Learning Curve: UK-China Partnerships in Education

China’s higher education (HE) sector plays a key role in the country’s modernisation, but although
China has the world’s largest HE system and aspirations to develop world-class universities, the quality of teaching and research is still in need of improvement. At the same time, curriculum design and links with industry remain underdeveloped despite vocational education being recognised by the Chinese Government as being key for boosting economic growth and promoting employment. To ensure that its
education system is fit for purpose, cooperation with foreign institutions is now at the top of
China’s agenda.

The UK’s universities and colleges are known to have a global reputation for excellence, but increasingly they need to rely on overseas markets to generate revenue. The UK’s HE sector generates annual exports worth £7.9 billion, while the further education sector contributes an additional £1.1 billion. Education is already a key part of the UK’s overall strategic plan for engagement with China, whose market is regarded as offering huge potential.

Collaboration between UK and Chinese institutions has accelerated in recent years. Besides the successful delivery of degree programmes to Chinese students in the UK, joint-degree programmes have also been developed in China. Of the Chinese students now undertaking UK qualifications, some 39,000 are based within China itself. Such developments, alongside research collaborations on issues of mutual concern and the establishment of UK institutions on the ground in China, demonstrate that UK-China partnerships in education are becoming ever closer.

Recent agreements between the UK and China indicate a further strengthening of ties. The UK-China Education Summit on October 27, 2011 took the education framework agreement signed in November 2010 by the British Education Minister, Michael Gove, and China’s Minister for Education, Yuan Guiren, to the
next level. The UK and China have now agreed on a three-year action plan to strengthen their cooperation in higher education, vocational education and skills training, schools and language teaching.

As joint stakeholders in an aspiration to ensure that both countries have well-educated and well-trained citizens, equipped to meet the opportunities and challenges of a globalised world, the UK and Chinese governments have made a commitment to encourage sustainable partnerships between UK and Chinese universities, increase the mobility of students, teachers and practitioners between the UK and China, and enhance opportunities for UK students to study in China.

A vocational education strand of the action plan will also explore new forms of collaboration between industry and educational institutions, such as the introduction of apprenticeship programmes in China based on the UK model. The need for such initiatives is more important than ever in view of China’s national strategy to establish a network of 1,200 training centres by 2020 and to train 3.5 million more technicians.

Looking ahead, there is a bright future for UK and Chinese partnerships in education, based on equality, complementary strengths and shared visions for the future.

This article is taken from a special CBBC publication commemorating the 40th anniversary of UK-China diplomatic relations. View the full publication here.

Visit www.cbbc.org for more information on how we can help companies from all sectors do business with China.

Sectors: Education & Training
Countries: China and Far East
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