Belt and Road projects lead to massive growth in higher education for overseas students in China

By Liu Xin in Beijing and Li Lei in Xi'an Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/3 12:51:19

As Belt and Road construction continues to bring tangible benefits to the countries involved, China's higher education is also playing an increasingly important role in facilitating the development of these countries through training more overseas talents.

Higher education in China for overseas students has seen remarkable growth in terms of quality and scale, as more students come to China to learn advanced technology beside language and culture.

University alliance

As the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, is playing a pivotal role in linking countries along the Belt and Road in terms of higher education.

In 2015, Xi'an Jiaotong University, the top university in Shaanxi Province, launched the University Alliance of the Silk Road (UASR) to train international talents and work as a platform for education cooperation. So far, the alliance has incorporated 151 universities from 38 countries, according to the School of International Education of Xi’an Jiaotong Unviersity.

Under the framework of the alliance, the university aims to train talents according to the practical requirement of Belt and Road construction. In 2018, Xi'an Jiaotong University had a total of 2,804 overseas students from 136 countries and regions, and 70 percent of them are from countries along the Belt and Road.

Chalwe Lengwe chose Jiaotong to study medicine in 2013 when he was 19 years old, and now he is in medical practice at the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University.

"In Zambia, many students would like to learn medicine, but there are few medical schools and they are very costly, especially the private ones," Lengwe told the Global Times.

"China becomes the best option with its low cost and high-quality education," said Lengwe.

Lengwe said he is planning to get his doctor's license in Zambia after graduation. "The main reason I am studying medicine is to help others, which makes me feel life is meaningful," Lengwe told the Global Times.

Muhammad Sohail Khan is planning to do his doctoral studies in China this year after studying clinical medicine in Xi'an Jiaotong University for almost 10 years.

"I like China's safe environment and convenient facilities," Khan said.

Khan did his undergraduate studies at the university from 2010 to 2014. After a year of medical practice back in Pakistan, Khan applied for Xi'an Jiaotong University for postgraduate studies without hesitation.

Sofia Zachepylo, a freshman at the university, and a kung fu lover.

"All the stories between me and China originated from Jackie Chan, as I started to learn the Chinese language and martial arts when I was 6 years old," Zachepylo told the Global Times.

The outgoing 19-year-old Ukrainian girl is quite the star at the School of Economics and Finance of Xi'an Jiaotong University with fluent spoken Chinese.

"China is undergoing rapid development, and I assume it will soon become the most powerful country economically. Therefore, I'd like to learn economics and trade in China," said Zachepylo.

At the same time, the university has been actively seeking cooperation with leading universities in countries in Europe and the US and expanding student enrollment in these countries. A joint-degree program of the university's electrical engineering school with Politecnico di Milano was established to cultivate postgraduates.

Training talent

Chang'an University, one of China's top institutes for road and bridge and automobile engineering, has seen a sharp growth in the number of overseas students.

From 2013 to 2019, the number of overseas students in the university increased from 409 to 1,600. The university attributes the growth of overseas student numbers to the university-industry cooperation model.

"University-industry cooperation to train overseas students is a feature of Chang'an University, since we are among the first batch of universities in China that have adopted the pattern, as well as the most experienced one," Lü Weidong, director of the International Students Affairs office of Chang'an University, told the Global Times.

According to Lü, most of the overseas students are from Southeast Asian countries and Africa. "Many large construction engineering companies that are participating in the Belt and Road construction came to us for cooperation, as training local talent is an effective way to curb costs and guarantee maintenance work after construction," said Lü, adding that "cultivating local talent is also a responsibility that Chinese enterprises are fulfilling in the countries involved in the Belt and Road."

"Cooperation with Shaanxi Automobile Holdings focused on scientific research projects of domestic students. Now the company has set up scholarships in our university to jointly train overseas students, as the company expands its business scope to some Southeast Asian and African countries such as Algeria, Nepal, Laos and Cambodia," Lü told the Global Times.

Lü said that in the beginning of 2018, the university and Shaanxi Automobile selected 20 students from these countries for postgraduate studies in the university, and provided them scholarships covering all their tuition fees. Additionally, the company also set up other scholarships for students with outstanding performances.

In addition to road and bridge engineering and automobile engineering, the university also established majors serving projects involving sectors such as engineering accounting and management.

In 2018, a total of 1,000 overseas students were admitted to the university, and the goal in 2019 is 1,600.

A Belt and Road engineering training center was also established in the Chang'an University to provide one or two-year technical training and further education for overseas engineers. 

Lü told the Global Times that most of the overseas students who graduated from Chang'an University have returned to their home countries and are working for various infrastructure projects. Some of them have been employed by Chinese construction companies to work in overseas construction projects in different parts of the world. 

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