Sonia Ruiz

The number of Chinese doctorate students at the School of Public Health will double this fall, thanks to an expanded partnership with the Chinese Scholarship Council.

Founded in 2006 in conjunction with the Chinese Scholarships Council, a governmental financial aid agency, the World Scholarship Program has since provided funding for hundreds of Chinese students to pursue the Combined Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Yale. With the new expansion, announced last Tuesday, the program will provide additional funding for up to 10 students from nine premiere Chinese universities to pursue doctoral degrees in public health at Yale.

“The Chinese Scholarship Council believed the results from the program were very successful,” said Sten Vermund, dean of the School of Public Health. “And that was what stimulated them to consider expanding the program.”

Vermund added that the decision reflects the growing focus of the Chinese government and academia on public health issues. For one thing, China has to cope with the major environmental challenges precipitated by its rapid economic development. And it also faces high demand for skilled personnel in health management, biostatistics and epidemiology, as it transitions from the commune-based, barefoot doctor model to a more Western medical system, Vermund said.

Hongyu Zhao, department chair of biostatistics at Yale and co-director of the program, said the Chinese Scholarship Council sent a delegation to Yale last March to discuss the specifics of the expansion. The nine schools were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including their overall academic prestige and the strength of their public health programs, Zhao said. Each school can nominate up to three students, and Yale will review their applications to decide whom to admit.

“We are getting the top students from these universities to study at Yale,” Zhao said. “[Previous students] were really mentored well and have gone on to very successful careers.”

Zhao said the admission committee has already completed its review and sent out 10 acceptances this year after in-person interviews with students in China. Around seven or eight will eventually enroll, roughly doubling the number of Chinese students at the School of Public Health, according to enrollment estimates from Vermund’s.

Vermund noted that the School of Public Health has a very large faculty but has limited funding to enroll more students. The financial cost-sharing by the Chinese Leadership Council made the expansion viable for the school, he added.

The Chinese Scholarship Council declined a request for comment from the News, but did provide a prospectus of the program. According to the prospectus, the council will provide funding for the students’ first two years of tuition and living expenses, while Yale will shoulder the remaining costs. The prospectus also shows that applicants have to submit two separate applications — one to Yale and one to the scholarship program, overseen by the Chinese Scholarship Council.

But Zhao pointed out that, in practice, Yale is the main decision maker. Indeed, the scholarship program has never rejected an applicant who received an offer from Yale.

“It has been a trusting relationship between our two partners,” Zhao said.

The expansion comes as part of a broader effort by Yale in recent years to deepen its relationship with China. According to Fawn Wang, director of East Asia at the Office of International Affairs, recent major initiatives include the establishment of the Yale Young Global Scholars program in China in 2016, the opening of the Yale China Center Beijing in 2014 and the introduction of a series of joint research centers and dual-degree programs with leading Chinese universities.

For its part, the School of Public Health has been offering a “three-plus-two” joint degree program for Chinese students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Zhejiang University. Under this program, students are able to complete a bachelor’s degree at their respective institutions and a Masters of Public Health at Yale, though without financial assistance from Yale, Zhao said. There are currently 95 Chinese students enrolled in master-level public health programs at the University, according to enrollment statistics.

Yung Wing, class of 1854, was the first Chinese student to receive a bachelor’s degree from an American university.

Malcolm Tang |