UNM might help to create a new university in Asia in the next few years.
University President Robert Frank on Thursday returned from a six-day trip to China, during which he met with national administrators about the possibility of collaborating with a Chinese university to form a new higher education institution in the country.
Frank said the discussions turned out to be very positive for UNM.
“We met with government, education and business leaders from China and had some very great conversations with them about the possibilities of partnerships,” he said.
As part of one of six development projects in western China, officials have requested UNM’s help in developing an 87-acre strip of land into a new university, Frank said. If the deal pulls through, the University will collaborate on creating educational programming for the new Chinese university, he said.
“Eastern China is like where New York is,” he said. “Western China is like where North Dakota is. It’s like the Badlands; they want to move 400,000 people in China there. They’re going to build a new city there.”
At the moment, only two American universities, Duke University and New York University, and two British universities, the University of Nottingham and the University of Liverpool, are participating in this type of project in China, Frank said.
“It’s just a great opportunity in terms of the Chinese and the American universities that they have chosen,” he said. “We’re moving into the best universities in the world, among the best of the best. It puts UNM in good company.”
But Frank said he is still uncertain of which Chinese university UNM will work with because the conversations are in preliminary stages.
The project will further globalize UNM’s population, Frank said, and it will also bring revenue to the University, because the Chinese institution will pay for all construction costs during the process.
“The deal that we would construct will guarantee UNM a certain amount of money with no risk,” he said. “The way the deal would work, we will have all of our costs covered and we would net money above and beyond our costs.”
Frank went along with UNM Executive Vice President David Harris and Mary Ann Saunders, special assistant to the president for global initiatives.
Saunders said she has been coordinating with Chinese officials since June 2013, when the officials first proposed the idea to her.
“They came on a tour of a number of universities,” she said. “UNM was extremely gracious and hospitable, and that’s where they based their decision to do research if we would be a good partner. They found out that we are a research-active university and we have strengths in the fields that they are interested in.”
Chinese officials paid for all expenses UNM officials incurred during their recent trip, except for airfare, which came out of UNM’s pockets, Saunders said.
Saunders said that because the Chinese government has financial backing on the project, it is an obvious move for UNM to participate. She said the project would also help UNM, considering China’s recent economic growth.
“The growth in China is really encouraging,” she said. “These Sino-foreign entities are relaxing their restrictions, which were really impossible to deal with in the past. They’re also really supportive right to our faces.”
Frank said UNM administrators will conduct their next round of conversations about the project with Chinese administrators in April. He said UNM aims to finalize a deal by the summer.