The University of Massachusetts in the United States has become the first foreign university approved to offer online education courses and degree programs in China.

"We are very proud to have been chosen by our partners in China to enter into this agreement," said University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson. "We have developed one of the best online education programs in the world, and that is increasingly being recognized around the globe."

Under the agreement, signed in Beijing, officials from UMass and from China's Continuing Education Association and the CerEdu Corporation will work together to make UMassOnline, the University's distance education program, available to students throughout China. Plans call for UMassOnline to offer credit and non-credit courses, certificate programs, and degree programs from all five UMass campuses — through online and face to face programs — throughout China. Forty UMassOnline courses, four certificate programs, and one master's degree program could be made available in China within a year.

The agreement flows out of the academic and research partnership that was formed in 2006 with the signing of a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding between UMass and Tsinghua University. Both CCEA and CerEdu Corporation are affiliated with Tsinghua University, which has a close relationship with the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education has final approval power over distance learning programs in China and currently does not recognize the college credits or degree credentials earned in China via distance learning offerings from any foreign-based academic institution. In fact, only 68 universities within China have been authorized by the Ministry to deliver online programs.

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