Cambridge goes to Shenzhen

Shenzhen, is it often pointed out, doesn’t have any world-class universities. That may be about to change, as Cambridge University is exploring the establishment of a ”cooperative project” in Qianhai, Shenzhen’s special zone. 

The world-class university, which is well-known not only for its headquarters north of London, but for its curriculum that underpins millions of English-language high school exams worldwide, has sent its executive vice president to Shenzhen on what appears to be more than a fact-finding trip. 

Sir Mark Welland, who met with Shenzhen Mayor Chen Rugui this week, said Cambridge is working together with China’s prestigious Peking University, in establishing a project in Qianhai, without giving further details, according to the Shenzhen Daily.  

Shenzhen Cambridge
Caption: Sir Mark Welland of Cambridge University learns from Shenzhen Mayor Chen Rugui about the city’s new role in pioneering Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

During their meeting, the mayor explained to Sir Mark that the city had recently been given a new role by the State Council as a “Pioneering Demonstration Zone for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. Included in this is some leeway in how the city is allowed to set up and run education institutions (as we reported when the announcement was made). 


Because Shenzhen is a city of “competitiveness and innovation”, the mayor added, it will “fully support the joint operation of Cambridge University and Peking University,” and use this as an opportunity to “further promote wider cooperation between Shenzhen and Cambridge in higher education, technological innovation and cultural exchanges”.

Sir Mark, in turn, expressed his appreciation for Shenzhen’s “high-quality scientific and technological innovation environment, business environment, ecological environment and livable environment”. He said that Cambridge University attaches great importance to the cooperation project with Shenzhen and Peking University, and hopes to release details as soon as possible.

“Working with the most dynamic and fastest-growing cities is an excellent opportunity for us to inspire our greatest potential,” Sir Mark was quoted as saying.

This is not the first time a major global education brand has stepped into Shenzhen. The University of California, Berkeley, Moscow University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and RMIT from Melbourne have all been involved in projects here over the years. 

Berkeley was the first, in 2014, co-founding with Tsinghua University the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen College. This was followed in 2016, by the establishment of the Shenzhen Beili Moscow University – a school with independent legal person status. Around the same time, the Beijing Institute of Technology set up a joint venture in Shenzhen with Moscow State Lomonosov University. 

One notch down on the bragging scale, Georgia Institute of Technology and Tianjin University jointly built the Shenzhen Institute of Science and Technology, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology set up with Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to build the Melbourne Institute of Life and Health Engineering in Shenzhen. 

Shenzhen clearly plans to do another “leapfrog” act in building itself a world-class tertiary-education cluster.

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