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Future of China and the UK in academic partnerships

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Academic cooperation is a cornerstone of economic and diplomatic international relations, and China and the UK are working to build a firm foundation for the future. Last October the two countries launched a new phase of collaboration, which is already leading to some exciting educational partnerships. Let's take a closer look at one of the dynamic relationships forged by the new agreements.
The Past
The United Kingdom and China have historic educational ties. In 1855, a Chinese medical student at the University of Edinburgh became the first student from China to earn a degree from a Western institution, and in 1957, the UK became one of the first countries to create a student exchange program with the People's Republic of China. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, China and the UK have worked to create a strong bond through international education and exchange programs and the efforts have been a huge boon for both nations. In the last five years, the UK has seen a 50% growth in the number of Chinese students, and Chinese students make up at least 20% of the UK's university student population. The UK government is also keen to have British students study in China and has used various initiatives to encourage university and internship exchanges.
The Present
The robust pattern of academic trade between China and the UK is due to several overlapping factors:
· rapid growth in China's university-aged population
· highly competitive entrance requirements at Chinese institutions
· family traditions of international study
· the UK's reputation as a source of high-quality higher education
While China has developed its post-secondary education sector, academic infrastructure has yet to meet the demands of the country's university-aged population and the UK is one of the top overseas choices for Chinese students. This is, in large part, a result of a series of bilateral international education agreements created by China and the UK over the last several decades that have established strong links between British and Chinese institutions. Most recently, China and the UK signed a new group of agreements at the 8th UK-China Education Summit in September 2015. The new agreements reinforced the two countries' commitment to academic collaboration, as well as cooperation in research, vocational training, and secondary education.
The 2015 agreements, seen as a new phase in the UK-China academic relationship, include educational organizations as well as initiatives aimed at improving academic quality and cohesiveness.
The Future
While transnational academic ties between China and the UK remain strong, changing demographics in China and the UK's desire to maintain its standing as a top-rated international education provider mean that bilateral agreements like those established during the 2015 Summit are vital to the academic goals of both countries. But how do they work? Let's take a closer look at one of the more exciting collaborative programs established between British and Chinese institutions.
The partnership between Wuhan Textile University (WTU) and Birmingham City University (BCU) operates under a shared vision: to be providers of nationally and internationally recognized creative arts education. Both Universities aim to provide students with quality education with access to world-class technology and teaching.
The partnership, which was one of just a few approved to award degrees in China, will operate as the Birmingham Institute of Fashion and Creative Art (BIFCA). The Institute opens its doors this autumn and will offer courses in both English and Mandarin. Students will have the option of completing their four years of study at the Chinese campus in Hubei Provence, or jointly between the Birmingham City and Wuhan campuses.
All graduates will receive prestigious and internationally recognized British undergraduate degrees.
BIFCA is a perfect fit for creative arts students who want international experience and the chance to study in two of the worlds most dynamic and emerging fashion and design locations.
BIFCA builds on the reputations of WTU and BCU as centers for creativity. WTU has been China's top-rated fashion institution for fifteen years running, and BCU wants to build its profile as an international institution. BIFCA will offer programs in arts, media, and design in its expansive and recently refurbished location in Wuhan.
The new building will house a variety of resources and technology for students of design and media production and the administrations of both universities expect that BIFCA will host nearly 4,000 students in the next seven years.

(Elizabeth Koprowski is an American writer and travel historian. She has worked in the higher education system with international students both in Europe and in the USA).
Elizabeth Koprowski

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