The Rise of ‘Hybrid Global Universities’ in China to Influence Student Choice

Hybrid Global Universities in Chinajoint venture Dreducation rahul choudaha

Would you consider earning a degree from a top-ranked American university at half the cost of studying the US? Consider the case of Duke Kunshan University, which charges 170,000 yuan (US$25,000) for Chinese students for the autumn 2019-20 academic year. Given that living expenses are lower in China than in the US, the estimated total cost of attendance amounts to 231,310 yuan ($33,500). In contrast, tuition and fees at Duke University campus in Durham, North Carolina, for autumn 2019-20 is $58,198.

And if you add books, supplies and living expenses, the estimated cost of attendance rises to $78,608. In other words, a Chinese student can earn a US degree while remaining in China and saving about $45,000 per year, or $180,000 over four years of an undergraduate degree. How is this possible?

In 2003, the Chinese government announced a regulatory framework to allow the creation of joint-venture universities with an overarching goal of improving the quality of the domestic higher-education system by importing best practices from reputed foreign universities. These joint-venture universities established as separate legal entities require extensive collaboration and effective governance between a Chinese university and an international university. There are currently nine such joint-venture universities, with partners from the US, the UK, Israel, Russia and Hong Kong.

I am calling these joint-venture universities in China “hybrid global universities.” By definition, a hybrid variety aims to achieve new desirable characteristics by combining two different crops. The intention is to create something better than the sum of two originating types. Likewise, hybrid global universities intend to create a unique global offering in China by blending the best of two partner universities. Students learn from a pool of global faculty who teach in English and they earn a degree from the foreign university in addition to the degree from the joint-venture university.

I coined the term “hybrid global universities” to indicated joint-venture universities in China with a separate legal status to award a foreign degree along with a degree from the joint-venture

Last month, I had a unique opportunity to visit four hybrid global universities – Duke Kunshan University, NYU Shanghai, University of Nottingham Ningbo China, and Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University – and interview their institutional leaders about the future of the universities.

Collectively, the nine “hybrid global universities” have fewer than 50,000 Chinese students. To put it in perspective, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), more than 928,000 Chinese students were studying overseas in 2017, and of this, nearly 322,000 were in the US and more than 96,000 in the UK. The question is, will the hybrid global universities reduce the demand for studying overseas among Chinese students?

As hybrid global universities mature in terms of quality and visibility, some Chinese families will likely switch from sending their children overseas to keeping them at home, saving significantly in investment, and yet earning a foreign degree. In sum, hybrid global universities are emerging as a unique model of offering global learning opportunities for Chinese students, and it is likely to influence mobility patterns and choices of Chinese students in the medium to long term.

– Rahul Choudaha, Ph.D.

Related post: Access to Global Learning: Role of International Branch Campuses