Excellence initiatives in Asia have positioned research universities to play a greater role in anchoring globalization for nation development. Like never before, institutions of higher education have also become instruments of international competition. With more globally ranked universities than any other world city, Hong Kong expects its universities to build innovative knowledge networks that extended to other parts of the country and the wider Asian region. This webinars program of Higher Education in Asia: Moving Ahead aims at providing a forum for discussion of existing and emerging issues that drive the development of higher education in Asia. Scholars and experts from various parts of the world are invited to share their insights and research projects.

Co-organizers: SCAPE, CHERA

What We've Done...

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione and Dr Jisun Jung, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Ms Sofia Shakil, The Asia Foundation

Discussant: Dr Sungsup Ra, Asian Development Bank


Higher Education and the New Economic Growth Challenge for Asia: The Role of Universities in Climate Action and Inclusive Social Policy


The link between higher education and economic growth is well-researched. Human capital and knowledge creation are intricately linked and important outputs of tertiary education. Higher education supports workforce development, boosts earning potential, promotes enterprise collaboration, and drives innovation. As a public and private good, higher education boosts earning potential of individuals but also contributes to national development and creates broader forms of entrepreneurship. Notwithstanding the issue of over-education and the capacity of labor markets to employ graduates, it is the quality and relevance of higher education that fuels economic transformation in growing economies.

Return to investments in higher education can be even more significant if they includes the role of higher education in preparing graduates to address pressing development challenges, such as climate action/sustainability, and socially inclusive policies. What new ways can universities promote climate action in cooperation with key stakeholders in the private and public sector? How can universities influence policies to expand safety nets and support workers in the “new post-pandemic economy, including in areas of digital and financial literacy, e-commerce for sustainable and inclusive development? How can universities deliver education that prepares graduates to become leaders in socially inclusive and climate-smart development? These questions will be raised to generate discussion with a focus on Asia’s post-pandemic economic development.


Sofia Shakil

Sofia Shakil serves as The Asia Foundation’s Director Economic Programs, where she oversees and guides the development of programs that expand inclusive access to skills, finance, and livelihoods opportunities across the Asia Pacific. An experienced policy economist, Sofia has nearly 25 years of experience in the development sector, with a focus on human development, public sector policy, and governance reform, and has extensive knowledge of and passion for Asia’s economic and social development. She has held several positions with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and international NGOs.

Sofia previously served as the Foundation’s Country Representative for Pakistan in 2017-18 and rejoined the Foundation in 2020. Prior to returning the Foundation in February 2020, most recently Sofia served as the Principal Knowledge Management Specialist for Innovations within the Asian Development Bank’s East Asia Regional Department. In this role, she led the innovation agenda for East Asia and promoted knowledge and partnerships with diverse clients and innovation giants, and stimulated innovation in program design and approaches. In ADB as senior education specialist, Sofia led project operations and policy research and advisory work in human development in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Mongolia, particularly on tertiary education and economic transformation. Among her many achievements at the ADB, Sofia successfully designed and obtained approval for the first Results Based Lending Program loan ($200 million) for ADB in Sri Lanka and introduced innovative financing approaches and programs in the PRC including a public private partnership project for elderly care, prepared the education assessment and roadmap for the country partnership strategies for Sri Lanka, Mongolia, and the PRC, developed the human resource development strategy as part of the Tourism Master Plan for the Maldives, and led several projects and policy work in the areas of vocational education reform, elder care services, and graduate employment initiatives. She also served as social sector focal point in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Prior to her appointment at ADB, she worked in the World Bank as a senior education specialist where she successfully designed and implemented an education sector results based financing program for Punjab education reforms and many projects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Indonesia. She has also served as program development manager for Save the Children and program manager for Policy and Research for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme.

Education: Master’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.

Email: sofia.shakil@asiafoundation.org

Sungsup Ra

Current responsibility:

As the Chief Sector Officer, he leads the planning, implementation, and supervision of the Sector Advisory Service Cluster’s (SDSC) vision, goals, and work plan.

