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NYU Shanghai attracts elite mix of students from around the world

Du Bingling, 19, a graduate of Shanghai High School, was overjoyed to find out he scored an impressive 531 points out of 600 on this year's college entrance exam but even more excited by a letter that followed his achievement.

The letter, from Yu Lizhong, chancellor of New York University Shanghai, told Du that he was one of the first 300 students accepted to study at the university, which opens this autumn.

A chemistry whiz, Du was expected to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and study at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. But the chance to attend New York University's first campus in China changed his mind.

"Some people would say the first students are like guinea pigs, but I think it's an exciting opportunity with global perspectives," Du told Shanghai Daily.

New York University, founded in 1831 by a then US treasury secretary, is the first American university to receive independent registration status from China's Ministry of Education. It will be a joint venture between East China Normal University and New York University.

Yu, former president of East China Normal, was named chancellor, and Jeffrey Lehman, former president of Cornell University and dean of the University of Michigan Law School, will serve as vice chancellor.

Campus construction

Fifty-one percent of the inaugural class will comprise Chinese students, with the remainder coming from abroad. The students will stay at the East China Normal campus while a site for the joint venture is being built in the Pudong New Area.

That project, including a 15-story building and dorms a 15-minute walk away, is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.

The aim of the new school is to create an international atmosphere where elite foreign and domestic students can pursue academic studies and experience cross-cultural exchange. Teaching staff will be drawn from both China and abroad. Classes will be conducted in English.

NYU Shanghai is expected to be a pioneer in deeper ties between domestic and offshore institutions of higher learning. Harvard, Columbia and several other US universities already have some joint programs with China's mainland schools. North Carolina's Duke University and Wuhan University have opened a campus in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province.

Weekend vetting

Du said he first heard about the new Shanghai university in October and sent in his application in December. He was one of 500 prospective enrollees invited to a weekend session in March.

"It was the experience at the candidate weekend that made me even more determined to go to NYU Shanghai," he said.

A veteran test-taker with national and city-level awards in mathematics and chemistry under his belt, Du said he was taken aback by the weekend. Professors from the US observed and scored individual student qualifications.

As part of the weekend vetting, Du and other prospective students were asked to build a tower as high as possible with limited resources such as balloons, chopsticks, cups and newspapers.

During the session, Du also took a mini-lesson in global justice that involved discussing moral issues Du said were never covered in his high school classes.

"I was so impressed," he said. "The process was so different from other pre-admission tests I had ever taken before. I wasn't even prepared."

During the weekend, Du talked with students from the NYU network and learned about school life on other campuses.

"I am looking forward to visits of NYU campuses in New York City and in Abu Dhabi during my four years of study," he said. "It's all so fascinating."

The curriculum of NYU Shanghai requires all students to study at other campuses in the NYU network for at least one semester and up to three semesters as part of the global education concept.

Du's family supports his decision. His grandfather, he said, now follows NYU Shanghai on Weibo.

"My parents respect my choice though they had suggested that I go to universities such as Tsinghua or Hong Kong University of Science and Technology," Du said.

Tuition at NYU Shanghai is consistent with that of NYU in New York; however, Chinese students will be provided special grants and their tuition will be approximately 100,000 yuan (US$16,280) per year. Financial aid will be available.

Upon graduation, students will be conferred a Chinese degree from NYU Shanghai and an American degree from NYU.

Q&A with Chancellor Yu Lizhong

Q: Who are the first 300 students at NYU Shanghai?

A: They are comprised of 151 Chinese students from 10 provinces and cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing and Shandong, and 149 international students from the United States, Canada, Mexico, France and Spain.

Q: How many teachers will there be?

A: More than 90 teachers and professors will come from the NYU network.

Q: Is NYU Shanghai a Chinese university or an American university?

A: It has a double identity. It is a university registered in China but is also part of the NYU Global Network.

Q: Will there be any compulsory courses on ideology featuring Chinese socialism?

A: NYU Shanghai will teach students with a global point of view and that includes courses with a Chinese accent.

Q: Will NYU Shanghai expand its enrollment next year?

A: NYU Shanghai will take in altogether 300 students in 2014, including Chinese and international.

Q: What is the ultimate scale of your university?

A: NYU Shanghai will be an elite university with around 3,000 to 4,000 undergraduates and postgraduates.

Q: In your opinion, what is the future of Sino-foreign joint venture universities?

A: Sino-foreign joint venture universities are an important part of diversifying higher education in China. It offers more opportunities for students and may propel the reform of China's education system.




 

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