As Covid Keeps Students Out Of U.S., Tulane Launches Unique Partnership In China

More than a hundred graduate business students are taking part in a partnership program between Tulane University and Peking University in Beijing, China. Courtesy photo

International students still view the U.S. as the most popular destination for a business education despite the difficulties today of obtaining a visa and an out-of-control pandemic.

When the U.S. officially announced travel restrictions earlier this year in response to Covid-19, Ira Solomon, dean of the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University in New Orleans, knew something had to be done to accommodate overseas Freeman students who would have trouble getting into the U.S.

“We knew that these students would not be able to get to the U.S. after the travel ban,” Solomon says. “It’s a significant number of people. We had to think long and hard about how we’d be able to serve our students.”

Tulane found a unique solution, partnering with Beijing’s Peking University to offer Freeman graduate students “visiting student” status at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, where they could attend in-person classes structured around Tulane syllabi.

This fall, 110 Master of Finance, Master of Business Analytics, and Master of Accounting graduate students across are taking part in the program with Peking University. Students are enrolled in four courses with two being taught in-person by Peking faculty and two being taught online by Freeman faculty.


Ira Solomon, dean of the Tulane Freeman School of Business

The goal of the partnership with Peking University, Solomon tells Poets&Quants, is to provide a top-quality education for students who, because of the pandemic, are not able to physically be in New Orleans.

“Our impression is that the students really did not see fully online instruction as a strong competitor to an opportunity to be at Peking University and be with other Tulane students,” Solomon says.

Many consider Peking University to be the “Harvard of China,” and its Guanghua School is AACSB-accredited. But Solomon wanted to ensure that Tulane students would be receiving a Tulane-quality education, considering that’s what they paid for. To assure the highest quality of instruction, he says, faculty were hand-selected to lead the courses and Freeman staff were made available to address any issues.

“These are exceptionally, highly qualified faculty,” Solomon says. “They’re working closely with Tulane faculty to assure that the coverage of the material is in a way that we at Tulane would have covered it.”

All courses count toward graduation credits and participating students also receive a certificate of participation from Peking University. Additionally, students get access to unique networking opportunities with alumni in the region.

“Most of our students say they’re very grateful for the opportunity to do something as close to ‘normal’ and humanly possible given the circumstances,” Solomon says.

The program with Peking has been so well received that the Freeman School will continue the partnership through the spring semester, with plans to discuss possibly growing the partnership further next year.


Back in New Orleans, Tulane reopened its campus this fall with an abundance of health protocols in place, including Covid testing and contact tracing. Classrooms were revamped with state-of-the-art technology for virtual instruction, and faculty worked with instructional designers to learn best practices for online and hybrid instruction.

Like many other business schools around the country, this fall semester looks and feels a bit different. Universities have had to overcome enormous challenges in adapting to the new normal — from retrofitting classrooms to containing outbreaks to ensuring each and every student receives a quality education amidst a global health pandemic. But if there’s anything this pandemic has taught Solomon, it’s the idea that everything is connected.

“The pandemic reminds us of just how interconnected the world is,” he says. “And not just from a business standpoint. We teach students that business is global, but almost every aspect of life now is global.”


Coronavirus isn’t the first crisis that has forced the Tulane community to adapt rapidly, and come out the other side more resilient. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the region, killing more than 1,500 and destroying more than 160,000 homes. Former Tulane President Scott Cowen recalled the disastrous effects of Katrina in an article for the Association of American Colleges & Universities, writing, “Within forty-eight hours, two-thirds of our uptown campus, which covers about 120 acres, was under water. We lost all communications — telephones, satellite phones, cell phones, computers — and there was no sewage system, no water, and no power. By the time we finally evacuated to Houston, Texas, on the Friday after the storm, Tulane University no longer existed.”

Tulane officials had to act quickly to not only protect the community, but also ensure that students and faculty would have a home to come back to the following year. The university officially reopened its campus on January 17, 2006, and Cowen attributed much of the reopening success to the bold decision making of school officials and the resilience of the Tulane community.

While 2020 isn’t quite the same as 2005, one theme has proven true to Dean Ira Solomon.

“What pulls Tulane University and the Freeman Business School through,” he says, “is the people.”


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