CMU to expand to China

Credit: Courtesy Of Christopher Hsi Credit: Courtesy Of Christopher Hsi

A university press release announced on Monday that Carnegie Mellon has formed an academic partnership with Sun Yat-sen University in China. The partnership is the next step in a series of international expansions.

Located in southern China in the city of Guangzhou, Sun Yat-sen University will be the site of a new joint graduate program in electrical and computer engineering that will offer master’s degrees and doctorates, beginning in 2013.

As described in the official announcement email, the goal of the new joint institute of engineering is to “deliver world-class education in engineering, perform cutting-edge research and development, and find solutions to real-world engineering problems.”

Pradeep K. Khosla, the dean of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, described the new program in greater detail.

Located in Guangdong province, Sun Yat-sen University is at the heart of China’s “electronics belt,” as Khosla described it. The dean described his aspirations for the program, stating, “Our goal is to position [Sun Yat-sen University] as one of the top places for engineering in China.”

Jian-Gang “Jimmy” Zhu, an Instutite of Electrical and Electronics Engineers fellow, director of the Data Storage Systems Center, and professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, was directly involved in the founding of this new program.

“China needs R&D forces,” Zhu said. “The Chinese higher education system is struggling to get graduates with a high enough quality of training for innovation.” He said that the new Carnegie Mellon partnership is the “next step” in achieving this goal.

First-year electrical and computer engineering major Chidimma Onwuegbule tentatively supported the new program, stating that it was “a good move, but some things need to be addressed.” She expressed concern regarding the political state of China and the effect it would have on this program. “Without the freedom of information, there is no guarantee that the quality of education from this program will be the same as here,” she said.

Khosla said that he was comfortable with setting up a partnership in China, stating that Carnegie Mellon had been in contact with the U.S. State Department prior to this deal and that “total intellectual freedom” had been guaranteed to researchers and students in the engineering program.

Khosla admitted that, if he were to be involved in the founding of a humanities or social sciences program in China, he “might be hesitant.”

But he emphasized that Carnegie Mellon is “not developing an entire university” and claimed that social and political restrictions would not have an impact on engineering work.

Senior economics and professional writing double major Caroline Roper, the president of Carnegie Mellon’s Amnesty International chapter, was unsure.

“In the past, greater economic growth has been correlated with more equitable human rights, but I don’t know if that can be assumed,” she said. “Nations can be distracted by economic development.”

Roper said she sees the program as slightly better than the newly announced Rwanda program, due to China’s better overall standard of living as well as an alleged smaller possibility of the products and research being developed from the new Chinese partnership program being used for military applications.

“Just because two countries may have different political and philosophical outlooks doesn’t mean they can’t have an economic connection,” Khosla contended.

He promised that Carnegie Mellon “will see significant benefits” from the partnership, including approximately $25 million in new research funding.

“The university can’t afford to graduate someone who cannot operate globally,” Khosla said.

The program is one means of further connecting students to different cultures, and Khosla spoke in favor of greater cultural training for undergraduate students.

While the partnership with Sun Yat-sen University opens up many new opportunities for Carnegie Mellon, some contend that its announcement was not widely publicized. Roper said that she wanted to know more about the program.

“The administration could do a better job of informing people,” she said.