Foreign higher education institutions and those from the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Taiwan will be permitted to independently set up and run universities and higher vocational schools in the Hainan Free Trade Zone, according to a recently released plan, marking another important step in opening up China's education system.
Previously, universities outside the Chinese mainland needed to cooperate with a local partner to run schools on the mainland.
According to the plan released by the Ministry of Education and the Hainan government, reputable overseas universities specializing in the fields of science, engineering, agriculture and medicine can open campuses in Hainan.
The decision-making body of the schools must consist of representatives from the foreign universities, a president, Party officials, faculty representatives and public representatives, the plan said.
The presidents of the universities can be assigned by the foreign universities themselves or elected by the decision-making body. He or she must be located on the mainland for more than six months a year, according to the plan.
The universities are encouraged to introduce advanced courses and teaching materials and admit foreign students, the plan said, adding that they can use foreign languages to teach the courses. They can also enroll students from the mainland through the national enrollment policy.
A separate statement from the ministry said it does not seek to blindly expand the scale of foreign universities in Hainan, and all universities can open campuses in the province providing they meet the requisite criteria.
The universities can benefit from the island's duty-free policy for imported teaching equipment, and high-end talent working at universities only have to pay a maximum rate of 15 percent income tax, the statement said.
The Hainan Lingshui Li'an International Education Innovation Pilot Zone, established in 2020, has signed cooperation agreements with 22 universities from home and abroad, with six Sino-foreign education cooperation programs set to be established.
Wang Linpin, deputy director of the management bureau of the zone, said there are almost 500 students studying there, with as many as 2,000 expected by the coming fall semester.
Germany's Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences is expected to become the first independent foreign university to open a campus on the Chinese mainland.
Occupying an area of 67 hectares, the campus will be located in Yangpu Economic Development Zone, Hainan's Danzhou city and plans to enroll as many as 12,000 students, according to local authorities.
Lin Jinhui, director of the center of research on Chinese-foreign cooperation in running schools at Xiamen University, said allowing foreign universities to independently operate in the Hainan FTZ shows the determination and confidence of China to accelerate high-quality education opening-up, which will be more in-depth, proactive and flexible.
The favorable policies in Hainan are expected to attract more foreign universities to open campuses in China and more Chinese students can have more options to enjoy high-quality education without going overseas, he said.
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