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According to the Lancaster University website, our University currently welcomes over 1500 international students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, from over 100 different countries. Of those 1500 students, over 550 are from China – just over a quarter of all international students. It’s clear that Lancaster is not only very cosmopolitan but has a good, well established relationship with Chinese students in particular. So surely the University’s plans to build a campus in the Nansha district of the Guangzhou region in the South of China are a logical step.
However, as is typical of such an enormous new enterprise, the campus to be built in China has not been without its controversy. As reported in the previous issue of SCAN, concerns have been raised over the ethics of the construction of the campus, with rumours that Chinese inhabitants may have been forcibly evicted by the Communist government to make room for the campus. Clearly this cannot be endorsed, but it must be emphasised that this is merely speculation. There are issues concerning forced evictions in the Guangzhou region, but absolutely nothing concrete to say that residents have been forcibly evicted specifically to make room for the Guangwai-Lancaster University, as the campus is set to be called.
Surely it’s about time that we gave something back to the Chinese students amongst us who pay more than one and a half times the amount of tuition fees that English students pay just to gain access to our higher education system. A new campus in China would allow Chinese students to access the excellent education system that Lancaster has to offer without the trauma of leaving family and friends and moving half way across the world for the sake of their education. I don’t know about anyone else, but moving to Lancaster from Wigan was hard enough, let alone moving almost 6000 miles across the world.
Not only will Chinese students benefit from the new campus though; Lancaster students are set to benefit too. As reported in the last issue, this venture is part of a wider policy to build Lancaster’s links with big businesses and cross-border collaborative projects. By building a campus in China, the link between Lancaster and China will be made even more solid and permanent, perhaps encouraging Chinese businesses to invest in Lancaster and its future graduates. With the current economic climate as it is, graduates over the coming years are going to need all the help they can get in order to get a job, and a new campus in China could be the beginning of new business investment in our students.
Let’s not forget that having a number of campuses worldwide will do wonders for Lancaster University’s global reputation, which should in turn attract more students to come and study with us. From an international student’s perspective, Lancaster University may not be the most famous university name to spring to mind when considering studying in Britain, but by building a new campus in China itself, that will be set to change.
It’s the potential that the Guangwai-Lancaster University campus has to offer that makes it a worthwhile investment. It not only has the potential to bring a better education to thousands more students, but the benefit will be felt in Lancaster and for the University’s reputation as a whole. The controversy over the ethics of building the campus must certainly be resolved first, but it’s premature to condemn the whole venture now. Only when there is proof over the ethical concerns should we question the University’s support. For now, the opportunity is too good to be missed.