASU and Sichuan University have established a sister-institution relationship, so the exchange takes on special significance, as it is particularly important for us to get to know one another across the institutions.”

Silver gave the SCU group an overview of ASU and its New American University plan with examples of each of the design imperatives.

The Chinese delegation showed particular interest in the areas of human resources management, faculty and staff compensation, use-inspired research, research funding, and entrepreneurship programs and projects. However, many of the SCU deans had the opportunity to meet counterparts and cultivate relationships with key ASU contacts.