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Chinese alumni pledge $1 million to US school
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At a time when a record number of Chinese students are heading abroad for studies and a growing number of overseas-educated natives are returning home to cash in on the economic boom, a group of university alumni have taken a step further: repaying their foreign alma mater.

More than 500 Chinese alumni of Boston University (BU) pledged a $1-million donation to their US alma mater at the launch of their alumni chapter in Beijing on Saturday, the group said.

The amount, to be given over five years, is the first such collective gift for the fourth largest private university in the US in its 169-year history.

BU president Robert Brown, 56, who attended the launch and was the institution's first president to visit China, said, "We're expanding the alumni office in Asia, and that will have a big impact on what we do in China specifically."

About 5,000 of BU's 32,000 students are from abroad, and the university has about 260,000 alumni in more than 50 associations and groups across the world.

BU has a student exchange program with Shanghai's Fudan University, and counts Ha Jin, a Chinese author writing in English, as one of its close to 4,000 faculty members.

The latest boost to BU's $946-million endowment comes in a year when 200,000 Chinese are expected to travel abroad for studies.

Only a dozen Chinese students went abroad for studies in 1978. But from 1978 to 2006, about 1.1 million Chinese went abroad for studies, with 275,000 returning home.

In the past two years, however, an increasing percentage of Chinese have returned home because "China's domestic business environment has improved significantly," Yu Minhong, chairman of Beijing New Oriental Group, has said.

Hugo Shong, executive vice-president of International Data Group and head of the newly formed China alumni chapter, said on Saturday that the contribution will hopefully help nurture more talent at BU.

Shong said, "I think it's important to have an alumni platform to maintain the network and also to provide feedback for BU to stay competitive."

Boston University alumna Jin Wei returned to Beijing after living in the US for almost two years. The 28-year-old holds a dual master's degree in business and information systems. She ignored some very good opportunities abroad to head back home and start a social networking site, and now works for an IT company.

"It's a great time for China, and I want to be a part of it," she said.

(China Daily, January 21, 2008)

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