To: The NYU Community
From: NYU President John Sexton and Provost David McLaughlin
RE: An Important Step Towards Creating a New Campus in Shanghai
Date: January 21, 2011

As many of you know, NYU has been in conversation with government representatives in Shanghai and East China Normal University about the creation of a new portal campus within NYU’s Global Network.  We recently received the good news that China’s Ministry of Education has given its approval to our proposal.

Even with this approval, our conversations in Shanghai are not concluded; however, we have excellent partners in this effort and the dialogue is proceeding well.  We want to share this news with you because it is an important step in the process. 

Here at NYU, the importance of creating a portal campus in Asia has been under discussion for several years, including discussions with the Faculty Senators Council, the Academic Priorities Committee, and faculty groups such as China House that have a special interest in China.  With these developments, it is time to widen the conversation, briefly discuss our vision for the new campus, and discuss it more broadly in the context of the global network university.


There is a natural sense of connection between New York and Shanghai:  both are world capitals renowned for their vibrancy, major centers of business and commerce for economically important nations, and magnets for talented, ambitious, and entrepreneurial people from throughout the world.

NYU has had a presence in Shanghai for six years through our successful Study Abroad site; it has attracted much student and faculty interest, with some 450 students having studied there.  And through our Shanghai site, we have over the years developed an extensive, productive partnership with the leadership of East China Normal University (ECNU).

In June 2008, several senior members of the NYU community traveled to Shanghai to see NYU's Study Abroad site there and to host a discussion on NYU's global efforts generally.  During that trip, several members of the delegation met with the mayor of Pudong, Shanghai’s financial district, who was aware of our exciting developments in Abu Dhabi.  And so began a conversation that led to the idea of creating NYU Shanghai, the third portal campus - along with NYU Abu Dhabi and our historic Washington Square campus - in the global network of academic sites we are creating.

NYU Shanghai

As our conversations with our partners have proceeded, important mutual goals have emerged.

We and our partners are in agreement that this campus must be an institution that is guided by the highest standards of academic excellence.  To achieve this, NYU Shanghai will be a U.S.-style selective liberal arts research university with a four-year undergraduate college, together with graduate and professional programs.  We expect that ultimately it will have some 1600 undergraduates and an as yet undetermined number of graduate students.

NYU Shanghai will offer a full range of academic majors, and its classes will be conducted in English (other than language classes).  It will likewise offer a full range of university facilities -- including laboratories, classrooms, athletics, housing (both student and faculty), libraries, and information technology facilities – and extensive co-curricular activities.  Beyond the broad agreement that at its core it will be a liberal arts university with a robust engineering and science program, the specifics of the curriculum await development through the deep involvement of our faculty. The Vice Chancellor who leads NYU Shanghai will be selected by NYU.  He or she, working with faculty, will set the campus’ academic direction.

The students will mostly be drawn from China (where we will choose students from among the top secondary school graduates), but we anticipate that it will draw talented students and faculty from throughout the world.  We will continue, of course, to have a Study Abroad program in Shanghai, which will likely make its home at this new campus; and students at NYU Shanghai will be able to study at other NYU global sites. Financial aid will be offered to assist academically qualified but needy students to attend.

The campus will have its own standing faculty -- including tenured and tenure-track positions at NYU Shanghai -- and affiliated faculty from other NYU portal campuses will also have opportunities to teach there.  It is also possible we will have jointly appointed faculty who will be affiliated both with NYU Shanghai and one of the other portal campuses.  Scholarly excellence will be the benchmark for recruitment.

There also will be a robust research component to this academic undertaking.  And from the beginning, in recognition that academic freedom is indispensable to academic excellence, we and our partners have agreed that this principle, as defined in NYU’s Faculty Handbook, must be the prevailing standard.

Our partners in Shanghai/Pudong will provide the land and the facilities.  We have agreed upon a financial model that ensures that -- as with NYU Abu Dhabi -- no funds will go from our New York campus to support the operations of NYU Shanghai.

East China Normal University will be an indispensable partner in helping the new campus establish itself -- providing office space, directing research funds to the new institution, providing talented staff to help with administrative operations, furnishing infrastructure support, and sharing their expertise on higher education in China.  We also anticipate that the new campus will provide a platform for enhancing existing collaborations between scholars.

The Global Network University

Our global presence distinguishes us.  It gives our students learning opportunities that other universities cannot match.  It permits members of the NYU community to pursue scholarly interests around the world with an ease not previously achievable.  It allows us to recruit to our university community a far wider range of students and faculty than would otherwise be the case, adding new and diverse talents, insights, and perspective.  It provides a wide new range of research opportunities.

But beyond distinguishing us, our global academic presence reflects an emerging understanding: that just as there have been moments in the past that required universities to think through their essential nature, so are we at such a junction again now.  As Richard Levin, Yale’s president, said recently in a memo to faculty announcing Yale’s partnership with the National University of Singapore, “...we do believe it is inevitable that the world’s leading universities by the middle of this century will have international campuses.”

For our own thinking on the importance of the global network university idea to NYU’s future, we invite you to read a recent reflection by John Sexton.


While there are still discussions to take place and issues to be concluded, we are hopeful and excited by the prospect of creating NYU Shanghai as the University’s third portal campus in the Global Network, and very happy to know of the Ministry of Education’s approval of our proposal.  The creation of the second portal campus in Abu Dhabi has added immeasurably to the educational and intellectual vitality of the global network, and we look forward to NYU Shanghai building on this momentum and accomplishment.

We have found wonderful, admirable partners who understand our commitment to high academic standards; who share our vision of the advantages that a global network brings to our university, its faculty, its students, and to Shanghai and China; who recognize what we have already achieved in creating a global network university; who understand NYU’s character and feel a sense of kinship to drive for excellence; who have a deep sense of the vitality that can connect Shanghai and New York City as urban centers; and who have a view of the world and its future -- and the role that higher education will play in that future -- that is in accord with our own.

We are also thrilled by what this new effort in Shanghai will add to NYU: an opportunity to be more deeply immersed in one of the world’s greatest and most important cultures, a chance to engage new colleagues, and an opportunity to share and exchange ideas.

A great university such as ours must constantly reflect on its own nature. NYU has, from its beginnings, shown a willingness to embrace the world’s complexity, and find within it enormous possibilities.  Should it, as we hope, come to pass, the extension of NYU’s global network to include a portal campus in Shanghai will, we have no doubt, come to be seen as a mighty step in strengthening the University and ensuring its continued academic momentum in the 21st century.