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 THE China Universities Forum Special Coverage

[THE China Universities Forum 1] Times Higher Education – Nankai University THE China Universities Forum was held 2019.04.02

March 29-30, partnering with Nankai University, Times Higher Education sponsored Times Higher Education – Nankai University THE China Universities Forum with the theme of “The next steps for China’s emerging world-class universities”. More than a hundred leaders and famous scholars from world renowned universities and higher educational institutions gathered, together discussing the approaches to achieving excellent teaching in higher education and improving the innovative strength, and sharing their advice for constructing world first-class universities.

The Forum’s Chairman, CAE academician and Nankai University’s President Xuetao Cao and THE’s Chief Knowledge Officer Phil Baty gave speeches during the welcome dinner held on March 29, extending their sincere greetings and best wishes to the attendants. Nankai University’s Student Choir also extended welcome with a wonderful performance.

The opening ceremony was held at Jinnan campus, Nankai University, on March 30. Xuetao Cao and Phil Baty gave speeches on the ceremony. Eng Chye Tan, President, National University of Singapore, Michael Spence, Vice-chancellor, the University of Sydney, Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and vice-chancellor, University of Glasgow, Ning Zhang, Deputy Secretary-General, China Scholarship Council, Ke Gong President-elect, World Federation of Engineering Organisations, Former president, Nankai University attended the opening ceremony. The Forum’s Vice Chairman and Nankai University’s Vice Chancellor Lei Wang hosted the ceremony.

Xuetao Cao mentioned in the speech that, China’s economic and social development has brought along new opportunities and challenges to the higher education since the Reform and Opening. China’s universities hope to constantly promote the development of higher education in the world, especially in China, by providing competitive professions and academic support. He hoped the attendants would actively share their wisdom in the discussion, assisting the making of the strategies and projects and building better universities. The most important task of the university is teaching and education, and how teaching and education can be promoted in a global scale would also be the focus of the forum. As a comprehensive research university, Nankai University is going to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year. In the 100-year development, Nankai has always actively embraced the internationalization of education, having promoted wide international exchanges and established the collaboration relationship with 320 universities and educational institutions all over the world. In the future, Nankai will still cooperate with them and endeavor to the prosperous development of higher education.

Phil Baty said in the speech that the world is witnessing China’s reaching to the milestones one by one. From 1997 to 2017, the number of research results in papers, conferences, and literature in China increased by 132%. In 2019, China is expected to account for 2.5% of GDP growth in research. There are 72 universities in mainland China that have entered the world university rankings, ranking second only to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. At present, China's higher education has entered a critical period. How Chinese universities can meet the needs of the country's future development for talents and knowledge is still an issue to be considered. He was very pleased that the conference brought together leaders and well-known scholars from world-renowned universities and higher education institutions to answer these pressing questions. He also expected to share experiences with the guests and promote the development of Chinese universities to a more glorious future.

After the opening ceremony, Xuetao Cao made a keynote speech entitled with “Nankai University at 100 years old - how to prepare for the next 100 years”. Combining with Nankai University’s situation, he shared his thinking about the present issues and developing trend of the world higher education, China’s higher education’s development and experiences, and 100-year-old Nankai University’s determined belief and practice of constructing world first-class university.

Xuetao Cao pointed out that, as the center of knowledge, technological and cultural innovation, the university increasingly shows its universal value. With the accelerating sharing and integration of global educational resources, the world’s higher education is now breaking through the tradition, presenting a more open attitude in the aspects of talent cultivation, scientific research, administration, etc. The university is also confronting with many new world topics, like intelligent technology, cultural integration and conflict, sustainable development of human being, harmony in diversity, intensional development, intelligent development, etc. In the last 40 years since the Reform and Opening, China’s higher education has made great achievement. With the expansion of scale, China is also endeavoring to improve its strength of higher education. When its structure tends to be more reasonable and quality more improved, though, China’s higher education also confronts with many new challenges and restriction, so its level of globalization, comprehensive competitiveness, and international influence all needs to be promoted. Thus, it is necessary to learn the experience of construction from the world first-class universities, like cultivating and gathering the world's leading talents, paying attention to the original innovation of scientific research and the enhancement of discovery and creativity, continuously strengthening the support and guidance of the country's economic development and scientific and technological progress, adhering to opening and integration, and expanding the scale of global development.

Xuetao Cao also said that Nankai University, founded in 1919, is a glorious model of Chinese founding a modern university to rely on itself. Recalling the 100-year history, Nankai has always roots itself in China and integrates with the world, which has become an unfading tradition of Nankai. Though experiencing tough periods, Nankai University never changes its belief and practice of building a world university. From the original idea of founding a world university to the determination of gathering the world resources and contributing to the world, with global perspective and open spirit, Nankai University’s global education is accelerating in the new era. Standing at the new beginning of the next 100 years, Nankai will still root in China and embrace the world, comprehensively promoting the strategy of “Global Nankai” in five global areas, which are talent student, talent teacher, scientific research, campus and reputation. In the next 100 years, Nankai will conform to the times, devoting to the cultivation of talents with global horizon. Nankai’s students should not only insist the dedication to public interests and acquisition of all-round capability, but also should serve the motherland and the world at the same time to build a community of human destiny. It is an integrating cultivation of the student’s spirit, personality, professional skills and practical ability. Nankai will be committed to creating a relaxing academic environment and atmosphere to create a dynamic global faculty team, and will target at the world academic frontier and implement the “4211 Project”, which covers the areas of social, natural, engineering and medical sciences. Nankai will build two reward systems for education, teaching and scientific research in the evaluation method. It will build 10 cross-disciplinary science centers on campus and build 10 joint research centers with overseas universities and world-class universities. Nankai will pay attention to the construction of global atmosphere in order to improve the students’ cross-cultural communication ability with a harmonious and tolerant cultural atmosphere. Nankai will also actively hold the friendly exchanges with overseas universities and international organizations as well as high-level international academic conferences, expanding Nankai’s influence and right of speech on the world stage through Davos Forum, International Public University Alliance, International University Alliance, and other international organizations and platforms. He hoped the THE Forum would become an opportunity of furthering the exchanges and communication with THE  and all attendants.

