Beijing Office Plans Delayed

Harvard has delayed plans for a much heralded Beijing office to support nearby Harvard students and faculty that was originally slated to open by this winter.

The decision to postpone the opening of Harvard’s second China office would save the University $500,000 a year at a time when Harvard is scrambling to cut costs, Vice Provost for International Affairs Jorge I. Dominguez said in an interview Friday.

Harvard unveiled its first China office in Shanghai last summer as part of a University push to expand its overseas presence, with expectations of opening additional outposts in Beijing, Mumbai, and Mexico City the following year.

The Beijing office would have been financed by the Harvard China Fund, a University-wide initiative with an annual operating budget of roughly $1 million to support teaching and research in and about China, said Todd Washburn, assistant provost for international affairs.

Like the newly established Shanghai office run jointly by the Harvard Business School and the China Fund, its Beijing counterpart would have provided on-site services and a support network for both Harvard faculty and students traveling or working abroad. The office staff would have also arranged interviews and hosted admissions events for prospective students from the area.

Dominguez said the decision was made difficult by the host of opportunities for Harvard in China’s political and cultural center.

“We still wanted it,” Dominguez said, “but we just can’t afford it now.”

Dominguez added that the move was part of a series of decisions to scale back on planned international expansions, though he said the other cutbacks had non-financial motivations as well.

Plans for year-round offices in both Mumbai and Mexico City, for example, have been scrapped in favor of facilities open only during the summer.

It is unclear when the University will be able to resume its aggressive international expansion efforts, but Harvard’s vision for an established international expansion efforts, but Harvard’s vision for an established presence may only be deferred, as the University grapples with a projected endowment decline for the next fiscal year.

“I consider this a postponement, not a cancellation,” Washburn said. “But it is an indefinite postponement.”

The University currently supports about 20 offices in 10 different countries including Argentina, Japan, and several Western European nations.

William C. Kirby, the Harvard China Fund’s director, said that he intends to expand the existing office in Shanghai before acting on plans for a second office in Beijing. The envisioned Harvard Shanghai Center—a joint venture with the Business School—will be the largest University-wide facility overseas when it opens in 2010, Kirby said.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at ajiang@fas.harvard.edu.
—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at junewu@fas.harvard.edu.