The Office of the Cluster Head—which oversees the sector groups (SGs) of education, energy, finance, health, transport, urban development, and water—provides support on (i) administrative requirements of SGs, (ii) coordination among SGs and with Thematic Groups on cross-sector/thematic issues, (iii) maintaining consistency across SGs operations, (iv) financial resource mobilization for SGs, (v) external and internal relations, and (vi) global/regional knowledge platform.

Experience and accomplishments:

He joined ADB in 2001 as Economist. Since then, he worked in both Bangladesh and Nepal Resident Missions as Deputy Country Director, Senior Advisor to the Managing Director General, and Director for Pacific Operations Division. Before joining SDCC, he led the establishment and became Director of South Asia Human and Social Development Division, wherein he managed a portfolio of $7 billion. He was also Chair of the Education Sector Group.

As a strategic and innovative leader, he has led high-level policy dialogue with developing countries and significantly contributed to ADB’s recent expansion in the social sector. Prior to joining ADB, he worked with Samsung and Korean National Pension, and taught economics at leading universities—Korea University and International Christian University, Japan.

Nationality and Education:
A national of the Republic of Korea, he holds a Doctorate and Master’s degrees in Economics from the University of Illinois, United States, and Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Korea University.


Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Prof Peter Ng, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Mr Leping Mou, University of Toronto
Prof Ruth Hayhoe, University of Toronto

Prof Ruth Hayhoe, University of Toronto


Liberal Arts and the Legacy of China’s Christian Universities

The United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia celebrates its centennial this year. Founded in 1922 to support 13 Christian universities in China, it has reached out to universities throughout Asia since 1952 with a special vision for whole-person education through the Liberal Arts. In this presentation Dr. Peter Ng will highlight current research in China on the history of Christian higher education, which sees it as a platform of inter-cultural encounters and as a means to develop new forms of liberal arts educational activities, including multicultural and comparative religious studies, also new ways to integrate Chinese and Western cultures. Leping Mou will then present research on three current programs in the Liberal Arts that have inherited elements of this legacy. He will look at the distinctive ways in which they have developed in three contexts of Greater China – Yuanpei College at Peking University, Lingnan University in Hong Kong, and Tunghai University in Taichung and point to the features each can bring to the nurture of global citizens with capabilities to meet the complex social challenges of the 21st century. Ruth Hayhoe will conclude with some thoughts on how this legacy may play a bridging role between Asia and the West and open up some discussion on ways in which to facilitate this.


Ruth Hayhoe is a professor at the University of Toronto. She served as Secretary for Education, Science and Culture in the Canadian Embassy in Beijing (1989-1991), and Director of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, now the Education University of Hong Kong (1997-2002). Recent books include China Through the Lens of Comparative Education (2015), Canadian Universities in China’s Transformation (2016) and Religion and Education (2018).

Peter Tze Ming Ng (PhD., ULIE, UK) is a retired Professor of Religious Education at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Research interests: Chinese Christianity and the History of Pre-1949 Christian Higher Education in China. Recent work includes Reflections on the Study of the History of Christian Higher Education in China, 1986-2015 (2017).

Leping Mou is a PhD Candidate at OISE, University of Toronto and lecturer at University of Toronto Mississauga. His doctoral research examines liberal arts education for whole person cultivation in Chinese contexts. He serves as the Co-Chair for the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education 2022 Annual Conference.

Speaker: Prof Anthony Welch, The University of Sydney

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Discussant: Prof Yang Rui, The University of Hong Kong


Governance and Corruption in East and Southeast Asian Higher Education: Close Cousins, Close Encounters

No analysis of governance in East and Southeast Asian higher education could be complete without treatment of its close cousin, corruption. Most of the countries of East Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan – and Southeast Asia (the 10 member states of ASEAN), all suffer from the taint of corruption, albeit to very differing degrees. The selected examples in the presentation reveal often pervasive cultures of corruption in regional higher education that are closely linked to system and institutional governance. Too often, however, the proffered solutions go no further than the development of various ‘Guidelines’ to inhibit or prevent corruption, including in higher education. The presentation goes further by setting out different qualities of good and bad governance, and also by delving in detail into specific forms of corruption in regional higher education, together with examples. Ways to address corruption are treated, within a wider argument that, beyond issues such as limited state capacity, and low public sector salaries, the prevailing, resilient cultures of governance in the region remain one of the key barriers to reform.

