AUBURN – The government of China has recognized Auburn University’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures as housing the premier program of its type in the world.
Out of that recognition has emerged a partnership between AU and the university housing China’s most prestigious fisheries programs.
The recognition is part of a Chinese initiative to establish educational partnerships with institutions worldwide that carry the distinction of premier universities in select fields, which China has deemed of major importance to the country’s economic and cultural development.
Following that designation and with funding support from the Chinese government, AU and China’s Ocean University are establishing a five-year exchange program for graduate students and faculty.
David Rouse, head of the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures in the College of Agriculture, said the Chinese government is investing heavily in its educational system. As part of that commitment, that nation’s government established a federal plan to identify 100 Chinese universities as tops in their disciplines and expand their international role through partnerships with the best universities in the world in those disciplines.
The Ocean University of China received national recognition for its work involving fish, shrimp, shellfish and similar species. Other universities across China have or will be chosen for fields of study ranging from business and engineering to the liberal arts.
Once a Chinese university obtains the prestigious designation, it receives funding from the country’s government to send graduate students or faculty members, or both, to the top university in the world in the selected discipline. As the top Chinese university in the fisheries area, Ocean University will send 10 scholars per year for five years for fisheries study at Auburn.
Last June, officials from Ocean University visited Auburn and several other universities in the United States and around the world to evaluate the potential for partnerships. Afterward, they asked Auburn to form a partnership with their university.
Ocean University sought input from scientists of Chinese origin around the world. “Every one of them said Auburn was the one for fisheries, which was an even higher honor for us,” said Rouse.
AU President Jay Gogue added, “This appears to be a great opportunity to enrich students and faculty of both great universities.”
Rouse and John Liu, associate dean for research in AU’s College of Agriculture, visited China in August to meet with Ocean University officials. Liu, a native of China, is also a faculty member in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures. Following that visit, officials from Ocean University and AU signed an official memorandum of understanding in December.
The first 10 Chinese students will be selected by fisheries faculty from both institutions and will arrive at AU in fall 2008. While some will be in the fisheries department at AU, Rouse said others will be in agricultural economics and poultry science.
While Auburn has long hosted foreign graduate students and visiting faculty, Rouse said this is the first time that a foreign country has paid the way for so many students and for faculty exchanges.
In addition to sending Chinese fisheries scholars to Auburn, the Chinese government will pay for AU professors to travel to China to teach short courses. To kick off the program Ocean University will host AU fisheries faculty in May for meetings with faculty at the Chinese campus.