Glasgow University China ‘high financial risk’

Published

Oliver Milne

The Glasgow University senate has agreed to establish a joint-run programme in electrical engineering with the University of Electronic Science and Technology in Chengdu, China. This comes despite acknowledgement from the university’s finance committee that the “proposed partnership presents a high financial risk”.

The BEng in electrical engineering would be based in Chengdu and taught jointly by staff from both universities. Glasgow University will provide ten members of staff to teach the programme, although the proposal is unclear as to whether ten members of staff would be leaving the department on the university’s Glasgow campus, or if the intention is to hire new individuals for the purposes of teaching the course. If it is the former case, there is the concern that teaching of current courses at the Gilmorehill campus would be adversely affected.

The Students’ Representative Council has also expressed some concerns asking the university to ensure that students involved in the programme receive “adequate levels of pastoral and welfare support” and seeking clarification as to what role, if any, the SRC’s advice centre would be expected to play for students enrolled in the programme, given the increased costs this would bring.

The report outlines the potential for the university to make a profit of £3.4 million over a period of ten years. It also makes reference to the the potential for increased student exchange and research partnerships with the Chinese business sector.

However, the description of the programme presented to the university’s finance committee on January 18th suggests that the project has the potential to lose the university £700,000 over the course of a two-year period.

It outlines the potential difficulties caused by the Chinese tax environment, although it is stated that profits from this programme would most likely be free from UK taxation. It also notes that rising inflation could see potential profits decrease by £2.2 million to £1.2 million over a period of ten years.
A university spokesman said “as with all partnership agreements we will carefully consider all implications and will be reflecting on comments made both at the finance committee and at Senate ahead of the next meeting of the University Court.”

The programme will receive a final go-ahead from court on February 15th and will then be subject to the approval of the Chinese Federal Government, expected in May. If approved, the programme will begin in September 2013.