The University of Toledo plans to strengthen its Chinese ties.
The university signed a letter of intent late last year to partner with Huaqiao University, which has two campuses in Fujian province and, according to its Web site, is focused on “serving overseas Chinese and propagating Chinese culture.” A preliminary document that could ultimately fall apart, the letter of intent at least outlines a possible branch campus of Huaqiao University at UT.
“But that’s a long, long, long way off,” said Chuck Lehnert, UT’s vice president of corporate relations.
Mr. Lehnert said Huaqiao officials expressed interest in the branch campus last year, so he traveled to the university in November to see the school firsthand. Representatives from 5 Lakes Global Group Ltd. — a consulting group headed by Simon Guo, a Chinese translator, deal broker, and Toledo-area resident who repeatedly has brought Chinese investors to the region — happened to be in China as well, and helped translate and facilitate discussions between the two universities.
Huaqiao officials looked to UT, Mr. Lehnert said, because they wanted to work with a university that is comfortable with a significant population of Chinese students; UT already has more than 600 Chinese students on campus.
The current letter of intent is essentially just an agreement to work together. But it does spell out future goals, such as a jointly administered program that would allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree from UT, by spending either one or two years in Toledo and the rest in China.
The letter also calls for UT to cooperate with Huaqiao University in developing a branch campus or center at the University of Toledo. That could mean anything from a cultural center in a corner of a UT building, an agreement to accept Huaqiao students to the university, or converting parts of the Scott Park campus to a full-fledged branch of Huaqiao, Mr. Lehnert said.
But there are numerous steps before anything like those options happen, including formalizing plans and approval from the UT Board of Trustees. A branch campus would need approval from the Ohio Board of Regents, a spokesman said.
Whatever comes of the agreement, it would only add to partnerships UT is building in China.
The University of Toledo already has a Confucius Institute program, which are nonprofit public institutions affiliated with the Chinese government that aim to promote the country’s language and culture. There’s a UT elective clerkship for some medical students at the People’s Hospital of Peking University in Beijing. And last year, a Chinese pharmaceutical company announced it would create a training platform for Chinese doctors at the University of Toledo Medical Center, bringing dozens of doctors annually to Toledo to study.