With the Chinese New Year starting on 16th February, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish our students, staff and partners good fortune for the year ahead.
Our international profile and partnerships have become increasingly significant over the last few years and we are particularly proud of the strength of our relationships in China.
As with all relationships, considerable time and effort is required to make them work. I am delighted that Professor Jeremy Bradshaw has now joined us as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International & Doctoral) and Professor Catherine Montgomery from our Department of Education has started her role as Academic Director of International Partnerships. Professors Bradshaw and Montgomery have strong track records in international engagement and both have considerable experience of working with colleagues in China.
The need for meaningful international collaboration is more pressing than ever. From climate change and energy, security to pandemics, displaced populations of people and water shortages, the global challenges we face do not stop at the borders of nation states. I believe that universities, working with other sectors, play a crucial role in bringing together the expertise and understanding required to find solutions to some of these real-world problems.
These themes were top of our agenda when Professor Bradshaw and I attended the Chinese Student and Scholars Association (CSSA UK) Chinese New Year Gala last week at the 02 in London. The Gala was hosted by Mr Wang Yongli, Minister Counsellor of the Education Section of the Chinese Embassy, and the guests of honour were HE Ambassador Liu Xiaoming and his wife, Hu Pingua, who visited Bath in May 2016. As well as enjoying a colourful evening of entertainment and celebration, the event provided an opportunity to network with those universities who have active links with China as well as a number of key influencers in international education.
The Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings published this week show that China’s presence on the international stage is increasing. The country’s focus is now on attracting international students to study in China, with a plethora of joint ventures being established with foreign universities.
I saw some of these initiatives for myself when I visited China last November to give a keynote speech at the grand opening of Zhejiang University International Campus. Zhejiang is one of our key strategic partners and a number of our departments are working collaboratively with colleagues there. In establishing its International Campus, Zhejiang has provided an interesting new take on transnational education with several overseas partner universities locating specific faculties within an existing, successful host university. The International Campus will educate Chinese home students alongside students from many other nations, evolving a culture and curricula that meet the needs and aspirations of that mix of students. This model also allows research collaboration across the participating universities to grow and flourish. I think it will be a fascinating catalyst, enabling us to think about - and do - research and teaching in different ways.
Also during my November visit, I met with Dr Liu Jinghui, Secretary-General of the China Scholarship Council (CSC), and signed an important agreement for a joint scholarship programme to attract top PhD candidates from China, paving the way for new links with prestigious Chinese universities and research institutions in areas of shared research excellence.
These are exciting developments which will complement our existing links with China and will enable us to enhance the experience we offer to our international students.
We now have an impressive number of alumni based in China. Only recently, I met 200 alumni and guests in Beijing. I have now seen these events grow and change as our alumni network has gone from strength to strength. It is a real privilege to watch our talented graduates develop in their own careers, achieve their ambitions and remain so passionate about maintaining their connection with our University community. It is thanks to dedicated individuals, such as Snow Wu, who has been Chair of the Beijing Alumni Chapter since 2009, that such networks thrive in countries all over the world.
Thank you to everyone who has played their part so far in building our connections in China.
I wish you a prosperous new year.
Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, President and Vice-Chancellor