Tech education in China transitions to new site

Photo Courtesy of Georgia Tech Tianjin University Shenzhen Institute

A new building brightly colored in red, gold, gray and white stripes, the Georgia Tech Tianjin University Shenzhen Institute (GTSI) marks the most recent endeavor — and by far the largest in scope — that Tech has made to establish a base of educational opportunities in China.

“We’ve been involved in China with educational programs, and some research programs, but largely educational programs, for some time,” Rafael Bras, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. 

As two examples, Bras mentioned a former master’s degree program held at Shanghai Jiaotong Univeristy that “went on successfully for many years,” and a joint biomedical Ph.D. program with Peking University in Beijing, which is “very strong, but is very few people.”

The GTSI was born out of conversations with Tianjin University, a university in north China city of Tianjin that has a long history that Bras says paralleled Tech.

“That’s why it was very attractive to us,” Bras said. “It started with a science and technology focus, and now it other does other things, but that’s its core.”

The GTSI campus itself will be in the suburbs of Shenzhen, a city in the southern province of Guangdong that in recent years has skyrocketed to the technology and innovation hub of China.

The Board of Regents has so far approved five Master of Science (M.S.) programs to be offered in Shenzhen: Analytics, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Environmental Engineering and Industrial Design. In addition, one Ph.D. program has been approved: the Ph.D. in ECE.

While GT Shenzhen has offered the M.S. in ECE since fall 2014, the other programs are waiting for approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education, which requires educational programs to reach certain space requirements that must be reached before being offered.

That’s where the new building comes in: for the next few years — Bras estimates about three — GTSI will operate out of a transitional building while the main campus, covering 40 acres and complete with dormitories, is being constructed. On that campus, Tianjin University will also host undergraduate classes for students working toward a Tianjin University degree.

“It’s a beautiful site,” Bras said. “Not too  far from the action of where the city is, and good public transportation to it. It will be easy to move into it. And this is going to have dorms, it will have classrooms, it will have cafeterias, it will have the whole facilities.”

Tech is putting no money into the construction of the campus in China — authorities in China are financing the construction of both the temporary building and the final campus.

The ECE master’s program is immediately moving into the transitional space, and after approval comes from the Chinese government, the other master’s program and one Ph.D. program will be launched and also housed in the building.

The GTSI transitional building will see usage besides just graduate students — and that’s actually what Bras is most excited about: a home base for study abroad and international programs in China that will serve to enrich the experience of scores of undergraduate students.

Tech currently offers the China Summer Program (CSP), an annual study abroad program for that previously was housed in different universities across China. In summer 2018, CSP was for the first time held completely in Shenzhen, in the Southern University of Science and Technology. In summer 2019, CSP will move into the transitional building, offering nine different courses to students over the summer.

Bras says the overall vision is to have  a program with similar reach and impact for GT students as GT Lorraine.