U of Dayton shifts China program from classes to recruitment
- The University of Dayton will end classes at its China Institute following the completion of the spring 2019 semester, according to the Dayton Daily News. The university has spent $14 million on the 68,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2012.
- Located near Shanghai, the institute was intended to be self-supporting but failed to generate sufficient students or faculty. Dayton Provost Paul Benson said the university is "exploring a range of options" for the facility.
- Institute staff will shift their focus to international recruitment and partnerships with Chinese universities. Dayton is focusing on offering scholarships for underserved students, recruiting community college enrollees and bringing international students to the Dayton campus. International student applications were down 40% for the fall of 2017 as of March 2017.
Dayton's decision to shift the China Institute's priorities is the latest in a series of moves by U.S. colleges and universities to pull back on their academic ties with China. While finances are reported to be the issue at play in Dayton's case, other colleges have cited academic freedom concerns and pressure from the federal government.
Yet the ties with China are many. Of the 77 foreign branch campuses run by U.S. universities, more than 30 are in China, Forbes reported.
Kean University this week drew more fire from top labor leaders for transferring to the Chinese government the employment of its 100-plus Wenzhou campus faculty members, half of whom are from the U.S.
Exchange programs are also at issue. In October, Cornell University suspended two such programs with Renmin University of China because of complaints about academic freedom and mistreatment of student protestors.
The programs benefit China, whose 10-year plan to improve its educational system includes developing partnerships with foreign universities, but some critics say American universities often suggest the efforts are purely philanthropic or academic ventures when they are intended to make money, according to Foreign Affairs. The arrangements also could mean universities have been unwilling to address threats to academic freedom and mistreatment of scholars.
In the U.S., the largest share — around one-third — of international students hail from China. According to data from the Institute of International Education, there were more than 360,000 international students from China studying in the U.S. during the 2017-18 academic year, up 3.6% annually but a smaller increase than the double-digit gains recorded in recent years.
The University of Illinois went so far as to insure itself for $60 million against a significant loss of Chinese students in two of its colleges, the amount equal to a one-year loss in revenue if the Chinese student population disappeared.
This all comes as tensions between the U.S. and China are on the rise as a result of the Trump administration's immigration and trade policies and concerns about security. One report suggested a top administration official floated closing borders to Chinese students, and the president has reportedly mused that students from China are spies.