Global universities seek to strengthen ties with China

Yang Meiping
China remains an important source of international students and partners for American and European universities.
Yang Meiping

China remains an important source of international students and partners for American and European universities.

Peter Lievens, vice rector of KU Leuven University in Belgium, accompanied by the university's international affairs officer Kristien Stessens and Roel Leus, chair of its Advisory Committee for China Region, paid a visit to China recently, sending out a warm invitation to its alumni to return to the university in 2025 for a celebration of its 600th anniversary.

In Shanghai, they had exchanges with representatives from the KU Leuven Shanghai Alumni Chapter, the Benelux Branch of Shanghai Overseas Returned Scholars Association and United Business Institute of Brussels.

According to Lievens, Chinese students have overtaken Dutch students to become the largest group of international students at KU Leuven.

More than 4,400 Chinese students have obtained degrees from the university and 1,609 are currently studying in it. China is also the only country where the university has two alumni chapters: one in Beijing and the other in Shanghai.

The delegation also visited Tsinghua University, Peking University, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Nanjing University to explore opportunities for cooperation in education and research areas.

Global universities seek to strengthen ties with China

The delegation of KU Leuven University is warmly welcomed in Shanghai

KU Leuven is among the increasing number of universities that are trying to reaffirm or deepen their connection with China.

Earlier, Carol L. Folt, president of the University of Southern California in the United States, made her inaugural visit to China with her colleagues. This was part of USC's commitment to fostering collaboration and educational exchange between China and the US.

During their visit, Folt hosted an alumni event in Shanghai and said Chinese students are "an integral part of our diverse and innovative community since the early 20th century."

According to Folt, the university is collaborating with esteemed Chinese institutions such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and ShanghaiTech University on various projects related to data science, journalism and communication, health care, cinematic arts, and the creative industry.

"China boasts excellent universities and talented, hardworking students," she said. "We welcome Chinese students to pursue their studies at USC. We have full confidence in the educational collaboration between China and the United States."

Stephen Mull, former US acting undersecretary of state for political affairs and now vice provost for global affairs of the University of Virginia, said China is the university's No. 1 partner, during his visit to Shanghai earlier this year.

The university has more than 1,000 Chinese students, with more than 100 who joined this year. Mull said the number of Chinese students remained relatively stable even during the pandemic period.

He said the university was planning a series of activities to deepen its relationship with China, including one involving ping pong, or table tennis.

"In the spirit of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, I want to send the UVA ping pong team to China," he said. "I hope we'll be able to bring part of the team here in January for both a series of matches in ping pong, but also to learn about China."

He said there's tension sometimes between the US and China, but they also have interests in common in a lot of fields, such as climate change, health care, and economy.

"Our economies are completely interrelated," he said. "We're condemned to cooperate with each other.

"While politicians and diplomats sort out how to do that cooperation, we can start very quickly on something that's easy for both of us and that's in education, because the key to reducing tensions is to understand each other. So I'm optimistic that we will succeed as long as we work hard on the things that we both agree on in education."

Global universities seek to strengthen ties with China

The Nantes Atlantique China Academy of Art officially launched in April in Hangzhou.

French design school Lecole de Design Nantes Atlantique is also renewing and expanding its partnership with China.

In April, the school and the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou jointly launched the first Sino-French design institute – the Nantes Atlantique China Academy of Art – to "train high-level designers who will occupy strategic positions in innovation."

Christian Guellerin, executive director of the French school, said Nantes Atlantique has been in China for 12 years, with a China Studio in Shanghai to bring about 30 French students to China every year to study a two-year master program, permitting them "to discover the world, to discover China, and to discover Shanghai."

Guellerin said the purpose of the China studio is to have a more internationalized curriculum to enable the students to work with the world as the market is global.

Under the program, the international students not only have classes, but also take up internships at design agencies and participate in real design programs. These include painting a metro station and making designs for hospitals for the elderly.

As the studio was closed during the pandemic, Guellerin is now seeking to reopen it in September next year.

He said there is a huge demand for design, innovation and creativity as China is developing with challenges in various areas, such as economic growth and aging and diversity problems.

"It's very important for my school to be here in terms of international recognition because when you are in France, you are not sure to be recognized by the biggest design agency in the world," he said.

"When you are in Shanghai, you are recognized because all the biggest international design agencies are here.

"When I came in Shanghai for the first time 15 years ago, I had the same feeling that the first time I was in New York City when I was 20 years old. The mood is fantastic. It vibes everywhere and you have a lot of marvelous things here. My responsibility now is to send my students here."

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