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The University has plans to open a new administrative center in Beijing at Tsinghua University by November 2013. Based in the Tsinghua campus, the center will serve all Princeton-affiliated faculty and students going to China for research, studies or work, Vice Provost for International Initiatives Diana Davies said.
The center will allow the University to more easily and extensively assist faculty and students abroad in China, Davies explained. The center’s services will include helping faculty find temporary housing, providing students interning in China with a point of contact and facilitating University departments’ ability to conduct interviews with potential graduate students in China, she said.
“The reason that we’re doing this in China is because of the amount of traffic we already have running through there,” Davies said. “[The center] will serve all of the Princeton-affiliated faculty and students who are going to China to study or to do internships or to conduct research.”
The University’s Council for International Teaching and Research, a group of faculty and administrators dedicated to the advancement of exchanges with institutions abroad, took the lead in developing the new center, according to Council director and professor of history Jeremy Adelman. He explained that the project has its roots in the 2007 “Princeton in the World” report, in which a faculty task force — known as the Adelman-Slaughter Committee — recommended the creation of a blueprint to transform Princeton into a global university by expanding academic ties with other countries.
China was a major point in the committee’s discussions, Adelman said, and the Council has considered creating a presence in China since 2008. He explained that the University already has many academic links with China, noting that from 2002 to 2011, the top two foreign undergraduate institutions sending graduate students to Princeton were both based in Beijing: Tsinghua University and Peking University.
“I think it’s safe to say that China is probably the country with which we have the single most intense intellectual exchanges,” Adelman said. “It’s eclipsed Canada, France, the U.K. There are so many faculty and students now going back and forth, at all levels, from undergraduate to graduate students.”
The center will provide the University with a base in China, which will give it legal standing in the country, Adelman explained. As a result, the University will be able to more effectively provide services, such as renting facilities, hiring instructors and a variety of other day-to-day tasks that require a legal presence in China.
“If Princeton wants to scale up in China, which we want to do, we have to be legally incorporated there,” Adelman said. “Whether it’s hiring research assistants or hiring language instructors, we’re in a position where we have to do this.”
Davies elaborated on these benefits, adding that the center would allow for a full infrastructure to deal with the needs of Princeton faculty, students and programs in China.
“It’s not just the number of people or the number of collaborations or programs,” Davies said of the University’s choice to open a center in China. “The other things that need to be factored in are the complexity of working in China as opposed to other locations. So, we may have, for example, a lot going on in the U.K., and in fact we do, in places like Oxford and the Royal College of Music and so on, but the U.K. tends to be a place that’s fairly easy to operate internationally.”
Tsinghua University was chosen as the site of the center because of the close ties the University already has with Tsinghua, Davies said. Two former Princeton faculty members, computer science professor Andrew Yao and life science professor Yigong Shi, are now members of the Tsinghua faculty. One current member of the Princeton faculty, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Chung Law, also helps run a combustion energy research center in Tsinghua.
Law, who assisted the Council and the University in their negotiations with Tsinghua, said he believes the new center will allow the University to set up far more structured, long-term programs.
“Right now [the programs in China are] more sort of individual faculty members going back and forth,” Law said. “If you do have this center there, there will be a home in Beijing, in Tsinghua, for Princeton.”
The lease agreement for the center has already been signed, Adelman said, and most of what remains to be done is related to interviewing and hiring staff. He estimates that the center will be up and running by November.
“There is a physical location. We have signed a legal agreement; we are legally incorporated. All of the formal infrastructure is there; it’s really, at this stage, a matter of getting the right bodies.” Adelman said. “That’s what we’re doing right now.”