Beijing-bound

No, not anytime soon. But it looks very likely that our school will be starting a Beijing graduate program, followed shortly by BS and MA programs in Singapore. (Oh, and keep this under your hat, or something, it’s not really public. It’s not like anyone actually reads this blog or anything.) This means that I will likely get a chance to teach, for short periods of time, in each of these cities, something I am very excited about. Mind you, senior faculty have dibs on the snowiest months, but I can live with that.

Because of this, I was especially taken by this article on 10 things the Chinese do far better than we do. I also need to start learning Chinese, something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I speak absolutely none.

I’ve thought about taking a summer class, but I’m thinking it might be better to just study on my own, in the standard graduate student style. If I can learn to read and write well, I can rely on some of our many Chinese-speaking grad students to coach me on pronunciation. Anyone know of a good introductory Chinese text?

(There are other exciting developments in the program I direct. I know I promised to be transparent about this — and I will — only it takes time even to get a core of faculty members to agree on change.)

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7 Comments

  1. Posted 11/6/2004 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Ah, so the US is going to start competing with the Australians at providing English-language degrees in Asia? Or are there already Asian campuses for US universities and colleges? I know this is how Australian tertiary institutions make most of their money. I think I read somewhere that 40% of students of Australian universities are Asian, and fully fee-paying (Australians still don’t pay full fees though tuition’s no longer free) but I’m not sure if that includes the Asian campuses or just Asian students in Australia.

    Sounds like fun, anyway. Though Chinese sounds awfully hard to learn. Good luck!

  2. Posted 11/6/2004 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    This definitely isn’t a new thing. Lots of US public and private universities have programs in Asia. In fact, in Singapore UB already has a campus, teaching business and engineering programs.

    It’s a natural move for us. Since I’ve arrived at Buffalo, each of our graduate cohorts have been majority Asian. Many of our Ph.D.s are teaching in Korea and Taiwan, so that’s where many of our students come from. We arguably have a better reputation in those countries than in the US. But we also draw students from the PRC and from Singapore.

    This comes in the nick of time because it is becoming much more difficult for students to get visas to study in the States, and it gives us an opportunity to strengthen already strong bonds. Our Chinese and Singaporean faculty are pretty happy about it.

    I’ve heard Chinese is hard to learn, but it’s certainly worth a shot. I’m not aiming for fluency, just enough to get by, I guess. Besides, I think my background in Japanese may actually aid (very slightly) learning the written language.

  3. Posted 11/6/2004 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    It is really an exciting opportunity!

    After I read Ong’s introductory piece of different languages, I cannot help trying to recall how I’ve learned Chinese, especially the writing. The relationship between the words and their pronunciations is somewhat arbitrary in Chinese. Thus, I found myself still learn English words in a Chinese way. That is, the way we use to remember a new English vocabulary is to “memorize” it instead of “spell” it.

    You are supposed to learn Simplified Chinese, right? I think it’s easier for you because they use pin-yin system to learn Chinese. That is, using English alphabet to pronounce words. And I think the ability to speak Japanese is also helpful to learn Chinese because they have some similar words and pronunciations.

  4. Posted 11/7/2004 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I see these “satellite campuses” as a way in which universities make even more money. At the end of the day, even education is subject to commercialization. I’d debate on the issue of quality vs. quantity. On the flipside, perhaps it is no better time to be a teacher.

  5. Posted 11/7/2004 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Kevin: That commercialization process has been happening for a while now. Frankly, it is unlikely most universities will continue to be able to compete with corporate universities and the like. It’s certainly not a good time to be a teacher. It’s nothing like it was thirty — or even ten — years ago. Teachers are directly responsible for keeping the university afloat, and the administrative structure has gotten larger and larger. There is such a demand for a limited pool of students, that schools have resorted to ridiculous recruiting practices rather than spending the money on faculty to teach the classes.

    In the past, professors have been willing to give up jobs in the private sector (the average Ph.D. makes something like 30% more if they go to work outside the academy) because there were certain advantages to working at a university. A lot of those advantages are disappearing, and it is becoming more difficult to justify teaching when the university is more and more concerned with keeping afloat.

    I have to say, though, that I’m not sure the tradeoff between quality and quantity is really that clear. I suspect that, especially at the undergraduate level, our Singaporean students will end up with a stronger education than our local students, for a variety of reasons. Right now, for reasons of inertia more than anything else, the US (and the Commonwealth and Europe) have the most reputable universities, and students come here to study. I would be surprised if this is still the case in ten years. I suspect that you will begin to see more graduate students going abroad to Asia to study. I suspect some of the first fields this will happen in are medicine and engineering.

  6. Posted 11/7/2004 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Recently, Taiwan government claimed that the number of students who studied abroad declined and reached the lowest point within 20 years. In order to encourage studying abroad, they decided to provide scholarships for those who want to go abroad for Ph.D degree. In my opinion, it is because the social class mobilization was gradually not base on whether studying abroad or not. It made me think of two questions: 1) will the higher education become more successful in local level? 2) What are the “political economy” benefits for a government to encourage more students studying abroad?

    In my undergraduate study, I have some international classmates, too. Most of them come from Macau, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. However, universities do not have a standard admission process for applicants who are from non-Chinese speaking countries. But this situation has a slight change recently. Acdemia Sinica started to institutionalize admission process and research program for international students. Department of computer and information science of NCTU, where I worked before I came here, they have 9 international graduate students from Europe and United States this year. (The total amount of graduate students is 120) It is interesting that most of them do not speak Chinese, and it forced the seminar course became English speaking. I agree with Alex that perhaps more and more people will go to Asian university to study within ten years. I think another popular field may be the MBA program in China.

  7. Posted 11/7/2004 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Recently, Taiwan government claimed that the number of students who studied abroad declined and reached the lowest point within 20 years. In order to encourage studying abroad, they decided to provide scholarships for those who want to go abroad for Ph.D degree. In my opinion, it is because the social class mobilization was gradually not base on whether studying abroad or not. It made me think of two questions: 1) will the higher education become more successful in local level? 2) What are the “political economy” benefits for a government to encourage more students studying abroad?

    In my undergraduate study, I have some international classmates, too. Most of them come from Macau, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. However, universities do not have a standard admission process for applicants who are from non-Chinese speaking countries. But this situation has a slight change recently. Acdemia Sinica started to institutionalize admission process and research program for international students. Department of computer and information science of NCTU, where I worked before I came here, they have 9 international graduate students from Europe and United States this year. (The total amount of graduate students is 120) It is interesting that most of them do not speak Chinese, and it forced the seminar course became English speaking. I agree with Alex that perhaps more and more people will go to Asian university to study within ten years. I think another popular field may be the MBA program in China.

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