Five years after Yale and Peking University began their joint undergraduate program in Beijing, China, Yale administrators said Friday’s agreement to extend the program reflects their satisfaction with the arrangement in its current form.
The agreement, signed by University President Richard Levin and Peking University Chairman Zhu Shanlu, extends the the exchange program in its current form. Started in 2006, the program creates a two-way exchange in which Yalies have the opportunity to spend a semester living and studying at Peking University and PKU students have the chance to live and study at Yale. University officials said the program is special because it is the only program in which Peking University, widely regarded as the most prestigious higher education institution in China, allows foreign students to live in a dorm with Chinese roommates. Other foreign university programs must house participants in international student dormitories.
“The Yale-Peking University undergraduate program has been a great success and we’re glad to be renewing this as one of many collaborations we have with the university,” Levin said Tuesday night.
The program’s extension does not mark a “big, new phase” of the Yale-Peking relationship but instead shows that the program has been successful, said Donald Filer, director of the Office of International Affairs.
He added that the program is regarded as an important initiative in Chinese education circles. When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Peking University in 2008 as part of the school’s 110th anniversary, Filer said he specifically “made a point” of visiting the joint undergraduate program.
Three students who previously participated in the program said they had positive experiences in Beijing and are happy that the program will continue.
Lucy Brady ’12 enrolled in the joint undergraduate program in fall 2010 and said it was very popular among student and faculty participants. She added that the program had a wealth of resources concentrated on a small group of students, which made the experience rewarding.
“Students really benefited from having lots of travel opportunities and time to get close to professors,” Brady said. “From a teacher’s point of view, it’s a highly coveted position — there’s a massive waiting list of professors who want to get there.”
Valerie Hansen, a Yale history professor currently teaching at the program in Beijing, said many people in China have a high regard for Yale and are intrigued by the idea of Chinese and American students studying together. She added that she “loves” participating in the program because the Chinese students are so enthusiastic about American styles of teaching, which she said are “much more interactive than traditional Chinese pedagogy.”
The memorandum’s signing marked Zhu’s first visit to the United States since the Communist Party of China appointed him chairman of the Peking University Council last August. Universities’ leadership in China is typically comprised of a government-appointed chairman, responsible for acting as a liaison to the Communist Party, and a university president, responsible for running the academic program.
Zhu and the Peking University delegation also visited Harvard, Columbia and the University of Toronto, among others, on their trip around North America.
Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, also attended the signing event and posed for a photograph with Levin and Zhu. Levin said Blair was “just dropping by” before meeting with him afterwards.
In addition to Chinese language courses, the program offers courses across several disciplines, including architecture, history and electrical engineering. Classes are taught in English by faculty from both universities and count for full course credit at Yale.