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China Daily / 2022-03 / 16 / Page017

Academic partnership offers students best of both worlds

By WANG HAIXIN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-16 00:00

Surrey International Institute at Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, in Dalian, Northeast China, is demonstrating how open cooperation among educational institutions in China and the United Kingdom can play a key role in promoting diplomatic relations between the two countries.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the UK. According to Max Lu, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, open cooperation between educational institutions including universities is a vital part of open and sustainable diplomatic relations between states.

"Open, high-quality and productive cooperation between universities has historically been-and remains today-an effective catalyst to build and guarantee long-lasting beneficial bilateral relations," Lu said. "Students and researchers who have undertaken opportunities to study and work abroad become the best ambassadors for such collaborations.

"In this respect, SII plays an incredibly important role in the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the UK, by providing high-quality education to future leaders," Lu added.

In 2007, SII was established by the University of Surrey and DUFE to provide China-based students with a peerless opportunity to undertake and graduate with a dual degree that represents the best of both educational systems in China and Britain.

The institute, which will mark its 15th anniversary this year, has become the centerpiece of the University of Surrey's China-based transnational education. The Sino-foreign joint cooperative program is highly regarded by both Chinese and UK quality assurance agencies, Lu said.

"With more than 1,390 students currently spread across a foundation year, and three further years of study, SII offers young minds a formidable opportunity to undertake highly employable degree pathways, with cutting-edge teaching," Lu said.

Quality education

"DUFE and the University of Surrey are widely recognized as highly reputable universities by the public," said Shi Da, dean of SII. "Being one of the largest schools in DUFE and an overseas international institute of the University of Surrey, SII shares the strengths of both universities. Students, here at SII, can enjoy various resources not only in academic areas but also in personal development. They learn and grow in a more international way, which makes them more competitive in a fast-changing world."

Run in conjunction with DUFE, SII offers three separate dual degree programs: international business management, international tourism management, and accounting and finance.

According to Gary Rivers, dean of operations at SII, the institute's courses were designed to better serve students' varied demands and give them flexibility to consider their future paths. A stable team with a good understanding of transnational education management, involving members from both parties, has been established.

"Our curricula designs have been restructured to accommodate full-time internships to maximize opportunities for a smooth transition into local employment or provide needed time for postgraduate entry test preparations," said Rivers. "Similarly, students who transfer to the UoS' UK campus for their third year of studies can transfer back to SII for their final year and take advantage of these special arrangements or apply and compete to take a one-year job placement in the UK before deciding on the location of their final year of studies."

The UoS' full set of digital tools, as experienced on the UK campus, are available at SII. This includes a high-end virtual learning environment, online library facilities, various communications tools and specialized module packages as needed. Assessment submissions and marking are also done online, Rivers said.

According to Rivers, SII also has one of the most comprehensive English for Special Purposes programs within the curricula for all business programs comprising 10 modules and covering more than 500 hours of tuition in the first year of study.

"We keep oral English language classes at low teacher to student ratios, around 1:10, and the other English classes around 1:20. Both universities consider this important to support the jump from high school English language learning to being able to fully function in an English-speaking university setting," Rivers said.

Over the past 15 years, SII has been committed to obtaining relevant educational accreditations, such as that of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants for the accounting and finance program, to better support students' career paths.

"Our institute, apart from being subject to both Chinese and British quality audit requirements, has achieved accreditation issued by the China Education Association for International Exchange," Rivers said. "With a diverse population of teachers from many countries and foreign qualifications, students are exposed to different perspectives, accents and advice."

Future development

SII will continue to enhance the quality of the education it provides by introducing more programs and improving research capacity through the partnership, according to Lu.

From 2022, there will be new staffing arrangements, and the launch of a truly exciting collaborative development: a joint research center will be built and shared between SII and the University of Surrey. This initiative will add new research-intensive staff to both sides, focusing on important developments in industry and academia, including, for example, sustainable tourism, digital entrepreneurship, block-chain and fintech.

"These research-led activities will produce high-quality, co-authored publications connecting SII and the UoS, and build the foundation for a new PhD program for a new generation of postgraduate students in both Dalian and Guildford," Lu said.


Surrey International Institute at Dongbei University of Finance and Economics plays an important role in promoting relations between China and the UK. CHINA DAILY



Students take part in a sports event at SII. CHINA DAILY



A teacher exchanges ideas with students at SII. CHINA DAILY



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