Vocational education could be new path for UK-China higher education cooperation: UK university principal

Source: Xinhua| 2021-04-09 22:09:04|Editor: huaxia
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LONDON, April 9 (Xinhua) -- There is a role for the British technical universities to engage with China and support the development of the next phase of China's higher education environment, a British university principal has said.

David Andrew Phoenix, vice chancellor of London South Bank University, told a higher education webinar Thursday that as China has pledged vigorous efforts for high-quality development of technical and vocational education, there will be great benefits ahead, through partnership development, for those British institutions with the skills and experience.

As a higher education professional who worked extensively overseas, developing and leading on a research institute in China, Phoenix realized that while China's economic success fulled further expansion of the studying abroad trend which has brought obvious benefits to the country, the Chinese government foresaw the limitations of such a policy.

"There is a revolution in China particularly around technical education and this will only accelerate," he said.

China is dealing with three major challenges in the new phase, including to make the higher education student population better suited for the workplace in terms of skills at the end of their education, to reform higher education curricula to increase the applied science proportion, and to improve access to technical education which would allow China to expand industrial base by being more self-reliant and improve the distribution of wealth across the population, he noted.

"The response to these three challenges will dramatically change the shape of Chinese education and also changes the landscape for the opportunities for UK universities in China," he said, noting that for many British universities, collaboration with China is still the top of the internationalisation agenda.

China is committed to ensuring high-quality development throughout various stages and the entire process of education during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) period, with robust efforts being made for advancing industry-education integration in vocational education, making higher education accessible to more people and providing more resources for life-long learning.

Phoenix, who in 2016 was given China's national Friendship Award for his outstanding contribution to the country's economic and social development, said he believes that Chinese government's growing emphasis on job skills training could open "a new path for UK-China educational cooperation."

"There is therefore a role for those UK universities with reputation as technical universities to engage with China and support the development of the next phase of China's higher education environment," he said.

However, it is not really possible to "make progress without spending time in China" because of the way communication works, he warned.

"There is no substitute in China for sitting down with partners and talking things through to build trust and understanding. China is not going away and is set to be an industrial and educational giant for decades to come and having an engagement strategy China would be extremely prudent for any institution," the vice chancellor concluded.

Minister Counsellor Zhang Jin, who is responsible for education affairs at the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Britain, agreed that there is great potential for UK-China vocational education collaboration and China is welcoming foreign enterprises and institutions to build joint schools in China.

She introduced at the online conference the latest development of China's higher education reform, highlighting that China has taken a brave step to create 23 vocational universities at the undergraduate level, and is going to shift half of its local colleges from traditionally academic oriented to applied technology oriented.

"China is very open to international cooperation in education at all levels, including the vocational education. We are welcoming your initiatives, new ideas, and new models of partnerships to China," she said.

The webinar, attended by more than 120 people from both countries' educational, business and political circles, was organized by Britain's 48 Group Club.

The club chair Stephen Perry, whose father "icebreaker" Jack Perry helped establish one of the first modern-day trade links between China and the outside world 68 years ago, awarded Phoenix the club fellowship during the webinar for his long engagement with China and contribution to building mutual understanding. Enditem