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China and Massey University - Sino the times

Commentary

By Arthur Chin – Director, International – Massey University

A Chinese Film Festival run by Massey University in Palmerston North featuring recent art house and documentary movies throughout September is just one example of how China is at the forefront of the University’s current thinking and activities.

While China is where a large proportion of the University’s 4000 International Students come from, connections with Chinese ideas and culture through tertiary and industry links are happening across all spheres of the University.

The five films at the festival, the opening of which was attended by Ms Han Lixin, the third secretary (Culture Section) in the Chinese Embassy, each explore various impacts of modern China’s rapid social and economic changes on the lives of ordinary people. The event, launched by the School of Humanities’ East Asian Studies programme, which teaches Chinese and Japanese language and culture – is a great way of making cultural connections across Massey’s community and the general public. It reflects a growing interest in New Zealand about China’s role in shaping the future of the world’s economy and environment, with education as the lynchpin.

Massey is currently the chosen education destination for 1230 Chinese International students, who are studying undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, including in Business, Engineering, Food Technology, Information Sciences, Construction, Arts and Humanities, Design as well as pre-degree programmes and English language courses.

Growing these numbers amid global economic uncertainty and volatility is the challenge our dynamic International Office team faces. International education is vulnerable to the ongoing effects of the global financial crisis, as well as directional shifts in government policy, regulations and funding that influence decisions to study abroad. Underpinning these tangible events are perceptions of the destination country by parents and students looking to study away from home.

Chinese students choose to come to New Zealand because we offer excellent teaching and internationally recognised qualifications in a safe, friendly, beautiful country. Our side of the bargain is to provide comprehensive support - for academic achievement, pastoral care and positive social experiences. This is pivotal to Massey’s success in attracting and retaining students from China and elsewhere. It’s also the crux of our broader philosophy of internationalization, which aims to foster cross-cultural knowledge, understanding and awareness among all our staff and students, and to engage students in a globalised economic and social environment.

You don’t have to look far to see evidence of this, from top-level research collaborations between Massey academics and their Chinese counterparts to a flourishing of cultural events, exchanges and teaching awards at our three campuses in Auckland, Palmerston North and Wellington.

Having Chinese academics on staff provides yet another channel for research and teaching links between China and New Zealand. Take conservation biologist Dr Weihong Ji. Based at Massey’s Institute Natural Sciences at Albany, she teaches and supervises postgraduate students from around the world. Notably, she and two postgraduate students are researching China’s endangered snub-nosed monkey found in central China’s Qinling Mountains.

Their projects are funded by the Shaanxi Science Academy, in collaboration with the Shaanxi Institute of Zoology and the Research Centre for the Sichuan Snub-nosed Monkey at Northwest University.

Dr Ji has also helped to set up a joint research centre at Gansu Agricultural University in Lanzhou, northwest China. Massey and Gansu signed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year with the aim of tackling alpine grassland degradation – an issue the central government in Beijing has identified as a key priority.

Massey’s College of Business, which offers programmes on all three campuses including its prestigious School of Aviation based near Palmerston North, attracts the highest proportion of Chinese International Students. About a third come through formal pathway arrangements with tertiary providers in China, such as Wuhan University; Renmin University of China, Xiamen University; Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics and Nanjing University of Technology.

Massey expertise on China-related issues is indicative of the demand for Sino-focused research. Professor Usha Haley, an Indian-born American at our School of Management, is a world-leading authority on international strategic management and author of numerous books on Chinese economic development including the best-selling Chinese Tao of Business.

Massey has long been committed to nurturing and educating thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs from nations around the globe, including the People’s Republic of China.

The reasons for this go way beyond the immediate transaction of education and degree qualification in exchange for foreign currency. Building global relationships - student by student - is how we create opportunities for individuals here and abroad, our communities and countries through business, diplomatic, cultural, social and artistic networks. Massey University programmes equip graduates with the skills and confidence to work anywhere in the world.

As we welcome each Chinese student, we mark the beginning of a relationship. This relationship has the potential to yield mutually beneficial, far-reaching connections and projects downstream that, hopefully, will help to generate a prosperous, sustainable future for all of us.

We would love to hear great stories about your connections and achievements in China. Please contact Luke Qin luke.qin@nzcta.co.nz