Professor Anthony Welch specialises in national and international policy and practice, principally in education, and cross-cultural analysis and research. He has extensive experience in many countries, including in the Asia Pacific, and has published widely, contributing numerous analyses of issues such as cross-cultural interactions; rural education, comparative research methods in education; and practical reform affecting multiculturalism, indigenous minorities, international students, higher education reforms, internationalisation of higher education in the Asia Pacific, and changes to the academic profession.

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione,The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Jamil Salmi, Diego Portales University, Global Tertiary Education Expert


Equity, Inclusion and Pluralism in Higher Education: Lessons of Experience

Considering the extensive social and private benefits that higher education generates, ensuring inclusive access and success is essential to achieve social justice and economic efficiency. With this premise in mind, the presentation will review current knowledge about equity promotion policies in higher education and what is known about the effectiveness of various policies, drawing from experience in various parts of the world. It will start with examining definitions of under-represented groups in higher education, which can be considered as “equity target groups”. After talking about the depth and scope of disparities across regions and countries, it will give a brief overview of studies focusing on the effectiveness of equity promotion policies, including both financial and non-monetary measures. It will also briefly touch upon the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on higher education from an equity perspective.


Jamil Salmi is a global tertiary education expert providing policy advice to governments, universities, professional associations, multilateral development banks and bilateral cooperation agencies.  Until January 2012, he was the World Bank’s tertiary education coordinator. In the past twenty-five years, Dr Salmi has provided advice on tertiary education development, financing reforms and strategic planning to governments and university leaders in more than 100 countries all over the world.

Dr Salmi is Emeritus Professor of higher education policy at Diego Portales University in Chile and Research Fellow at Boston College’s Center for Higher Education.  He is also a member of the International Quality Assurance Advisory Group, Emeritus Advisor on the President’s Council at Olin College of Engineering, and chair of the Board of the Chilean EdTech startup u-planner.

Dr Salmi’s 2009 book addresses the “Challenge of Establishing World-Class Universities”.  His 2011 book, co-edited with Professor Phil Altbach, was entitled “The Road to Academic Excellence: the Making of World-Class Research Universities”.  His latest book, “Tertiary Education and the Sustainable Development Goals”, was published in August 2017.

Jamil Salmi holds a Master in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a PhD in development studies from the University of Sussex.

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Shen Wenqin, Peking University


The Shifting of Destinations? Chinese Elite University Students’ Decision-making on Study Abroad Under Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global higher education system. In the context of the pandemic, the risks and uncertainties faced by Chinese university graduates who intend to go abroad have increased. Some studies predict that, affected by the pandemic and changes in international relations, the destinations of Chinese students will change, and East Asian countries and regions will be favored due to cultural and security factors. Since March 2020, we have conducted interviews with more than 80 Chinese elite university graduates who intend to study abroad, and this speech will mainly report the impact of the pandemic on the choice of destination countries for studying abroad.

We found that the change in the trend of studying abroad in East Asia after the pandemic is not significant, and elite college students still prefer to study in the United States and Europe, especially the United States. The reason for choosing Asian countries such as Japan and south Korea is more due to cultural and economic considerations. In other words, despite the discourse of the rise of Asian universities, elite university students’ perception of the center-periphery pattern of higher education which equate Western universities with academic centers and which was shaped and strengthened by their previous international experience in the west has not changed fundamentally.


Shen Wenqin is Associate Professor of Higher Education at Peking University. He mainly studies the higher education system from the perspectives of history and science studies (Sociology of Science, philosophy of science, etc.). He authored and co-authored publications focused on transnational history of idea and practice of liberal education (China, UK and US), international academic mobility (especially the mobility of doctoral students and postdocs) and doctoral career trajectories.

