Could Case Western Reserve University agreement to share students with Chinese university lead to something more?

Case Western Reserve University has agreed with Tianjin University in China to exchange engineering students. Both universities hope the agreement is the first formal step toward greater collaboration.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Case Western Reserve University has agreed with Tianjin University in China to exchange students.

Beginning in the 2010 summer semester, the two institutions will encourage largely engineering students to spend some time at the other university. Gong Ke, president of Tianjin University, and Case Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack signed an exchange agreement on Thursday.

Both universities hope the agreement is the first formal step toward greater collaboration. Tianjin is one of China’s important national universities, particularly in engineering. Case has a strong engineering school, which includes a biomedical engineering department.

Associate Provost for International Affairs David Fleshler and Norman Tien, dean of Case School of Engineering, visited Tianjin a month ago to formalize a connection that dates back about five years, according to Case, where some Tianjin students have been working on their graduate degrees.

“We would like to get to the point where we are in more serious engagement in academics and research programs,” Tien said in a written statement. “We strive for this in order to provide opportunities for a stronger international experience for our students.”

Meanwhile, Tianjin — the city and the university — are trying to build international business relationships. “We have signed more than 150 agreements with universities around the world,” Tianjin’s Gong said. “Now, we try to focus on universities when the match is special, as key-partner universities.”

Case may be such a match. “We really share a lot of common interests in research, in education, in institutional reform,” Gong said.

Ohio also is interesting to the Chinese city and university because of its emerging possibilities in wind energy, Fleshler said in the statement.