Sept. 18, 1997
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University has launched its third "twinning program" with an institution in Asia.
University officials hope to duplicate their successful programs in Malaysia and Hong Kong with a new cooperative agreement with Christ College in Bangalore, India.
The India program follows the model established with Sunway College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Students take their first two years of WMU-designed courses at the partner college in their homeland and then -- if they have acceptable grades -- transfer to WMU for their final two years to complete their degree.
A group of 22 students enrolled in the first class at Christ College in August. The students hail from throughout India as well as from non-resident Indian communities abroad in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The class also includes international students from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Enrollment is expected to climb to 100 in the next few years.
The first half of two undergraduate degree programs are being offered through the cooperative agreement: computer science and business administration. These offerings fit in well with the economic climate in the surrounding area, according to Dr. Howard J. Dooley, WMU's executive director of international affairs.
The region near Bangalore, a city of 4.8 million, is called the Silicon Valley of India because of its burgeoning information technology industry. The area already has attracted U.S. computer companies, including IBM, Hewlett Packard, Motorola and Texas Instruments. It also has been selected by Bill Gates as the future site for Microsoft's regional headquarters. The city is one of the fastest growing in India and its population is expected to reach 10.2 million by 2025.
"India is Asia's sleeping tiger," Dooley said. "Economic liberalization since 1991 has already doubled India's growth rate to about 6 percent a year and the country has the potential to do much better. Bangalore, India's high tech oasis, is a place with the potential to lead the country into the economic fast lane. We want to be there to serve the demand for overseas higher education that will come from India's burgeoning middle class."
Dooley noted that Indian students, most at the graduate level, already are the third largest international student group at WMU. "Twinning offers the potential to attract additional bright and well-prepared undergraduates from the subcontinent," he said.
Christ College, established in 1968, enrolls 4,000 students in undergraduate and graduate degree programs affiliated with Bangalore University, one of the largest state universities in India. It is operated by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, an indigenous Catholic religious congregation established in the 19th century to promote the renewal of India. Secular in its outlook, Christ College is open to students of all castes, religions, creeds and languages.
WMU's first twinning program at Sunway College was launched in 1987 and some 1,500 Malaysian students have enrolled in it. In 1995, the University began a second twinning program with Hong Kong Baptist University. The first third-year Hong Kong program students arrived at WMU in late August to begin classes this semester.
Dooley said that the Office of International Affairs is working to develop additional twinning programs in India as well as elsewhere in Asia.
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