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Simon Marginson, University of Oxford


What Drives Global Science? The Four Competing Narratives

Since 1990 there has been remarkable growth and diversification of worldwide capacity and output in science, and a distinctive global science system has emerged, primarily grounded in research universities, fostered by Internet-mediated communication and publication in English, cross-border authorship and researcher mobility. While global science overlaps with and is affected by national science systems, it is constituted by pan-national knowledge flows and collegial collaboration and has partial autonomy. Four different interpretive frameworks (narratives) have evolved to explain the dynamics of global science: science as an expanding cross-border network; science as an arms race between competing nations; science as a global market of competing institutions or ‘World-Class Universities’; and science as a centre-periphery hierarchy in which emerging countries are permanently constrained by Euro-American dominance. The paper reviews each narrative in relation to the literature, especially studies in scientometrics, and in relation to empirical tendencies in global science, tracked in secondary data derived from bibliometric collections. While each narrative contains at least a grain of truth, each also conflicts with the others and each is radically insufficient. A better explanation of the drivers of global science combines (1) flat open networked relations with (2) the inequalities and closures shaped by global hegemony, arbitrarily modified by (3) national governments and specific resources.


Simon Marginson is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, Director of the ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), Joint Editor-in-Chief of  Higher Education, Lead Researcher with Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and Professorial Associate of the Melbourne Centre for Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in UK and a member of the board of governors of the Consortium of Higher Education researchers in Europe (CHER). Simon’s research is focused primarily on global, international and comparative higher education; higher education in East Asia; higher education and the common good, including social inequality; and global science which is the topic of several recent papers. His Google Scholar h-index is 75. Recent books include High Participation Systems of Higher Education, edited with Brendan Cantwell and Anna Smolentseva (Oxford University Press, 2018), and Changing Higher Education for a Changing World, edited with Claire Callender and William Locke (Bloomsbury, 2020). Forthcoming are Changing Higher Education in India, edited with Saumen Chattopadhyay and N.V. Varghese (Bloomsbury, December 2021) and Changing Higher Education in East Asia, edited with Xin Xu (Bloomsbury, February 2022).


Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Akira Arimoto, Hyogo University

The Academic Profession’s Conformity to R-T-S nexus in the World and Japan

Concept of “R-T-S nexus” has lasted at least one century since it was proposed by W. Humboldt in 1910 as a modern university’s ideal. However, it has not been realized well in the World as we pay attention to it by making analysis of international surveys on the Academic Profession (AP).

The three large international surveys on the AP were conducted in the World in the past thirty years: Carnegie (1992); CAP (2008); APIKS (2017~). In the CAP survey, concentration to German type (research orientation) from both Anglo-Saxon type (research and teaching orientation) and Latin American type (teaching orientation) was clearly recognized. The AP’s conformity to research orientation is increasing throughout the world.

Japan’s total trend reveals research orientation of German model, while teaching orientation rather than research orientation has become popular in their private universities. However, increasing AP’s teaching orientation is not meaning the transformation from teaching model to study model leading to student’s active study.

In the 21st century when massification of higher education will be promoted to the extent that AP’s teaching orientation is expected to be increased to meet with diversified students. It is also expected to meet with the concept of R-T-S nexus.


Akira Arimoto is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Higher Education at Hiroshima University. Dr. Arimoto is the Advisor to President and Director & Professor of Research Institute for HE (RIHE) at Hyogo University. He is Representative of HERA; President of the National Association of RIHE. He was Associate Member of the Japan Council of Science; President of JAHER and JSSES; UNESCO’s Global Scientific Committee Member and Chair in Asian and Pacific Region; Springer’s editorial board member of the Changing Academy (series editor); Visiting Fellow to Yale University, Max Planck Institute and Lancaster University (Nitobe Fellow, International House of Japan). His recent book is International Comparison of Academic Profession: In the West, Asia and Japan (ed. In Japanese, Toshindo Publishing Co., 2020).

Chair: Dr Hugo Horta,The University of Hong Kong

Presenter: Prof Angela Yung Chi HouNational Chengchi University


A Comparative Study of Relationship Between the Government and National Quality Assurance Agencies in Asia: Policy Change, Governance Models, Emerging Roles

In recent years, governmental policy changes have exerted significant impact on the structural transformation, role diversity and commercialisation of national quality assurance agencies in Asia nations. Due to policy change; ongoing structural transformation and emerging roles, national quality assurance agencies in Asia have undergone ongoing structural transformation due to policy change and emerging roles, particularly in Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan. The study aims to re-examine the relationship and emerging roles between national quality assurance agencies and governments in the four case Asian QA agencies on a basis of governance model shifts. Four national quality assurance agencies in Asia (TESQA Australia, MQA Malaysia, NIAD-QE Japan and HEEACT Taiwan) were selected as case studies.

