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    In Hainan’s FTZ, China Lets Foreign Universities Operate Solo

    To diversify higher education and attract international students, foreign universities no longer need a Chinese partner in Hainan’s Free Trade Zone.

    For the first time, China will allow overseas universities to set up and operate independently in the Hainan Free Trade Zone without local partners. Until now, foreign universities were required to collaborate with Chinese entities to operate within the country. 

    Issuing new guidelines to this effect Sunday, the Ministry of Education encouraged overseas universities and vocational colleges, including those from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, to set up in China’s southern Hainan province. 

    Globally prestigious universities will also be allowed to open campuses and develop higher education in the fields of science, engineering, agriculture, and medicine.

    The move aims to “promote the opening-up of higher-level education to the world” and “serve the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port,” the Ministry said in a statement.

    Earlier this month, Hainan’s provincial government announced that Germany’s Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences will open a campus this year. It plans to recruit 140 undergraduate students for the fall semester, domestic media reported.

    The policy shift comes after pandemic-fueled restrictions brought overseas studies to a near standstill. Over the last three years, interest among Chinese students about overseas study waned amid increasing uncertainties caused by security concerns and geopolitical tension.  

    Foreign universities have been extending their foothold in the world’s biggest source of international students over the past two decades. But they could only do so after establishing a joint university with Chinese partners — a similar mechanism allows multinational foreign companies to tap the Chinese market. 

    Since 2004, more than 10 such cooperative universities including the University of Nottingham Ningbo China and New York University Shanghai have been established as China ramps up reforms to higher education. 

    While complying with China’s existing regulations, such universities enjoy operational independence in curriculum design, tuition fees, recruitment, and campus facilities. Apart from Chinese students, the universities are encouraged to recruit overseas students as well. 

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: A view of the Li’an International Education Innovation Experimental Zone, Lingshui, Hainan province, March 30, 2022. IC)