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On competition and cooperation in higher education: A close look into the case of China

‘On competition and cooperation’ was a topic on intra-European mobility addressed in the 6th publication of the ACA Papers on International Cooperation in Education back in 2005. With Erasmus preparing to go beyond Europe, the 35th ACA European Policy Seminar in December shall re-open this discussion with a close look into the relations between Europe and its third country partners – China –, as well as its Special Administrative Region (SAR) Hong Kong, which is an important entrepot between China and the rest of the world for trade and education alike. 

Today, China is the second largest two-way trading partner for the EU, while the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. The close economic ties between the EU and China do not only create opportunities for trade, but also the needs for mutual understanding and learning.  Such needs were spelt out at the 14th EU-China summit in February 2012, when the High Level People-to-People Dialogue was launched and people-to-people exchange was officially declared the ‘third pillar’ of EU-China relations. The political will to cooperate in higher education between Europe and China has been clearly expressed. However, there remains much to be done on the ground.

The rapid changes in the Chinese higher education systems represent both a challenge and an opportunity for European higher education institutions. China’s success in capacity-building in the past decade, using also established knowledge and networks of its SARs (Hong Kong, in particular), implies a slowing down in the outflow of Chinese students. Countries relying on China’s export of students may soon have to target other sources. This is the fear. Nevertheless, with the growing needs for internationally trained personnel to aid the outreach activities of Chinese industries and diplomacy, internationalisation has been kept at the centre stage of China’s national education policy. For example, apart from student mobility in both directions, structural cooperation with foreign institutions for course offerings and joint/double degrees has also become a priority in China’s 2012 national planning.

The future is difficult to predict. But based on the recent policy dialogues between the EU and China and education reforms on both sides, we are expecting to see some significant changes in the extent and mode of partnerships between Chinese and European institutions. How would these changes come about? How could the changes be turned into an opportunity for cooperation rather than competition? These are some of the questions to be answered by the speakers of the ACA policy seminar in December.

Registrations for the seminar are now open. We look forward to seeing you in Brussels.

35th ACA European Policy Seminar:
Higher Education in China and Hong Kong: Recent developments and relations with Europe