‘MIT of China,’ U of Washington Join for Tech Graduate Institute


The University of Washington and Tsinghua University of Beijing are joining forces to establish a graduate technology institute, the Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX, in Seattle. The graduate institute will offer courses on technology innovation.

The venture, which has already received a $40 million donation from Microsoft, constitutes the first time that a Chinese academic institution has acquired a physical presence in the US.  Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella characterized the venture as an “ambitious project with incredible promise.”

“GIX will be a multilateral open platform to cultivate young leaders with technical talent, entrepreneurial spirit and social responsibility,” Tsinghua University President Qiu Yong said according to the GlobalTimes.cn.

The Wall Street Journal considers the initiative as representing a rare moment in the history of cooperation between the two countries. GIX will start offering classes in the fall of 2016 to both American and Chinese students coming from the two universities. Faculty from UW and Tsinghua will teach classes in English.

Ana Mari Cauce, interim president of the University of Washington, said that technology is key in how modern challenges of sustainability, health, inequality, environmental issues, transportation and clean energy are tackled.

The tech grad school will focus on computer science and electrical engineering to offer a 15-month graduate program, and the Master’s of Science in Technology Innovation which will be available to a cohort of 30 to 35 students. GIX will also offer more programs in the future to help educate the next generation of innovators.

“This is outstanding news for Washington and a result of our ongoing efforts to strengthen our unique and cutting-edge education and business relationships with China,” said Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.

According to an official announcement by UW, GIX will be built in Bellevue Spring District, an urban development area that’s only 10 miles from UW and will feature cutting-edge facilities with computing and design labs, prototyping facilities and several collaboration and communication spaces. No state money will be used for the project.

At the moment, Washington is facing a shortage of computer science professionals. Citing a report by the Washington Student Achievement Council, the New York Times says that in 2013 the state needed 2,700 additional CS graduates to meet its forecast demand for the next 10 years. About 300 computer science graduates get their bachelor’s every year at UW.

The Tsinghua University of Beijing is a prestigious academic institution that counts two Chinese presidents among its alumni; current Chinese President Xi Jinping and former president Hu Jintao. Tsinghua is often referred to as the MIT of China.

Apart from Microsoft’s support, several other partners, nonprofits and organizations are expected to join the aspirational venture.