Published: Jun 17, 2010 12:00:00 PM
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Source: The Chronical of Higher Education
Auburn University has begun making preliminary plans to open an engineering campus in China, with a goal of developing a full-fledged branch campus that would serve undergraduate and graduate students.
The university, in Alabama, hopes to build a campus in Danyang, a city northwest of Shanghai. Larry D. Benefield, dean of Auburn's engineering school, said Danyang was in a technologically advanced area that could benefit from having a research base centralized on a university campus.
Mr. Benefield said he had talked with Auburn's president, Jay Gogue, for years about an international campus. During those discussions, one engineering faculty member with ties to China suggested Danyang. Now, after several conversations with Chinese government officials, Auburn administrators said they were ready to move forward.
Because of Danyang's proximity to Shanghai, Auburn has selected Shanghai University as a potential partner. The extent of the would-be partnership is not yet clear—Mr. Benefield and others in the engineering school plan to work out the details in Shanghai this month—but it could mean that students would be able to pick either an Auburn University degree track or a Shanghai University degree track.
If the two-track option were offered, courses at the Danyang campus would be taught in both English and Chinese, depending on the track, and faculty members would come from both universities. Offering a degree based on Auburn's curriculum would allow Auburn students to study abroad at the Danyang campus without impeding their progress toward a degree.
Any proposed deal to build the Danyang campus or form a partnership with Shanghai University would need to be approved by Auburn's Board of Trustees.
Because Auburn, a public institution, cannot use taxpayer money for an international campus, the university will rely on donors. Auburn has not started soliciting gifts yet, but Mr. Benefield said he was confident that it could raise $2-million or $3-million, if necessary.
"We have discussed this with a number of our donors, who feel, as we do, that it's extremely beneficial for our students to have this international exposure," Mr. Benefield said.
He said Auburn officials hope the engineering campus is only a first step.
"Our idea is to begin as an engineering campus and expand as we mature to offer other degrees," Mr. Benefield said. "We've got to start small and kind of feel our way through."
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