Campus in Malaysia seen as breakthrough in internationalization of higher education
Construction of Xiamen University's Malaysia branch campus began on Friday, marking the first overseas outreach by Chinese higher education institutions.
The university's publicity department said on Monday that the Malaysia campus is located on about 60 hectares in Salak Tinggi, a 15-minute drive from Putrajaya, the federal administrative center of Malaysia. Construction will be finished in about two years.
Student enrollment will begin in autumn of 2015. The first class will have 500 students, and the student population is expected to reach 5,000 by 2020. The campus aims to eventually have 10,000 students, including undergraduate and graduate students.
Five schools will be open to students in the first stage at the Malaysia campus: Chinese language and culture, medicine, information communication technology, economics and oceanography.
In the second phase, five more schools will be added: chemical engineering and energy, biological engineering, electronic engineering, material sciences, and mass media and animation.
Degrees will be granted by Xiamen University in the same way as at its main campus in Fujian.
Zhu Chongshi, president of Xiamen University, has said the university set up the schools after in-depth surveys and consultations with experts on the needs of Malaysian society.
In 2011, Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia, invited Chinese universities to set up campuses in his country. Chinese education authorities picked Xiamen University because of its long ties with Malaysia.
Xiamen University was established in 1921 by Tan Kah Kee, a prominent businessman and philanthropist in the overseas Chinese community of Southeast Asia.
Zhu said it is "a historical payback" that, decades later, Xiamen University goes to Malaysia, where Tan grew up.
The past decades have seen a number of overseas universities come to China to set up joint institutions and exchange programs. The Ministry of Education put the number of joint projects now at about 1,600, including New York University Shanghai and Duke Kunshan University.
The Xiamen campus in Malaysia is a breakthrough in terms of the internationalization of higher education, as the number of Chinese higher education institutes going out is rather small, said Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a public policy think tank in Beijing.
"This is also a step toward adapting to the trend of globalization. ... Education resources should also become mobile. Students from around the globe can freely choose the education they want to have, and Chinese universities should see this trend," Wang said.
Toh Cai Wei, a Malaysian student at Xiamen University, said it is good news for Malaysian students that another prestigious overseas university is coming to her country.
"It will be a great opportunity for local students to experience a global education. The campus will also allow more foreign students to understand Chinese culture," she said.