The study presents three major findings. First, although a state-controlled governance model remained popular in all cases, the university-led and supermarket models were chosen due to changes in policy. Second, case agencies intended to develop new roles in order to respond to policy change and public demands, particularly enhancing professionalism, redefining the relationship with universities as partners, strengthening the linkage with international quality assurance networks, providing quality assurance services with foreign providers. Third, autonomy and independence remain a considerable challenge for quality assurance agencies.


Yung-chi Hou, is Professor of Higher Education and Associate Dean of College of Education, National Chengchi University, Taiwan. She served as Executive Director of Higher Education Evaluation & Accreditation Council of Taiwan from 2016 to 2021. She has been actively committed to quality assurance practices and international research for more than 15 years, including serving as Vice President & Board member of International Network of Quality Assurance in Higher Education INQAAHE), Vice President & Board member of Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN). She specializes in higher education policy, quality management, internationalization, faculty development, and quality assurance of cross border higher education. Since 2013, she has been recognized by the Springer as one of the top 24 Asian researchers in higher education field by publishing more than 130 academic papers and monographs.

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Marijk van der Wende, Utrecht University


Eurasian Relations in Higher Education:
The Dynamics Across the World’s Largest Continent

Patterns of globalization are changing and economic power is shifting eastwards. Asia is becoming a force also in international higher education. China has developed its higher education and research systems at unprecedented speed and size and its aim to reach global standards will affect both regional partners and global competitors. Even more so now its geo-political ambitions – its “New Silk Road” (Belt and Road Initiative) shapes a context for its international higher education agenda. China is emerging as a third scientific global player and expected to advance even faster than the West post-corona. How is this affecting Eurasian relations in academia? How are these changes perceived in Europe and how is the EU responding? What new conditions will frame international collaboration in higher education across the world’s largest continent? How will this affect universities, the nature of their partnerships, the academic standards they wish to sustain and values to defend? And most importantly, for how they prepare their students for the 21st century world.


Marijk van der Wende is Distinguished Faculty Professor of Higher Education at Utrecht University’s Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance. Her research focuses on the impact of globalization and internationalization on higher education systems, institutions, curricula, and teaching and learning arrangements.  She is also an affiliate faculty and research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at the University of California Berkeley, Guest Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and member of the International Advisory Board of its Graduate School of Education. She is a member of the Academia Europaea (the Academy of Europe) and has been a chair and member of numerous national and international advisory committees and editorial boards.

Chair: Dr Priya Goel La Londe, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Dr Marian Mahat, The University of Melbourne


Women Thriving in Academia

In this presentation, Dr Mahat provides academic narratives that link challenges and opportunities in higher education, leadership and management, and gender studies, that can help empower the modern female academic to thrive in academia. It concludes with some strategies to transform some of the gritty realities of academic life into success.

Speaker: Dr Chin Ee Loh, Nanyang Technological University

Making Work Count: The Journey Towards Meaning in Academia

In this presentation, Dr Chin Ee Loh will share about her journey as a female academic and how she evaluates the scholarly, practical, and personal impact of her work. She shares about key points in her academic career and insights learnt about career progression and work-life balance.


Marian Mahat is a Senior Research Fellow in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on learning environments, with an emphasis on co-designing curriculum and pedagogy, teacher-led inquiry and professional development of teachers across multiple educational contexts. She is series editor of Surviving and Thriving in Academia, and book editor of Achieving Academic Promotion and Women Thriving in Academia published by Emerald. 

Loh Chin Ee is Associate Professor and Deputy Head (Research) in the English Language and Literature Academic Group at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her primary research interest is in literacy and equity, with a current focus on reading and school libraries as well as place-based education and literature. 