Anton Muscatelli, Principal and vice-chancellor of University of Glasgow, gave a keynote speech entitled with “How do world-class research universities ensure excellent teaching?” He introduced the experience and thinking of the University of Glasgow in advancing excellence in teaching.

Anton Muscatelli pointed out that when people talk about how a comprehensive university can guarantee excellence in teaching, there are actually different strategies. For the University of Glasgow, they take learning and teaching as a core part of our university strategy, ensuring excellence in teaching and learning. At the same time, they also emphasize the importance of research and hope to do multidisciplinary research. Teaching and research are inseparable, so they will ensure that professors also teach while doing research. In the evaluation of teachers, not only the research ability but also the teaching ability matters.

Anton Muscatelli said many data show that proactive learning allows students to achieve better learning efficiency. To achieve this, it is necessary to ensure that the infrastructure adapts to this type of teaching. Therefore, they transform the traditional classroom into a more suitable classroom form for teachers and students, and at the same time train the teachers to help them better adapt to the new teaching methods. In addition, they are working with 5G suppliers to develop smart campus projects to better serve the students. Through augmented reality and artificial intelligence technology, they have also developed an immersive learning program that enables students to conduct physics, chemistry, and other experiments in VR environments or through 3D modeling to enhance student learning. These tasks are very challenging and require them to be fully prepared. The requirements for college graduates in the 21st century are multifaceted, so they also hope to introduce multidisciplinary learning into the curriculum and give students more choices. In addition to professional knowledge, they will enhance students' knowledge and accomplishment in the fields of humanities and art by offering free MOOCs.

The forum also held three THE Masterclasses, which are “THE Hiring Solutions masterclass: Academic recruitment in the modern age”, given by Valerie Tan, Hiring Solutions director (Asia), THE; “THE Branding Solutions masterclass: How do reputable universities build up reputation over time?”, given by Joyce Chee, regional director (mainland China), THE; and “THE China data masterclass: An exclusive new analysis drawn from the data underpinning the THE World University Rankings” given by Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer, THE, and Wei Wang, data analyst, Elsevier. In THE Branding Solutions masterclass, Weiying Chen, deputy director, Office of Global Engagement, Zhejiang University, and Jenny Hällen Hedberg, director of the Office of International Affairs, Nanyang Technological University, shared their cases.


During the discussion, Zhenyuan Zhai, Former President, China Association of Higher Education, Ning Zhang, Deputy Secretary-General, China Scholarship Council, Qinghua Zheng, Vice-president, Xi'an Jiaotong University, and Genshu Lu, Director, West China Higher Education Evaluation Centre, Xi'an Jiaotong University discussed about “The significance of teaching excellence to different stakeholders”. Daoud Bshouty, Senior mathematics professor and former dean of undergraduate studies, Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Hamish Coates, Deputy director, Centre for the Assessment of College and Student Development, Tsinghua University, Ke Gong, President-elect, World Federation of Engineering Organization, Former president, Nankai University, Chris Rudd, Deputy vice-chancellor, James Cook University Singapore, and Joanna Waley-Cohen, Provost, NYU Shanghai shared their opinions around the topic “What steps are required in China to ensure teaching excellence and successful graduates?” Xuhong Qian, President, East China Normal University, Member, Chinese Academy of Engineering, Zihe Rao, Member, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Former president, Nankai University, Michael Spence, Vice-chancellor, the University of Sydney, Eng Chye Tan, President, National University of Singapore, and Marijk van der Wende, distinguished professor of higher education, Utrecht University provided their strategies for the topic “Global China - Chinese universities on the international stage: next steps”.

During the forum, accompanied by Nankai University’s Vice Chancellor Lei Wang, Nankai University’s President Xuetao Cao also had meetings with Eng Chye Tan, President, National University of Singapore, Michael Spence, Vice-chancellor, the University of Sydney, Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and vice-chancellor, University of Glasgow, Rachel Sandison, Vice-principal, University of Glasgow, Phil Baty, Chief knowledge officer, THE, Nicola Iberi, Executive Vice-President, Events and Summits, THE, and John Ross, Asia-Pacific editor, THE. They conducted in-depth discussions on exchanges and cooperation.

After the in-depth exchanges and discussion, the two-day international forum came to an end. In the closing ceremony, Xuetao Cao said that though the time flies, the discussion is fruitful. “We exchange ideas, solve problems, and explore topics such as academics, recruitment, reputation, teaching excellence, and international strategy. I believe that our discussion on these topics will continue and will have an impact on the future development of higher education.” He expressed his sincere gratitude towards Times Higher Education and attendants. He also invited all guests to come to Nankai in October, together celebrating Nankai University’s 100th founding anniversary. 


Nankai University

No.38 Tongyan Road, Jinnan District, Tianjin , P.R. China 300350

No.94 Weijin Road,  Nankai District, Tianjin, P.R.China  300071