UMass Signs Groundbreaking Agreement with China
University of Massachusetts is Poised to Become First Foreign University to Provide Online Education in China
BOSTON, MA - The University of Massachusetts today announced the signing of an agreement that places it on course to become the first foreign university approved to offer online education courses and degree programs in China. Under the agreement, signed in Beijing, officials from UMass and from China's Continuing Education Association (CCEA) and the CerEdu Corporation will work together to make UMassOnline, the University's award-winning distance education program, available to students throughout China.
Plans call for UMassOnline to offer credit and non-credit courses, certificate programs, and degree programs from all five UMass campuses -- through online and face to face programs -- throughout China. Forty UMassOnline courses, four certificate programs, and one master's degree program could be made available in China within a year.
"We are very proud to have been chosen by our partners in China to enter into this agreement," said University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson. "We have developed one of the best online education programs in the world, and that is increasingly being recognized around the globe."
"UMass has forged extensive ties with partners in China - a nation that has emerged as an economic and scientific superpower - and those academic and research connections will pay many dividends for our students and for the citizens of the Commonwealth in the years to come," Wilson continued.
The agreement flows out of the academic and research partnership that was formed in 2006 with the signing of a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding between UMass and Tsinghua University. Both CCEA and CerEdu Corporation are affiliated with Tsinghua University, which has a close relationship with the Chinese Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education has final approval power over distance learning programs in China and currently does not recognize the college credits or degree credentials earned in China via distance learning offerings from any foreign-based academic institution. In fact, only 68 universities within China have been authorized by the Ministry to deliver online programs.
"This joint venture will position UMassOnline to receive the Ministry's approval to provide online education and grant degrees throughout China," said David Gray, CEO of UMassOnline. "With a population nearing 1.3 billion, the opportunity in China is enormous and we look forward to collaborating with both the CCEA and CerEdu to develop online learning programs of the highest quality."
President Wilson has led the University's increasing march toward greater global engagement, which has focused on creating opportunities for students and faculty to collaborate on research and academic opportunities as well as nurturing government and industries ties for the benefit of the Commonwealth.
Addressing today's milestone agreement, Yan Jichang, Vice Chairman and General Secretary, CCEA, said, "The importance of this strategic partnership cannot be overstated. Gaining support throughout all of China and from the Ministry of Education for UMassOnline, with the intention of encouraging, introducing, approving and sustaining high-quality online courses from a leading university already well-known to us, is important to the future of China's place in the league of nations and the aspirations of our students to achieve world class academic credentials."
Zhu Yidong, Vice Chairman of the Cernet Education Corporation said, "The combination of our powerful distance learning platform with UMassOnline's Vista learning management system creates a 'best of both worlds' offering, in terms of technology and course quality, for recruiting, teaching and empowering students throughout the many regions of China and achieving the best possible outcomes.
"Within five years," he continued, "with Ministry approval protocol and UMass exclusive rights still in place, the parties to this agreement in my opinion will have gradually offered online courses of such high-quality and breadth that we will have clearly demonstrated the efficacy of online instruction and will have paved the way for other foreign universities to enter the China market."
UMassOnline, the online learning division of the University of Massachusetts, provides the highest quality education offered by the UMass system in a flexible, online format enabling students, professionals, and lifelong learners to take courses anywhere, anytime. With 75 undergraduate and graduate degree, certificate and professional development programs and more than 1,500 individual courses, UMassOnline offers one of the largest accredited online programs available. Programs span the disciplines for which the University is best known: liberal arts, education, management, nursing, public health, information technology, and other disciplines. All UMassOnline courses are taught by the same award-winning faculty who teach on-campus, offering online students the same rich experience as the face-to-face classroom. Students from around the world and from almost every state are among our 32,718 enrollees. For more about UMassOnline, go to www.umassonline.net or visit our blog at www.umassonlineblog.com
About CCEA and CerEdu
The China Continuing Education Association (CCEA) is a national academic society focusing on continuing education research. Its secretariat is set in the Education and Training Administration Office of Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. CerEdu Corporation, a subsidiary company of Cernet Corporation, is devoted to online education, transnational education, professional development, and certificates. Based on Cernet's network infrastructure across China, CerEdu has built the CerPlatform for distance learning and has established sites for distance learning in China's provinces.
Robert P. Connolly
University of Massachusetts President's Office