New partnership with Peking University

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is expanding its international academic offerings through a consortium on urban and regional planning and management with Peking University, one of the leading universities in China. The consortium will support cooperative research, education and training activities in urban and regional planning and management.

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies and the Department of City and Regional Planning in UNC College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences and the School of Urban Planning and Design at Peking University are the key members of this consortium.

Ron Strauss, executive associate provost and chief international officer for the University of North Carolina, and William Rohe, director of the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies, were in Beijing, China, in late May to sign the consortium agreement. The five-year agreement includes promoting visiting researchers, workshops and academic conferences. Additionally, professional staff and doctoral students will be able to spend three months to one year at the partner institution.

A joint conference of UNC and Peking University scholars followed the signing ceremony. “China is still in a transitional stage, moving from a traditional to modern economy,” said Wen Hai, vice-chancellor of Peking University, in his opening remarks. Hai noted that urbanization is a critical part of this transitional process and that scholars expect hundreds of millions of people to move from rural to urban areas in the coming decades.

UNC and Peking University researchers are collaborating to examine this unprecedented migration and its environmental, social and ecological impacts. Rohe says: “The rate of urban growth in China is extraordinary. In a decade or two, small Chinese towns are literally developing into metropolises. This experience provides an exceptional opportunity for U.S. scholars to work with their Chinese counterparts to study the consequences of rapid urbanization and to offer strategies on how Chinese cities can grow in environmentally, socially and economically sustainable ways.”

“This partnership will provide UNC students and faculty with significant opportunities for collaboration and exchanges,” says Strauss. Over the long-term, Strauss explains that the purpose of the consortium is to provide support for UNC and PKU’s cooperative research, education and training activities in urbanization, urban and regional economic development, planning and management. Facilitating research by scholars on both continents and publishing research results will benefit students and communities in China and the United States.

The consortium grew out of efforts of the Program on Chinese Cities, a new initiative within the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at UNC aimed at better understanding the impacts of rapid urban growth on China’s built and natural environments. Future directions for the consortium include the possibility of a dual graduate program in city and regional planning and the development of training programs for Chinese government officials.