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Canterbury University And The Chinese Govt Deal

New Relationship For Canterbury University And The Chinese Government

Christchurch, May 28, 2003 -- Canterbury University will train Chinese officials in public administration, as the University has recently been approved by China as an Overseas Training Base.

This means it can receive officials sent by the Chinese government to study in New Zealand, and the stamp of approval takes the educational relationship with China to a whole other level, according to Geoff Pearman, Director of Canterbury University’s Centre for Continuing Education.

“We were already receiving individual Chinese students at Canterbury, but that is quite different from being able to run specific longer courses for Chinese officials,” he says. “This has the potential to open up opportunities for consultancy and technology transfer - there are huge possibilities for further growth.

“We are now having discussions with China about receiving students at the level of Director Generals. Those high level linkages will be very significant for New Zealand’s relationship with China in future.”

Pat English, New Zealand’s Trade Commissioner in Beijing, says that developing relationships in China is critical.

“The University of Canterbury and the other organisations involved are developing the all-important relationships or ’Guanxi’. From this they should be able to branch out into other government departments,” he says.

The relationship between the Chinese government, Canterbury University and its four partners in an Export Network was set up with the help of Trade New Zealand.

The first Chinese officials to come to New Zealand later this year will study public sector administration, with courses on forestry and environmental management planned for the future.

Canterbury University set the ball in motion over two years ago when it was approached by a Chinese-born Christchurch businessman, Dr Kaiwan Gan, about applying to run specialized training courses for the Chinese government.

Geoff Pearman visited China with Dr Gan for a series of intensive meetings and scoping work. He came away convinced that the possibilities were huge – too big for Canterbury University alone. There would be opportunities for other New Zealand universities and Crown Research Institutes too. Trade New Zealand suggested forming an export network, that could access expertise and funding.

“All of the organisations we approached could see the benefits, and we formed an export network with Lincoln International, Victoria University of Wellington, Forest Research and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA),” says Geoff Pearman.

China is a very tough market, and strong personal connections are worth gold there. Having the contacts and deep cultural knowledge of Dr Gan in Wuhan and Beijing was invaluable, as was the on-the-ground experience of New Zealand’s Trade Commissioner in Beijing.

“He provided contacts in those centres and fed back local intelligence that was priceless,” says Geoff Pearman. “We were also introduced to high levels in the New Zealand Government, and the Trade Minister’s office.

“It is vital to have recognition from your own government to work with the Chinese government,” says Pat English. “The Chinese government will not deal with institutions that do not have it.”

The Export Network is well aware of the need to sustain the quality of its programme over time.

“We have to deliver not just once, but in an on-going way,” says Mr Pearman. “We were warned in China about a programme at a university in another country where though the course was good, the students were unhappy with the food and accommodation. One bad job can ruin the market long-term - it’s very sensitive. That’s why we’re proceeding carefully, to make sure we maintain the good reputations of all the partners involved, and New Zealand as a world class education provider.”

Pat English says that the difficulty in future will be finding the resources to manage and meet the demand from China – another reason why the Export Network was set up.

While the SARS virus has caused some delays to the programme, Geoff Pearman believes the long-term prospects are still excellent – and that they will benefit not just Canterbury, but the whole country.

“This has the potential to go a long way in New Zealand developing critical educational service relationships with the Chinese government,” says Pat English. “The Government in China is looking to provide quality educational courses from quality providers to meet the huge demand for English language for events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics… just one of thousands of events that China will hold over the next 5 to 10 years.”

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