THE UNIVERSITY of Edinburgh is considering expanding a “radical” new hybrid model that is enabling select groups of Chinese students to study the curriculum at home in China with the help of the university’s partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and the China-UK Low Carbon College (LCC) in Lingang, Shanghai.

In an effort to create greater flexibility and provide a more positive experience for Chinese students currently facing Covid-19 restrictions, the University of Edinburgh (UofE) recently launched a pilot scheme for up to 60 post graduate students who live in China, all from selected programmes across two departments, to study together in one of the university’s partnership educational facilities in China.

Originally planned only for the students’ first semester, discussions are underway for this innovative model to remain in place going into the second semester with talks of doubling or trebling the number of students offered the opportunity.

Ed Craig, Dean of the Low Carbon College in Lingang, Shanghai, comments, “The hybrid model is set up so that the students go to another institution, another academic institution of similar value, they join an academic community, so they have a chance to engage with each other physically not just virtually.

“We’re trying to be creative and supportive. What we have developed across in China is unique, no one else is doing this. It’s working across different subject areas in different schools, and at very short notice is providing a really high added value experience to students in China when they were unable to travel.”

Students in China are currently free from Covid-19 related restrictions and are therefore able to take online lectures together as a cohort. That cohort is being supported academically both by Chinese members of staff at SJTU but also UofE staff based in China at the time.

“On top of that, they are getting a range of both business and social related activities,” says Craig. “For example, a Chinese ceilidh has been organised, there is an inter university basketball competition between UofE students and SJTU and there have been visits arranged to large factories and plants, Tesla is based locally, for example, in Shanghai Lingang.”

This pilot programme has opened up a conversation not only surrounding the viability of continuing this model for the future of education in regards to foreign university students, but, as Craig points out: “There’s a wider issue here, it is not environmentally sustainable to have millions of students flying all over the world for their education.

“We have to come up with different models where world class education providers can deliver their knowledge in a way that is more sustainable and strategic partners like Shanghai JiaoTong University are key to enabling this strategy.”