New Zealand's Massey University, which conferred an honorary doctorate in literature on China's first lady, Peng Liyuan, is seeking opportunities to cooperate with higher education institutes in China to cultivate talent in the creative arts.
Massey, the first New Zealand university to set up a branch in China, has been assisting development in areas such as agriculture, finance and engineering for many years, according to Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey.
"But we are very interested in expanding the relationship, particularly in the creative and cultural areas," Maharey said during a trip to Beijing this month.
He believes a focus on creativity and innovation will lead to success for both China and New Zealand.
Maharey, together with Claire Robinson, head of the university's College of Creative Art, talked to leaders of the People's Liberation Army Academy of Art during the visit.
He said a collaboration of the PLA academy, the college and New Zealand special effects company Weta Workshop is already taking shape.
Massey University has more than 1,700 Chinese students, while the college has only 22.
Robinson said the college is the only arts institution outside North America to have been accredited by the United States National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
"The quality of our courses is just as good as any of those offered by the top universities in the US," she said.
Students are encouraged to collaborate and work across disciplines.
"It's about expanding students' capability to work across different fields because that's what's required today," Robinson said.
"The main skill we look for when we recruit international students is that they can draw well and creatively," Robinson said. "Some Chinese students can copy the work of other artists, but can't express themselves creatively through drawing."
This is especially true of those who apply directly from China and have not attended schools in New Zealand.
"I think it's much harder for them because they don't understand the New Zealand system and what we expect," Robinson said. "But the more we talk to Chinese universities and art schools and art educators, (the more) we can help them learn what sort of skills they should acquire before they become a student with us."
As a starting point, the college will select 12 students from Massey University in November and December to work together with two groups of students from the creative art colleges of two institutions in China - an Polytechnic University and the Shanghai Institution of Visual Arts. They will explore ways of recycling old clothing into new fashion gowns.