By Sumantra Maitra
November 6, 2016
Amidst all the global turmoil a fantastic development has taken place. A top delegation, including eight vice-chancellors from elite Russell Group universities, signed an agreement for funding and research collaboration in Shanghai and met a group from China's leading universities. The U.K. group from the Russell Group universities met with representatives from the C9 League, China's elite educational institutions, a group that is sometimes compared to the American Ivy League.
For the uninitiated, the Russell Group includes Britain's top 24 research-intensive universities. The C9, or the China 9 alliance, includes Peking University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Nanjing University, the University of Science and Technology of China, Xi'an Jiaotong University and Zhejiang University.
The Russell Group-China 9 Dialogue was co-chaired by Zhang Jie, president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Professor David Greenaway, chair of the Russell Group and vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham. It was the first meeting of its kind ever to take place.
Sir David Greenaway clarified that the biggest need for U.K. universities was to forge post-Brexit academic links across the world, and China's top universities are an easy fit for research collaboration. "There are huge mutual benefits for Russell Group universities and China's leading universities to work together," he was quoted by China Daily as saying. Incidentally, Nottingham University already has a lot of research collaboration with China and even has a campus in Ningbo in east China’s Zhejiang Province.
Acknowledging that by 2020 China will be the biggest spender on research and development globally, Sir David Greenaway said that a common understanding is being proved correct that this is going to be Asia’s century and United Kingdom needs to be a part of it. "China’s growth has been astounding over the past 20 years and that has underpinned a big investment in research and development."
The intention of this is clear. U.K. universities are second only to U.S. when it comes to research quality. Post-Brexit, however, there are questions and uncertainties about the massive funding and collaboration projects. Sir David Greenaway was quite clear about that when he said Britain will seek to reinforce established partnerships with EU universities; but part of this new project is definitely to look for funding as well as global research talents and collaborations from other global powers, and obviously China is foremost in British considerations.
The three joint declarations were about exploring ways to deepen engagement and strengthen existing relationships, about sharing information and approaches to addressing complex global challenge, and about considering opportunities to further facilitate the exchange of ideas and knowledge.
The idea was warmly welcomed in China, and Chinese universities are extremely interested in collaborating with mainstream Western universities. According to President Zhang, the C9 and Russell Group represent the best universities in China and Britain and this is a tremendous collaboration which should have happened a long time ago.
He also noted that this falls within the framework of knowledge-based economy and competition and globalization and the new economic framework under which China is now operating. Academic excellence and science and technology cooperation is the future, he noted. - china.org
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