URBANA –The University of Illinois is about to sign a deal with a Chinese university to bring students, mostly in engineering and food sciences, to Urbana for a combination of late undergraduate education and master's degrees.
Zhejiang University and the UI are scheduled to sign the pact Oct. 25.
The UI, which already has relationships with two other Chinese universities, will benefit from the deal as a recruitment tool for China's top students, said Tim Barnes, the UI's assistant director of International Programs and Studies.
He said most of the students' out-of-state tuitions have already been guaranteed by the Chinese government and Zhejiang University.
The agreement will create a cooperative education "3+2" agreement in the fields of agricultural and biological engineering, and food sciences and human nutrition, both within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
The program will probably also extend to mechanical and civil and environmental engineering.
The new agreement allows Chinese students to spend their first three years at Zhejiang University, and their last two years at the UI. Students will be awarded a bachelor's degree from Zhejiang and a master's degree from Illinois.
"Zhejiang University is a top-ranked university with great programs in those areas, and they complement the UI," Barnes said, including increasing overseas cooperation between researchers working with the Chinese students.
Barnes said the serious negotiations began last December.
"Essentially we get a pipeline of very, very good graduate students, and supporting funds from a government or school," Barnes said, calling the deal revenue-positive for the cash-starved school.
The students are typically in the top 10 percent at Zhejiang, considered to be the third- or fourth-best engineering school in China.
China's best engineering school is Tsinghua University, Barnes said, and the UI already has a relationship with it for summer programs. Tsinghua is in the suburbs of Beijing and was established in 1911.
Barnes said the Urbana campus has had an arrangement with Tsinghua for about six years.
Explaining where the Chinese students go after graduation, Barnes said: "They've all gone back to China," rather than resettle in the U.S.
There's also a limited agreement with a Chinese agricultural school whose students are supported by American agricultural corporations, he said.
The Zhejiang students will start in fall 2011, and the UI will try to limit enrollment to about five per program.
Zhejiang University is in Hangzhou, about 100 miles southwest of Shanghai. It was founded in 1897 and has just under 40,000 students, about the size of the Urbana campus.
A 10-person delegation, headed by Professor Wu Ping, vice president for International Affairs at Zhejiang, will be on campus Oct. 25 to sign the memorandum of agreement.
The two universities have also been engaged in collaborative research in the areas of biofuels and sustainable energy, at Zhejiang University's Institute for Thermal Power Engineering, a press release noted.