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Experts call for deeper China-EU educational exchanges

BY :China Daily

UPDATED :2024-02-01

Guests attending the China-EU Higher Education Roundtable pose for a group photo on January 25 in Brussels. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Speakers at an international education roundtable in Brussels, Belgium called for deeper educational exchanges between Chinese and European universities to address shared global challenges on January 25.

The event, co-organized by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (Guangzhou) and the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, centered on reshaping the ecosystem of research universities and fostering partnerships in higher education between China and Europe, with more than 30 leaders from the academia, business and political sectors on two sides joining the discussion.

Lionel Ni Ming-shuan, founding president of HKUST (Guangzhou), stressed the need for universities to work together in an era of technological evolution. He also noted that the China-EU High-Level People-to-People Dialogue will be reinvigorated.

Launched in 2012, the dialogue brings together decision-makers and practitioners in the areas of education, culture, youth, sport and gender to exchange ideas and practice on how China and the EU can collaborate in areas of common concern. The sixth meeting of the dialogue is scheduled to be held this year.

Ni said the university is "all for it" and ready to take actions.

Bernard Dewit, chairman of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said it is time to build a more "balanced" exchange, when asked what China could contribute to solving collective problems, including climate change and artificial intelligence.

"I think the time is finished when the West was the only one with the technology. The time is more for learning from each other's experiences and trying to build solutions in common," he said.

Dewit also said that student exchanges should be facilitated: "People who have been in China for a period of internship have totally different knowledge than someone who just reads (about China) in the newspaper. Same for the Chinese students here in Europe."

Given the current international situation in which the narratives of de-coupling or de-risking have been raised, Piet Herdewyn, emeritus professor of the KU Leuven, a Catholic research university based in Leuven, Belgium, pointed out that there are no borders in science and innovation.

"I don't think that they (governments) should have that fear. I also think that people should start to seriously ask the question: what are the risks?"

Thomas Jorgensen, director of policy coordination and foresight at the Brussels-based European University Association, said that universities should not be "instrumentalized" by political agenda. He also said the context of geopolitical turbulence is hard to ignore.

"It is very important that universities have their own agenda and act as an independent society, but they should also be aware of the context," he said.

"The days when we could collaborate freely on everything is, unfortunately, not there anymore. But because we couldn't do what we did in the past does not mean that we should stop."

Editor: Joyce