Yale University has decided to end its joint undergraduate partnership with Peking University, citing low student interest as the reason for the change. Yale launched a joint undergraduate program with the flagship Chinese university in 2006, hoping to strengthen ties with the emerging superpower, and enhance student interest in studying abroad. The program offered Yale students the opportunity to spend a term at PKU. This fall, only four students made plans to participate.
The move to cancel the program comes only seven months after Yale announced plans to renew the program in December of 2011. At the time, Yale president Richard C. Levin called the Peking University partnership “a great success.”
The Peking University partnership was plagued with academic problems. One faculty member told the Yale Daily News that the language component of the exchange program was “notoriously weak” and that students who studied in China had a difficult time catching up with their language courses once they re-entered the program at Yale.
The partnership also involved sending Yale faculty to teach in China. In December 2007, ecology professor Stephen Stearns sent a sharply-worded email to his students at PKU, complaining about the widespread culture of plagiarism he had encountered among his students while teaching there. The email eventually went viral on the internet, and became a source of embarrassment for the Chinese government and Peking University officials.
In his letter, Stearns also pointed the finger at PKU faculty, accusing them of shoddy academic standards. “The fact that I have encountered this much plagiarism … tells me something about the behavior of other professors and administrators here,” Stearns wrote. “They must tolerate a lot of it, and when they detect it, they cover it up without serious punishment, probably because they do not want to lose face. If they did punish it, it would not be this frequent.”
Yale has also come under fire recently for its joint program with the National University of Singapore. Critics say that severe restrictions on free speech and civil rights in the country will compromise the academic enterprise, ultimately making Singapore an inappropriate partner for Yale.