Tsinghua University joins exclusive international development network

20:26, January 22, 2010      

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MID 2009 students in front of the Capital Museum. (Photo: China Daily)

When Australian-born student Philip Ngan decided to pursue advanced academic studies in international development, he looked no further than Tsinghua University in Beijing. The School of Public Policy and Management at one of China's most prestigious universities has been offering an innovative development studies program since 2007 and the program's multidisciplinary curriculum proved to be a big draw.

Ngan said: "When I was looking at various programs, I had to ask 'What set of skills should I learn that would best equip me to be an effective leader and participant in the field of development, given my background?'"

Last September, Tsinghua joined a select group of only 10 universities around the world whose development programs are funded by the MacArthur Foundation, a Chicago-based institute that supports research on a wide range of development-related matters, including energy security, health policy and management.

The MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with Columbia University and nine other universities, aims to develop a long-term global alliance for conducting advanced research, fieldwork and analysis.

The Foundation's president, Jonathan Fanton, said: "Through our work around the globe, we at MacArthur have come to understand that poverty, population, health, conservation and human rights are all interconnected and require sustained and comprehensive interventions.

"These new programs are a model for training the next generation of critically needed professionals."

MacArthur's $15-million commitment to its master's degree in Development Practice program is intended to broaden the scope of knowledge and experience of the world's next generation of development experts.

For Tsinghua and the School of Public Policy and Management, this provides an opportunity for both Chinese and non-Chinese students to take advantage of a global network of academic resources.

The merits of studying in China go beyond it being a unique and memorable life experience. According to Olivia Gippner, an exchange student who came to Tsinghua from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, taking classes in China can open your mind to a whole new way of viewing the world.

She said: "The biggest lesson I've learned is that there is not one single way to think about development. Discussing development-related matters with policy-makers from developing countries has called many of my European-inspired ideas into question and, frankly, has left me humbled."

Tsinghua's revamped Master in International Development (MID) program is designed with today's student in mind -a young person who is plugged into the world at large, conscious of the ramifications of trade policy and globalization and sensitive to the nuances inherent in development in a cross-section of regions and countries.

Ngan said: "Different countries require different skill sets when addressing the field of development. Countries in the developed world face an entirely different set of problems from those faced by developing nations."

In short, the program offers students the flexibility to choose from a host of different fields or avenues of academic research, including rural and urban development, sustainable development, and management. Most students carry forward their own experience and insight into their chosen line of academic work.

More importantly, the curriculum places a real emphasis on fostering an appreciation of development in a Chinese historical, socioeconomic, and political context. This affords students a unique opportunity to broaden their horizons past the perspectives they might have acquired in their home countries.

Adrianne Ho, a MID student, said: "The Tsinghua MID Program allows for international interaction on an academic and personal level, creating an environment for people of all different backgrounds to exchange ideas and learn from one another."

Ho came to Tsinghua after earning an undergraduate degree in economics at Columbia University's Barnard College. She believes that bringing together a wide range of students in the classroom, coupled with an academic foundation laid in Chinese economic terms, is one of the program's biggest draws.

Commenting on the program, Xue Lan, dean of the School of Public Policy and Management, said: "The MID Program aims to foster a new generation of global leaders in international development who will have the unique advantage of understanding China's development process from within."

The advantages of doing graduate research in development, and in China, are clear, according to Ngan. He said: "China is critically important on the world stage and must embrace international partnerships and cooperation. The Tsinghua program bridges that gap.

"Tsinghua's MID program really provides the best of both worlds. Geography still matters, and you get a terrific sense of dynamism and perpetual change from simply being in China. You have the luxury of everyone in the world looking at you and having to come to you."

Source: China Daily

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