On March 30, the Times Higher Education China Universities Forum in Nankai University was held in Jinnan campus. Hamish Coates, deputy director of Center for the Assessment of College and Student Development, Tsinghua University, Professor Daoud Bshouti from Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Joanna Waley-Cohen, provost for New York University Shanghai, Chris Rudd, pro-vice-chancellor of University of Nottingham Ningbo China and Gong Ke, former president of Nankai University, conversed on the topic of “what measures should China take to ensure excellent teaching and cultivate successful graduates”. The guests gave their opinions and suggestions from different perspectives and Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer of Times Higher Education, presided over the discussion.
Hamish Coates said that higher education is very important for promoting the economic and social development of a country. In this case, how can educators better understand and improve the teaching process, how to enhance the education of doctoral students in that way and how to make the public understand the value of higher education are the questions worth considering.
He thought that education consists of three parts, students, teaching and achievement. In the part of "students", it is important to know who is truly capable of taking part in higher education and is fully prepared to learn. In "teaching", it is necessary to have courses, teachers, learning through practice and so on. In the "achievement" part, good academic ability is required, and universities should also provide strong support in terms of infrastructure and resources. These are the aspects that are crucial in higher education for the establishment of high-quality universities.
Professor Daoud Bshouti took Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology as an example, sharing the beneficial experience of localizing foreign university in China. In his opinion, such "integration" broadens the vision of students and helps them better understand their responsibilities, thus devoting more energy to study. The goal of education leaders is to provide students with a good learning environment, abundant resources and equal opportunities. There are several different ways to take care of their study and life. For example, each student receives a welcome phone call before enrolling. They will also be given contact information about senior students who can instruct these freshmen, helping them solve problems and, in most cases, developing long-term friendships. As for the school, it actively creates a good learning atmosphere and promotes group study and cultural diversity on campus to enrich students’ spare time. In addition to classroom learning, the school also offer them a variety of educational resources, such as presentations, competitions and access to laboratories.
As the first joint program, New York University Shanghai hopes to provide experiences and models for the reform and development of higher education, said Joanna Waley-Cohen. NYU Shanghai has chosen some characteristics of American education to fit into Chinese situation. The first is to help students fully develop their skills and specialties, establish profound scientific thinking mode, master and expand the teaching contents, under the premise of guaranteeing teaching quality. In addition, the world needs the ability of cross-cultural communication. Students from NYU Shanghai come from different countries, which is of great benefit to language learning and understanding of different cultures. The third core skill is the ability to break down problems, to draw inferences, which requires a huge knowledge base. Therefore, effective measures should be taken in the teaching process to make students actively participate in the class. There should be presentations, reports and debates in class. After class, students have to read and analyse lots of materials. In a word, not only students learn, but also teachers ought to learn how to teach in different ways so that their teaching methods can be better received by students.
Chris Rudd also showed his teaching experience. University of Nottingham Ningbo China offers classes and a comprehensive curriculum for mainland Chinese students, so students have a high degree of internationalization. The school's classes take different forms, including knowledge impartment, opinion discussion, skills training, and large-scale lectures. It attaches importance to curriculum innovation and optimum use of school resources to attract students to participate. Due to the difference in students’ need, mere western style teaching does not work in Chinese classes. Western teachers find that students are very good at taking exams, so they need to think about how to test their abilities more effectively. In Ningbo, students teach themselves and each other faster than they do in normal teaching process, so the school should design study plan for each students beforehand. The university also have workshops, top students teams and so on. No matter what form it takes, the most important thing is that teachers should focus on students in their teaching.
“Over the past 300 years, with the advancement of industrialization, we have faced serious problems,” Gong Ke said, “It is necessary to find a sustainable way of development if we expect the future.” Sustainable development of education should emphasize gender equality, cultural peace and global cultural diversity. In terms of economics, society and the environment, it requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach that allows young people to move forward. However, the recent education in university does not teach students comprehensively. In China, courses are divided into different subjects, thus being independent of each other. This limits the comprehensiveness of sustainable development. Therefore, in Nankai University, courses on ecological civilization construction are offered and are elaborated by teachers with different perspectives from different disciplines. In addition, there is a need to strengthen the training of teachers for their participation in the sustainable development of education, and integrate new skills into different subjects. As a result, educators have to change educational thinking and integrate the sustainable development goals into the university system.