Jisc’s new pilot project gives Chinese students access to quality online education

Jisc is working alongside powerful industry bodies such as ucisa, Universities UK International and the British Council

As of yesterday, Chinese students who have studied in the UK and returned home due to the pandemic, or who are studying online transnationally, have gained access to quality UK learning materials, social platforms and synchronous teaching, thanks to a brand-new project by HE non-profit Jisc.

Supported by leading sector bodies such as ucisa, Universities UK International and the British Council, the project has already seen sign ups from the University of Southampton, the University of York, Queen Mary University of London and King’s College, London.

Complex Chinese government regulations and technical barriers specific to China – such as cross-border Virtual Private Network (VPN) restrictions and international gateways that screen traffic between China and the rest of the world, filtering content from overseas used for digital teaching and learning, while blocking various platforms and applications such as YouTube, Facebook and Google – means students face many challenges when it comes to accessing UK academic content.

The launch of the programme is particularly timely and significant because Chinese students account for 23% of all international students enrolled at UK universities, producing an economic contribution of almost £7bn per year.

“Chinese students are key to a thriving higher education sector and this project will help institutions offer them a quality equitable student experience, even though they may no longer be able to physically be on campus in the UK, at least in the short-term,” said Dr Esther Wilkinson, Jisc’s head of international. “This pilot aims to give Chinese students the best possible online learning experience reflecting the world-leading quality and academic standards of UK higher education.”

Following collaboration with Chinese multinational tech company, Alibaba Cloud, Jisc will employ the pilot solution to explore how Chinese students access their virtual learning environment (VLE), regardless of whether these are hosted by a UK university or a third-party network. The project will seek to enhance the speed and reliability of current solutions, as well as elevate content access and consider the costs of implementing such measures.

“Alibaba’s solution can be implemented quickly and is ideal for examinations or real-time teaching that now has to take place online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wilkinson added. “We are exploring how this can be used at scale with a view to create a sector-wide OJEU compliant multi-supplier framework for the UK. We are doing what Jisc does best, working together with the sector to provide affordable and appropriate solutions for our members as your trusted partner.”

To register your institution’s interest in the project and find out more information, visit the Jisc website here or email: international@jisc.ac.uk.

In other news: Lessons from lockdown: UK universities flock to shape a tech-enabled sector


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