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Vice-Chancellor Stephen Hwang, along with representatives from management and the university´s different schools, visited a number of educational institutions in China that Halmstad University have a good collaboration with concerning both research and education. The one-week trip was organised to participate in an important anniversary ceremony as well as discuss current, improved and potential new collaborations regarding several subject areas.
The aim of the trip was to strengthen the relationship with selected educational institutions and prepare for the renewal of student exchanges and collaboration agreements that would benefit both parties. The group visited, among other things, Shanghai University of Engineering Science, Suzhou University of Science and Technology and Shanghai University of Sports. Halmstad University´s collaboration in China has so far taken place mainly within the fields of engineering, natural science, and economics. Discussions have now also been held regarding collaboration within the sports field. Ten years of cooperation with Chinese universities has led to more than 500 Chinese students gaining experience of Swedish society and modern teaching ways, i.e. new educational methods such as a close proximity to teachers and staff; something they are not used to. At the same time, Swedish students have gained insight into Chinese culture and an understanding of working life and industry in a fast-growing economy.
– There is a huge difference to be in the country and discuss matters at hand compared to a dialogue via phone and mail, says Vice-Chancellor Stephen Hwang. – To a large extent, it is about building trust and respect in order to create favourable agreements. By visiting the universities, we show a genuine interest in the university, as well as it being a time-efficient way to reach a decision.
During the visit to the Shanghai University of Engineering Science, Stephen Hwang was given the honour as a chosen guest to speak during the anniversary ceremony, where a large number of partner universities attended; therefore, allowing him to speak about Halmstad University's working activities and visions.
– We must not forget that all contacts we make internationally can be valuable clients in the future. For several years, for example, we have offered tailor-made summer courses for Chinese students, which is a concept we want to develop and make possible on a larger scale,” says the Vice-Chancellor. A new major development was the signing of agreements where our educational institutions strengthen collaboration in a number of areas, including an innovation institute and research education. The latter can lead to a number of Chinese students from SUES being accepted at Halmstad University's postgraduate studies in information technology, innovation science and health and lifestyle.
China is probably the most expansive country in the world when it comes to education and research. Their total research budget now exceeds the whole of Europe. –Therefore, it is important for higher educational institutions from a small country such as Sweden to have good relations with their Chinese counterparts, says Stephen Hwang.
In addition to the visits to the universities Halmstad University collaborates with, the delegation was also invited to see some of the innovation parks and incubators, for both entrepreneurs and students that are located in the university's premises. – Hopefully, a number of our students can, in the future, have the opportunity to test their ideas to the Chinese innovation systems and, therefore, the Chinese market can be created, says Anders Nelson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor responsible for collaboration, innovation and internationalisation. One of the incubators visited was the Alibaba Innovation Center in Suzhou.
Anders Nelson believes it is important that teachers, researchers and students meet across national borders as it opens up for a better understanding of how academic environments can help contribute to a better world.
– The fact that Halmstad University works transnationally is a necessity for maintaining a competitive level of knowledge within certain education programmes. We live in a world where we all are affected by what is happening around the world. It is impossible to ignore the fact that international experiences are beneficial in your working life; therefore, it is up to us to ensure that students are prepared in the best possible way during their time of studies. At the same time, internationalisation is an important part of attracting the right resources concerning research to Halmstad University. The stronger we establish ourselves internationally, the easier it is for us to employ staff with relevant backgrounds in our research areas, says Anders Nelson.
– At present we are working on a review of our international collaborations concerning education, where we can now focus more on agreements that can lead to long-term and strategic partnerships. It is a big and demanding job, but we are on the right track. Only when we have the whole picture of all the collaborations that are taking place can we find common denominators and build upon the relationships that can help us reach the university's overall goals, concludes Anders Nelson.
TEXT: HELENA BENGTSSON