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione , The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Hamish Coates, Tsinghua University

Designing Higher Education: Big Deal Partnerships, Technologies and Capabilities

This talk advances new views on higher education design, stepping beyond prevailing problems and perspectives and stimulating broader contributions. The 2020 pandemic has shocked already fragile business and academic models, and the time is ripe for innovating global online learning, shifting towards Asia and lifelong learning, and investing in 21st century institutions and partnerships. Rather than dwell on dystopian discontents, the webinar charts narratives for developing the industry and the field. It speaks to commercial, governmental and collegial communities to inject major research-driven insights into contemporary transformations and research.


Hamish Coates is a Tenured Professor at Tsinghua University’s Institute of Education, Director of the Higher Education Research Division, and Deputy Director of the Tsinghua University Global Research Centre for the Assessment of College and Student Development. He was Professor of Higher Education at The University of Melbourne, Founding Director of Higher Education Research at the Australian Council for Educational Research, and Program Director at the LH Martin Institute for Tertiary Leadership and Management. He concentrates on improving higher education quality and productivity.

Chair: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Futao Huang Hiroshima University

Comparing Academic Productivity between International and Japanese Faculty: Findings from National Surveys of International and Japanese Faculty

The purpose of this study is to compare academic productivity between international and Japanese faculty, and investigate factors affecting their academic productivity. The analysis is made drawing on the findings from more than 2,000 domestic faculty and over 1,000 international faculty at universities in Japan. Responses from the latter were based on a questionnaire sent out in June 2017, and those of domestic faculty were based on a national survey conducted in late 2017. The first section is mainly concerned with comparison of academic productivity between the two groups. The second section analyzes main factors affecting differences in their academic productivity between the two groups. The study concludes by arguing new and original findings and offering implications derived from the study.

Chair: Dr Hugo Horta, The University of Hong Kong

Discussant: Prof Philip Altbach, Boston College


Over the past four decades, China has become the largest and perhaps the most important educational partner with the US. With globalization and internationalization, students and scholars mobility, and knowledge sharing and exchanges have become the bedrock of knowledge advances and technology progress. Against this backdrop, more than 1.6 million Chinese students have gone overseas to study in the US. Hundreds of Chinese universities and research institutions have developed active research and exchange programs with their American counterparts. After decades of educational partnership and government-sponsored exchanges, due to the growing trade frictions and significant concerns about intellectual property protection, the current US administration has seemingly changed its policy orientation towards China recently. There are increasing signs that the Sino-US cooperation in higher education may experience a serious jolt for the first time in four decades. As such, it is now the time to take a critical look at what has been done in the past and present, and tackle the challenges and opportunities for future cooperation. Hence, this panel serves to shed light on sources of the tensions, and areas of the common interest and benefit between higher education sectors in the two countries—from the perspectives of joint venture operations, sociology of knowledge (academic culture and academic freedom), trade war impact, and political and geopolitical changes—so that a new foundation for continuing cooperation in this difficult time and in the years to come can be established with resilience and dynamics.

Speakers: Prof Denis Simon, Duke University; Dr Liqi Ren, Duke Kunshan University

Joint Venture Universities in China:  Successes and Challenges


In order to reform and advance its higher education system, Chinese officials made a bold decision a decade ago to allow several Sino-foreign joint venture universities to be set up. Today there are nine such joint ventures: three with the US, two with the

UK, one with Russia, one with Israel, and the rest with Hong Kong. Generally speaking, this experiment heretofore seems to have proven successful, though there have been some bumps along the way. While each of the joint venture projects is unique in many ways, they also share a number of things in common, including the fact that they fall under a special set of regulations promulgated by China’s Ministry of Education. Nonetheless, each of these joint venture universities faces many daunting challenges, including their financial sustainability, student recruitment, academic freedom issues, and overall management control. They also must manage within an increasingly complex domestic environment in China, which seems to reflect apparent tensions between those who advocate greater openness and those who are concerned (to varying degrees) about excessive foreign influence. This paper will explore the challenges faced by these joint ventures and highlight both their successes and their potential constraints. Using case examples, the authors will discuss their collective experiences, including the role of local government and the challenges associated with interacting with their respective home campuses. Finally, the authors will comment on how the Covid-19 pandemic may have altered the trajectory of the joint venture universities in China.

