Lanzhou, China. It’s Albuquerque’s sister city, the capital and largest city in the Gansu Province, right in the middle of mainland China. And it could become home to a UNM Sino-Foreign University, only the 5th such institution in existence in that fast growing country.

On a recent trip to China, UNM President Robert G. Frank, accompanied by Executive Vice President David Harris and Special Assistant to the President for Global Affairs, Mary Anne Saunders, visited the proposed location for a planned development complete with a 130-acre site designated for an American/Chinese partnership university.

China’s Central Government has approved the new area, its 5th state level initiative for a so-called special economic and political administration zone. A private Chinese company behind the 300 square mile development expects it to have a population of 600,000 by 2020.

The private sector company is wooing UNM to be the American component to partner with a Chinese university for the new area.  President Frank says the developer would provide all of the financing for the project, with additional tuition income going to UNM.

“This could be an incredible opportunity for us. We may never be in this position again.” Frank said. “There is risk, but we are prepared to do the due diligence it takes to see if this can work for us as part of our initiative to provide a global experience for our students and faculty.”

Academic opportunities for UNM include an exchange of faculty and research, as well as study abroad for UNM undergrad and graduate students. Frank has asked a team of faculty members to look into the partnership possibility and to consider ways that UNM could provide curriculum and teaching methodology for degrees that meet our standards and are in accordance with Chinese regulations.

“All courses would be taught in English, and UNM faculty would oversee the quality of the curriculum,” Frank said. “In China now there is a huge demand for an American style education. This would be a coming together of our two worlds.”

In the coming months, UNM leaders will continue a formal vetting process that will include academic, legal, financial and other components before moving forward with any agreement.