Chinese and British authorities have announced a new funding program for education partnerships between the two sides, as well as for other countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The UK-China-BRI Countries Education Partnership Initiative is a multilateral education programme designed in partnership between the British Council and China’s Ministry of Education.

In announcing the winning proposals from the first round of seed funding, Andrew Zerzan with the British Council is describing the program the beginning of a new chapter.

“Something that the British Council and the Ministry of Education have just launched and is first of its kind ever is the multilateral partnership fund. We will give seed money to UK universities to partner with Chinese institutions and BRI countries. This is really important because, in my opinion, this is the beginning of a new chapter and bringing the relationship to another level.”

Zerzan says there’s an urgency in launching this type of initiative.

“One of the biggest challenges we have in the West with China is China’s size. Chinese universities and research centres are very big, with many people and many resources. We struggle to match that size. China’s population is about 20 times larger than that of the UK so, to get to the same scale is very difficult.

Therefore the next step is for us is to bring in a BRI country and make a multilateral partnership. It helps achieve the size that China wants while making the cooperation successful. I see this as the next stage of education collaboration between the two countries.”

Andrew Zerzan says the Imitative is also going to help bolster the UK’s education reputation by connecting more UK institutions to educational opportunities in China and amongst Belt and Road countries.

“I think there is still significant capacity in the British higher education system to take on many more international students including from China. In my view, if you look at the statistics, there has been an increasing number of Chinese students coming into the UK every year. So the trend is for more Chinese students, whatever happens with US and China relationship.

The fact is that Chinese students everyday know more about the quality of British education and they are coming here to benefit from that. It’s exactly the same the other way round: more and more British students are going to China. Britain really benefits from this and I think the British system has a lot more capacity to take on more international students itself.”

Over 28 universities from 12 countries have applied to be eligible for the 540-thousand US dollar investment.

Proposals cover studies in areas such as healthcare, police education, food safety, manufacturing, renewable energy and global leadership.