BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo are foes on the football field, but a new aviation partnership aimed at attracting international students shows the skies, at least, are friendly.
The two universities’ presidents announced Monday a joint aviation effort — the Northwest Ohio Aviation Education Consortium — that will begin training future pilots, including Chinese students, this fall.
UT signed a letter of intent with Northwest Polytechnic University’s Shenzhen campus in the Guangdong Province, located north of Hong Kong, to launch an aviation program. Toledo, in turn, will work with BGSU’s aviation program, which offers bachelor of science in technology degrees.
“We are fierce rivals in athletics, but we are longtime trusted partners in research and academic programs,” BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said.
The program is expected to start small, with six to a dozen students, but grow quickly to enroll hundreds, officials said. The program could serve up to 2,500 students within roughly four years.
Students could hail from the United States and various international destinations, but UT’s partnership with Northwest Polytechnic is expected to account for a large number of students.
UT officials said they connected with the Chinese university through introductions by Simon Guo, a deal broker and the president of 5 Lakes Global Group Ltd. He previously helped introduce former Toledo Mayor Mike Bell to investors from China who ended up buying property at the Marina District and The Docks restaurant complex.
UT has worked to build relationships with several universities in China, home to 583 of its 1,824 international students.
Five Lakes Global also assisted UT representatives during a trip to Huaqiao University in the Fujian province, and those two universities in November signed a letter of intent to work together on various goals.
Representatives from UT and Northwest Polytechnic also met in China, and in November signed an agreement to develop pilot training in the United States.
Chuck Lehnert, UT’s vice president of corporate relations, said there’s a growing demand for pilots and aviation-related professionals in China, as the country loosens general-aviation restrictions. One goal of the new partnership is to train Chinese students, who can then return to fill those jobs.
The aviation effort is an example of a “market-responsive” educational approach that builds regional and global partnerships, said UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs.
Toledo does not have its own flight school, so it teamed up with BGSU, which now has about 120 aviation students. Bowling Green recently privatized parts of its program by contracting with a subsidiary of North Star Aviation in Mankato, Minn., to provide students with flight instruction and build a new terminal and hangar.
International students could take classes for an associate degree from UT, then complete a bachelor’s degree at Bowling Green, where they would receive aviation training. UT and BGSU officials said they did not yet know how much tuition revenue the newly formed consortium might generate.
Financial arrangements between UT and Northwest Polytechnic remain to be finalized. A contract of some kind also could be made between UT and 5 Lakes Global, but no funds have been paid or received yet, said Jon Strunk, a UT spokesman.