The International Project Management program in Shandong University is a real-time case for the Belt and Road
Initiative to go to education. (Photo: Shandong University)
China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative is seeking to rejuvenate economic andcultural ties across dozens of countries, but will there be enough managementtalent to implement this far-reaching plan? One renowned university in easternChina may have some solutions. Shandong University’s International Master of Project Management programme hasbeen offering scholarships to foreign students for the past couple of years andits popularity has been steadily growing. Despite its success today, the programme faced some challenges and difficultiesin the beginning.
New visions for a grand initiative
Professor Ding Ronggui, Ph.D. supervisor for Management School of Shandong University, startedthe International Master of Project Management program in 2015. He stillremembers clearly how nervous his whole team was when waiting for the firstgroup of students to arrive. “The first year only eight people applied for our courses and five of themactually showed up at the opening day. A professor in our team, Sun Tao, wentto the classroom very early that day, worrying that there would be no one.”Ding said, “You know, people can still skip even if they have registered.” “But in 2016, the number of applicants had risen to over 100 and 33 enrolled.26 of them actually made it.” Ding continued, “And things keeps lookingbrighter this year. The number has neared 200 by now and the applicationprocess is not finished yet, with applicants from over 20 countries, includingthe US and UK. Ding’s excitement is not groundless. Shandong University is among the 40universities to be registered in the Project Management Institute (PMI) fromAmerica, a hugely influential project management organisation, and, despitelacking the research funds and reputation of top universities like Tsinghua,Ding says Shandong is now number one in the area, with a focus onstudents from countries along the Belt and Road.
Local projects, local talent
“As the world’slargest developing country, China naturally attracts the densest investment andprojects. Successful as well as failed experiences in project management havebeen accumulated,” Professor Ding says, adding that, “It is reasonable forChina to share these experiences with other developing countries.” To promote the realisation of Belt and Road Initiative on education, theChinese government has offered scholarships to 10,000 students per year fromthese countries. That’s why Ding’s students have various scholarships from theMinistries of Education and Commerce. But what’s special for Ding’s program isthat it also received scholarships from Chinese enterprises. “Chinese companies are eager to expand overseas and they need local talents whoare familiar with both China and destination countries,” said Ding. “Such kindof talents are rare. Therefore, they are more than happy to have these studentsas interns in their second year of study or even be formal employees in thefuture.” The intern project covers almost all of China’s major state-owned enterprisesin infrastructure, such as China International Engineering Consulting Company,Tenth Construction company of China National Petroleum Corporation, ChinaRailway Engineering Corporation, China Railway Construction Corporation andPower China Nuclear Engineering Corporation.
“Connect China with my country”
Noor Wasif, aninternational student from Pakistan, joined the program in September 2016. Hetalked about why he chose to apply for the project management degree atShandong University and how he feels about it now. “I preferred to become a project manager after I finished my bachelor’s degreein civil engineering and worked for one year in China. I checked the PMIwebsite and I discovered that Shandong University is listed among theuniversities registered.” Wasif said, “The professors are really good. Theycome from different countries, Australia, Germany and Italy and have muchexperience. I thought I could really learn something. That’s why I chose tocome here at the first place.” “Now it is almost one year after I came here, things turned out even better.The courses are beyond my expectation. The campus environment is quiet and goodfor studying, unlike some campuses in the area with large population. I havemade many Chinese friends. Everything looks just good.” When asked about his plans after graduating from Shandong University, Wasifsaid he would prefer to work in Chinese companies who have projects in hishomeland, Pakistan. “China and Pakistan have very good relations and Chinese companies have manyprojects in Pakistan. So I will find a job in one of such companies. You know,Chinese companies can have many problems in Pakistan, such as language, communicationand religion issues. I can help them dealing with the issues. I am familiarwith China since I have stay here for six years and I certainly know Pakistan.I can be a bridge connecting China and my own country.”