KU strikes deal to begin offering in-person education classes in China; Regents approve 5% tuition increase for upcoming school year

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is pictured in September 2021.

By late 2024, the University of Kansas hopes to be providing in-person classes to more than 100 students at a university in mainland China.

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a plan for KU to begin teaching undergraduate and graduate-level education courses at the Zhejiang Normal University in Jinhua, a city in eastern China of about 7 million people.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said KU became interested in expanding to China after leaders there expressed a need for more training for Chinese residents who hope to become teachers.

“We have one of the top-ranked schools of education in the nation, which is why they came to us,” Girod said.

The partnership has been years in the making, but was only recently approved by China’s equivalent of the federal Department of Education. Rick Ginsberg, dean of KU’s school of education, said KU became the first international education school to receive Chinese approval for such a partnership.

“It puts our school of education in a real leadership position globally,” Girod said.

KU is making the decision to expand into China, though, at a time when national debates have centered more on whether U.S. and Chinese institutions should be reducing ties rather than strengthening them. To some extent that even has happened at KU. In 2019, KU was one of many universities across the country that ended its Confucius Institute, which provided training in Chinese language and culture to businesses and students in Kansas. KU ended the program after Congress passed legislation expressing concerns about Department of Defense research being conducted at universities that hosted Confucius Institutes and the Chinese nationals that often were connected to the centers.

More recently, a KU professor from China was the subject of a federal prosecution that alleged the professor defrauded KU and a pair of federal agencies by not adequately disclosing his research ties to China.

On Wednesday, Girod said KU’s creation of this new China-based program should not be problematic for any of the reasons that have caught the attention of Congress and other national leaders.

“It shouldn’t be controversial,” Girod said. “It is fair to say that we don’t have an issue with the Chinese people. Where our government has a problem is with the Chinese government.

It is really important to continue to have a presence there, and we think this is a very positive initiative.”

Girod also noted that the program doesn’t include a research collaboration with the Chinese university. Instead, the program will focus on giving Chinese students an opportunity to “learn about the field of of education from a different cultural and policy context without having to leave home to study abroad and abandon their Chinese degree programs,” according to information provided to the Board of Regents.

KU plans to offer four degrees, initially. They are: an undergraduate degree in elementary education, a master’s in special education, a master’s in curriculum and instruction, and a master’s in educational psychology and research.

KU plans to eventually have 90 students enrolled for the undergraduate elementary teaching degree, 30 for the graduate special education degree, 70 for the graduate curriculum and instruction degree and 140 for the graduate psychology and research degree.

KU anticipates that, initially, about 10 KU faculty members will need to be based in China to operate the program.

Students in the program will be required to go through the normal process to be admitted to KU. Those students will pay KU’s standard, nonresident tuition rates, just as they would if they were an international student taking classes at the Lawrence campus, according to information provided to the Regents.

Zhejiang Normal University, which has an overall enrollment of about 28,500 students, is creating partnerships with several international universities, according to information provided to the Regents.

In other business, Regents:

• Gave final approval to a 5% tuition increase at KU for the upcoming school year. As reported, the Regents last month gave tentative approval to the KU increase and increases at each of the other five Regents universities.

The 5% tuition increase is the first at KU since the 2018-2019 school year. Kansas State, Emporia State and Pittsburg State also received approval for 5% tuition increases for the upcoming school year. Wichita State received approval for a 5.9% increase and Fort Hays State received approval for a 7% increase.

• Gave preliminary approval for a process to review academic programs at all the Regents universities to determine if some programs should be eliminated due to low enrollment or other such factors. The program review process will look at how many similar programs exist in the state, future job prospects that are expected to be tied to the program and other similar metrics. By Sept. 20, staff members at the Board of Regents will submit a list of programs that are candidates for program review. A committee of the Regents will begin the review process, giving university leaders opportunity to provide comment and additional data. Preliminary recommendations for programs to be eliminated would be ready by March 2024, and the entire Board of Regents would be asked to approve the program eliminations, likely in May 2024.


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