Speaker: Prof Qiang Zha, York University

Issues and Challenges Facing Universities in China and the US: An Academic Culture & Academic Freedom Perspective

Recent decades witnessed the ever-expanding interaction and cooperation between Chinese and American universities, which is both the most intensive and extensive among any bilateral higher education relations. The magnitude of Chinese students and institutionalized programs of collaboration with Chinese peers and international student numbers from China dominate such activity/effort in the US; American universities have also hosted the most Confucius Institutes in one country until recently. However, such collaboration is currently facing severe challenges, and a decoupling between China and the US now is a looming scenario. This paper attempts to address this situation from the perspective of diverging notions of academic culture and academic freedom in China and North America, i.e., using the divergent notions of academic culture and academic freedom as the analytical lens to examine issues and challenges facing the universities in both sides with respect to their cooperation. Academic culture refers to the attitudes, values and ways of behaving shared by people who work or study in universities. What constitutes academic culture is often perceived differently for students and scholars coming from different cultural backgrounds. Academic freedom is the conviction that the freedom of inquiry by scholars is essential to the mission of academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas and facts (including those not favoured by authorities) without being repressed. Arguably, academic freedom has much to do with academic culture—particularly in terms of values and ways of behaving, thus could be perceived differently in China and North America, and indeed is often a source of tensions between universities in the two countries. A major objective of this paper is to detect the differences and potential conflicts embedded in the ideal types of Chinese and American academic culture, which in turn hinder the higher education interaction between China and the US. Furthermore, the divergent perceptions of academic culture and academic freedom are situated in the current geopolitical context, where a kind of political “Sinophobia” is reshaping American ideology. The implications of these scenarios will be discussed.

Speaker: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

The Future of Universities and Sino-American Cooperation: A Precarious Balance

Globalization and mass higher education have not only help universities to raise revenue, they also add new perspectives to the learning process, creates long-term social networks, and deepens academic and research cooperation. Amid the mutual accusations, and threats of economic nationalism and technological independence, the decoupling of China and the US would be a race to the bottom for both countries. There will be no winners in such a race to the bottom in which academic staff, postdoctoral fellows and students feel scrutinised, stigmatised and on edge because of their ethnicity or nationality. This paper examines aspects of Sino-US cooperation in higher education at a time when there is an urgent need for them to be more collaborative in addressing global pandemics, climate change and inequality. As the world’s two largest economies were unable to reach a long-term settlement, universities become affected. Of greater concern has been a change in campus atmosphere toward suspicion, mistrust, and ethnic profiling. The long-term effects of the US-China trade war and the accompanying intellectual property debacle will hobble academic talent flows, internationalization, university-industry linkages, and peer assessments. In the new norm of neo-globalization within an increasingly unstable world order, universities in these two countries risk having diminished capacity as institutions for peace and global common good. In a binary world with a bifurcated academy in which counties line up on each side, international academic and scientific interdependency deteriorate. Such shifting world circumstances will surely test the autonomy of universities in both countries to sustain high levels of collaboration. The potential of their academic communities to be a force for rational communication and strengthened networks of collaborative research will be clear in the coming decade. This paper argues there is an opportunity for leading research universities to distinguish themselves not only as instrument of national competition but also as institutions for international peace.

Coordinator: Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong

Moderator: Dr Wai Ming Cheung, The University of Hong Kong


Some Asian economies are beginning to reopen slowly after controlling the Covid-19 outbreak. University operations, including teaching, research, and knowledge exchange, were severely limited during the outbreak. Teaching moved online. Research work adapted to the circumstances. Conferences, symposia, and seminars were postponed. As the potential of a second or a third wave remains a possibility for the next semester, each university is drawing upon its first wave of experience for lessons for the future. This webinar brings together specialists from four universities in China, Korea, and Japan to share and reflect on their universities’ Covid-19 experience and what valuable lessons they see for the future.  

Speakers: Prof Jung Cheol Shin, Seoul National University; Prof Futao Huang, Hiroshima University; Prof Zhiyong Zhu, Beijing Normal University; Prof Gerard Postiglione,  The University of Hong Kong