Updated 12:59 a.m. Yale’s program sending undergraduates to study at Peking University for credit will be canceled, the News learned Tuesday.
The decision to end the Peking University-Yale University Joint Undergraduate Program in Beijing, disclosed to some faculty members in a Tuesday email from Jane Edwards, dean of international and professional experience, brings an abrupt end to a partnership with Peking University that Yale reaffirmed seven months ago.
The joint exchange program, which was launched in fall 2006, offered Yale students the opportunity to spend a semester living and studying at PKU. John Treat, professor of East Asian languages and literatures and a former member of the Yale-PKU faculty advisory committee, confirmed the decision to the News.
In a statement Yale released Wednesday afternoon, the University cited “lower than anticipated enrollments” as the reason for the program’s cancellation. With only four students set to participate in the program this fall, administrators decided that “the PKU-Yale experience would not be optimal for either students or faculty.”
“It is disappointing to all of us that after six years we could not attract a critical mass for this outstanding program,” Edwards said in the statement.
Edwards and Valerie Hansen, chair of the advisory committee, could not be reached for contact Wednesday.
University President Richard Levin said in a Wednesday interview with the News that Yale has had difficulty growing enrollment to the program because “so many attractive summertime options” are available to undergraduates. He said the decision to cancel the program was made on Friday, following a recommendation from Hansen and the Yale College Dean’s Office.
Yale students enrolled in the program live with honors students at Peking, and both groups of students take classes taught in English by faculty from the two universities. Yale students receive full course credit at Yale, with all expenses, including airfare, covered by the regular Yale semester tuition. During the official unveiling of the partnership on Nov. 29, 2005, former Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the program was intended to expand interest in study abroad.
An email sent by a faculty member on the program’s advisory committee alleged that the was “extremely expensive for Yale,” and that its language component was “notoriously weak,” making it difficult for Yale students to re-enter the Chinese language curriculum upon returning to New Haven.
The program came under fire in December 2007 after ecology and evolutionary biology professor Stephen Stearns ’67 sent a strongly worded email to his students at PKU criticizing the widespread plagiarism he witnessed among students and faculty while teaching two courses at the university.
When the two universities agreed to extend Yale-PKU in December 2011, University President Richard Levin called the program a “great success.” It is the only program in which Peking University, generally considered the most prestigious higher education institution in China, allows foreign students to live in a dorm with Chinese roommates. PKU requires students from other foreign universities to live in international student dormitories.
Yale emphasized in its statement that PKU remains one of the University’s strongest international partners and that PKU students will continue to have the opportunity to take summer courses at Yale — a program that began in 2005.