Transforming educational partnership in China: The Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Institute (ZJE)

Students hand-printing during Welcome Week 2018. Photo credit: Ye Zhiguo.

In this post, Professor Mike Shipston, Professor Sue Welburn, Dr John Menzies, and Cristina Matthews, showcase the award-winning Zhejiang University – University of Edinburgh Institute (ZJE)

It is not every day that a transformation in transnational educational programmes is realised. However, an outstanding group of lecturers in Biomedical Sciences, led by Programme Director John Menzies, in collaboration with colleagues at the Zhejiang University – University of Edinburgh Institute (ZJE) for education and research, have created truly unique dual award undergraduate programmes in Biomedical Sciences. This transformational research-led educational partnership has been recognised by the Education Institutional Partnership of the Year 2018 award at the British Business Awards.

Dr John Menzies giving an introductory talk to ZJE students. Photo credit: Ye Zhiguo.

These four-year, dual award, undergraduate degree programmes, have been co-created from first principles to combine the complementary strengths and interests of the University of Edinburgh and Zhejiang University (ZJU). They fully integrate the best educational pedagogies from East and West with an innovative model for sustainable co-development and co-delivery of collaborative research-led teaching, taught entirely in English. International and Chinese students are taught by active researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Zhejiang University as well as newly appointed academics recruited globally to the ZJE Institute.

The opening of the 10,000 m2 ZJE Institute research facility provides a focus for emerging multi-disciplinary and cross-institutional research activities targeted to the major emerging societal and health needs of both UK and China. This establishes a strong and integrated education, research and entrepreneurial base at the ZJE Institute. At capacity, the Institute will host 600 Chinese national and international undergraduate students undertaking programmes in Integrated Biomedical Sciences or Biomedical Informatics, and 300 Chinese national and international PhD students in Biomedical Sciences. The partnership, unique for both partners, is China’s first joint undergraduate degree programme in Biomedical Sciences.

ZJE Institute students and staff at the Freshers’ Welcome Week 2018. Photo credit: Ye Zhiguo.

Co-development of activities has enabled China-based academic staff to gain experience of western educational pedagogy and student support, and UoE staff have gained insights into Chinese student entrepreneurship and culture, feeding back to UoE. These internationalisation impacts are broadened by regular bi-lateral exchanges of academic and professional staff (who work in areas ranging from accommodation, to student welfare, to policy) with the programmes designed to promote bilateral student exchange. The partnership is influencing development of policies and support services at the International Campus, e.g. the student discipline policy, the development of a counselling service, a careers centre, an English language centre, etc. The partnership has been instrumental in evolving best practice for academic and pastoral support for students in China, introducing the Academic Families programme from the Deanery of Biomedical Sciences at UoE (winner Best Peer Group Support, UoE Impact award 2016 & 2017), an Academic Advisor programme, and developing tailored provision of student pastoral support through the ZJE Residential College system.

Teaching buildings at the Zhejiang University International Campus. Photo credit: Ye Zhiguo.

The ZJE Institute is based at the new International Campus in Haining, China. The campus brings together global education and research partners on a single site. Local, national and international engagement is key to partnership success with UoE and ZJU committed to bridging the education/research gap to translation, commercialisation and service to the community. The next phase of development involves co-development of a Biomedical Translation Research Centre with Juanhu Lake International Science Park that will accelerate the integrated pipeline of tertiary education, research and commercialisation, that is a priority for the regional development plans of Haining City and in the region.

We aimed to create a transformational partnership to create and deliver teaching, research and societal impact; to improve the quality of teaching and research at Zhejiang and Edinburgh Universities; and to engage in activities that would be difficult to do alone. We are just at the start of this transformative journey, but we have learned some invaluable lessons. Transnational education ventures must be led by scholarship and underpinned by sustainable investment and mutual understanding of the goals and ambitions of the world-leading partner institutions that put the students at the heart of all we do.

Mike Shipston

Professor Mike Shipston is the Dean of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh and has had an instrumental role in the development of the Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Institute. He is Chair of Physiology, and his teaching and research are focussed on the physiological control of stress.

Sue Welburn

Professor Sue Welburn is the Executive Dean of the Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Institute, and is responsible for providing academic leadership and directing teaching, research and enterprise strategies within the ZJU-UoE Institute, and forging new collaborative research opportunities between the Institute and partners. Sue is also Chair of Medical and Veterinary Molecular Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

John Menzies

Dr John Menzies is a lecturer at the Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Institute and the Centre for Discovery Brain Research at the University of Edinburgh. John is also the Programme Director for the Undergraduate programmes at the ZJU-UoE Institute. Research in his laboratory focuses on the brain and its crucial role in eating behaviour.

Cristina Matthews

Cristina Matthews is the Programme Coordinator for the Zhejiang University-University of Edinburgh Dual Award programmes and provides general support for this strategic partnership. Cristina is particularly interested in transnational education and cross-cultural communication and management.

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