The University of Nottingham is to open a campus in China.
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online education staff
This £40m project, agreed with the Chinese education authorities, will be the first time a UK university has opened a purpose-built campus in China.
The first Chinese students are expected to start courses in September - with the start-up academic staff being deployed from the UK.
The university says "internationalisation" is an important part of higher education's future.
The university, which will be known as University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China, will be the latest stage in higher education's expansion into a global market.
Instead of only providing courses and degrees within their own country - universities are increasingly looking to export their "brand" overseas, where there is demand for UK-endorsed university degrees.
Businesses and universities are looking to the expand in China
Nottingham's new campus is to be opened in Ningbo, an historic city in the province of Zhejiang on China's eastern coast.
The setting up of the campus is a partnership with Chinese education authorities - but the degrees will be awarded by Nottingham.
"At our campus in China the students will graduate with University of Nottingham degrees of the same quality and standard as students graduating from here in the UK," says Douglas Tallack, the university's pro-vice chancellor for internationalisation.
"Competition in higher education is now international," he says.
By staking a claim in China, Professor Tallack says that the university will be "taken seriously" when it comes to establishing links in the country for business and research.
China will be an important market for higher education - as well as business - and Nottingham is seeking to gain an early foothold.
Professor Tallack says that between 2004 and 2008, it is expected that about 4,000 students will attend the new university.
Chinese students at the campus will get the same degrees as in Nottingham
At first, the university will teach arts and social science subjects.
Teaching will be in English - and supplementing staff from Nottingham will be locally and internationally-recruited academics.
The cost of land and construction, to be completed for September 2005, will be funded by the university's Chinese partner - the Wanli educational group.
This organisation has been charged by the Chinese government with finding ways to revitalise state education.
Nottingham University says that the cost of the venture will be covered by fees from students at the new university - and that any surpluses will be re-invested.
Professor Tallack says the project is a "two-way benefit", opening up opportunities for research and other exchanges between academics and students in China and the United Kingdom.
Nottingham University staff will teach Chinese students in English
Nottingham University already has a campus in Malaysia - and Professor Tallack says that if other opportunities arose, they would consider developing universities elsewhere.
Addressing human rights concerns, the university says: "We shall extend to our China campus our approach of working with Chinese institutions, presenting students with a balanced viewpoint, and teaching in different ways (with more independent thinking).
"We think this will go well with reform and modernisation in China itself."
The vice-president of the Ningbo campus will be Professor Ian Gow, formerly director of Nottingham University Business School.