October 20, 2009

U of C Beijing Center to open in fall 2010

The University will open an academic center in Beijing next fall, years ahead of schedule, President Zimmer announced last week. The center will strengthen ties with Chinese academic institutions and aid student and staff recruitment.

The decision to establish the center resulted from renewed interest after China’s recent “social, political, and economic transformations,” Vice President for Strategic Initiatives David Greene said in an e-mail interview. Although, he added, “China has long been an area of scholarly interest for Chicago faculty and students, and Chicago has been home to many leading students and scholars from China.”

A faculty committee, led by East Asian Studies Director Dali Yang, recommended the center in 2008. “We have a very substantial group of alumni in China, and China is a leading supplier of our students, so this center is part of our commitment to China,” Yang said.

Although plans are still being finalized, the center will have office space for faculty and seminar rooms in the Haidian district of Beijing, home to 20 leading Chinese universities, to encourage dialogue between the institutions.

“The decision was between Shanghai and Beijing. Shanghai is in some ways more cosmopolitan than Beijing, with its location by the Yangtze River Delta, but in the end the faculty committee believed for intellectual reasons and for our interest in the policy world, Beijing would be a good location,” Yang said.,

Greene said the center has three main intellectual themes to guide its programming: Culture, Society, and the Arts; Science, Medicine, and Public Health; and Economics, Business, and Policy. The center will also provide scholarships for faculty and students teaching and researching in China.

Martha Merritt, associate dean for international education and study abroad director, said the center would expand on the current undergraduate Asian Civilizations fall quarter program in Beijing. “With a year-round center in Beijing, we would work with faculty to add additional opportunities for our students, including language immersion and thematic course offerings,” Merrit said in an e-mail interview.

Greene said the China center is only the beginning of the University’s expansion into new geographic areas. “Members of the faculty have raised questions about the resources the University is providing for other areas as well. There is a faculty committee working now on India, for example, with South Asia being an area of study where Chicago has long had very significant strengths.”

The Booth School of Business has campuses in Singapore and London, which grant M.B.A. degrees. The center in China, like the University’s five-year-old Paris center, would offer classes, but not full degree programs.