China–United States Social Work Collaborative

The China Collaborative is a demonstration project of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Katherine A. Kendall Institute, the China Association of Social Work Education (CASWE), and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) to foster the development of graduate social work education programs in mainland China. The Collaborative engages American and Chinese graduate programs in a 5-year partnership. Participating U.S. programs are selected by CSWE, and Chinese programs are selected by CASWE.

U.S. programs will assist their Chinese partners in the development of MSW programs that reflect the unique aspects of graduate education in mainland China. The academic programs are committed to building capacity through faculty, staff, and student exchanges; mentoring and consultation; building research infrastructure; and further strengthening social work education in an international context.

Seven U.S. social work programs were selected to participate in the China Collaborative: Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Fordham University, University of Alabama, University of Chicago, University of Houston, and University of Southern California. Participating U.S. schools agreed not to establish on-site MSW programs. Programs also agreed to contribute $50,000 for activities throughout the 5 years of the Collaborative.

Social work has gained prominence in China in recent years. The 2008 Sichuan (Wenchuan) earthquake highlighted social workers’ importance to communities after disaster strikes. Social work interventions were instrumental to recovery efforts in the devastated areas. Also, as China continues to grow economically its society becomes more stratified, and those at the lower end of the economic spectrum need family and community support. In addition, the ramifications of China’s one-child policy are becoming apparent as the aging population increases and caregivers are scarce. Development of the Collaborative comes at a critical time for addressing some of these urgent social issues facing China.

Collaborative Conference Brings Partners Together

The China–U.S. Social Work Collaborative conference opened on the campus of Peking University in Beijing, China, December 11, 2012. Members of the social work community from various regions in China met with their new partners from the United States to discuss the status of social work in China and listen to and share experiences with their counterparts. The conference received remarks from leaders in the Chinese and American social work communities including Sibin Wang, president of CASWE; Darla Spence Coffey, president of CSWE; Angie Yuen, immediate past president of IASSW; Liu Zhen, director of the Social Work Division in the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs; Lizhong Xie, head of the Sociology Department at Peking University; and Ira Colby, past president of CSWE. Members of the partnership met for the first time to give an overview of their programs, discuss areas of specialization, and identify mutual interests and how to collaborate.

Due to the overwhelming Chinese interest in participating in the Collaborative, the universities are organized by region with one lead university partnering directly with a U.S. counterpart to share information among other universities in each group. The China–U.S. partners are as follows: 


China United States
North Peking University University of Chicago
East East China University of Science and Technology University of Houston
Suzhou and Anjui Nanjing University University of Southern California
Southeast Yunnan University University of Alabama
Northeast Jilin University Fordham University
Central Huazhong University of Science and Technology Arizona State University
Northeast Northwest University Case Western Reserve University

The second day of the China Collaborative conference was devoted to lectures addressing teaching social work ethics, social work theory and practice, social service administration, and social policy and analysis. The U.S. partners gave presentations based on the American perspective and experience. Audience members contributed to the discussion, adding their observations from China. The final day of the conference consisted of workshops given by the U.S. partners on topics including mental health, children and youth, the elderly, and families.

At the conclusion of the conference the lead Chinese partners of the Collaborative invited their American counterparts to their universities to meet with staff, students, and other participating Chinese universities within their groups. Conferences were held to provide more detailed information about individual social work programs and to confirm details of activities for the first year of the Collaborative.

After the regional meetings concluded, the U.S. Collaborative members reconvened in Beijing to discuss their individual partnership meetings. All seven partners have developed work plans for 2013 and look forward to sharing the results of the first year of the Collaborative at the 2013 CSWE Annual Program Meeting.