Keele University, established in 1949 by Lord Lindsay, a former Vice-Chancellor at University of Oxford, was the first UK “new university” of the last century. The foundation of a university in North Staffordshire was a bold move at a time of post-war austerity. Until the expansion of the 1960s saw the number of UK universities more than double, from 22 to 45, the UK University Grants Committee approved no other new institution.
Keele was founded with a commitment to meet the demands of a new kind of society, economy, and world. Keele remains true to its original mission and, today, aims to find international partners who share our progressive commitments.
The University’s key partner in China, since 2017, has been the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU). This university is under the direct administration of the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) and is part of the Double First-Class Project of China. As a Foreign Languages School founded during the resistance against the Japanese invasion and occupation, it played an important part in preparing cadres for foreign and diplomatic service after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. In 1994, the Institute took on its current name.
BFSU and Keele run a double-degree programme for students who wish to specialise in the study of international relations, business, and law. Students study in both China and the UK: two years at BFSU are followed by a year at Keele and then a final year in Beijing. Graduates from the programme are able to contribute to Chinese society at a senior level, in areas such as the diplomatic service, civil service or executive management of Chinese corporations. Some may choose to work in international organisations.
The programme gives its students the opportunity to strengthen their intercultural skills and global outlook. It was originally intended that some BFSU staff would spend time at Keele. This would have reinforced academic collaboration. Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, it was not possible for the first and second intakes to transfer to Keele. It was jointly agreed that, to protect student and staff safety, the programme would be taught online.
Because the COVID-19 emergency has not yet been fully overcome, the intake from 2020 was given the choice of study location in their third year. Approximately half the cohort have joined the Keele campus. The delivery timetable has been adjusted for hybrid delivery.
The challenges arising from the pandemic have been met by BFSU and Keele in the spirit of collaboration, utilising the partnership’s strong foundations, to ensure that students continue to receive a high-quality experience. The learning outcomes have been minimally adjusted to cope with challenging circumstances.
The 77 students who graduated in 2022 were very satisfied with their experience. Upon successful completion of the programme, students are awarded a BA (Hons) International Governance and Public Policy degree by Keele and a BA Diplomacy degree by BFSU. The first graduating cohort achieved outstanding results. More than 20% were awarded First Class degrees by Keele. Almost all the other students were awarded Upper Seconds.
With excellent results, most students have decided to pursue further study although 10% have gone directly to employment in a range of occupations in China. These include government institutions such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, financial institutions, and NGOs. 18 have become postgraduate students in China, almost all at universities in the Double-First Class Project. 41 are now students overseas, working for qualifications at universities in the top 100 list (using the QS rankings). Following a higher degree in China or abroad, the programme provides students with an excellent platform for international employment in areas related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.