China: a hotspot for the international ambitions of Ghent University

( 07-11-2018 ) From 6 to 12 November, rector Rik Van de Walle is visiting China together with a delegation from Ghent University. Here are a few highlights of the trip.

A key partner in growing international competition

"We are very much aware that universities are challenged by ever-growing international competition", says rector Rik Van de Walle. It is in this context that the rector is visiting China, together with a delegation from Ghent University. For more than 40 years, China has been an important partner for research and education - a partnership that works well in both directions.

As a pluralist and socially committed institution, Ghent University has always been a forerunner in the field of internationalisation within higher education. We aim to further strengthen this position by, among other things, continuing to enter into partnerships with institutions that offer higher education in areas that are strategically important to Ghent University.

Successful international alumni platforms

One of the strategic objectives of Ghent University is to increase student mobility to 25% by 2020. This means that by 2020, 25% of our alumni will have had an international experience during their studies. To achieve this, one of the priorities in Ghent University’s internationalisation policy is to strengthen our relationship with our international alumni.

The first two international alumni platforms of Ghent University were launched in China in 2013, in Beijing and Shanghai. As these were a great success, a third one followed in Chengdu, in November 2017. Together, the three platforms account for 200 alumni who represent Ghent University in China.

The international alumni platforms are so successful in China thanks to our local alumni ambassadors. They spread the philosophy and values of our university and act as intermediaries between the alma mater and the community in which they are rooted. The alumni platforms are our diplomatic outposts, as it were, or rather a network of outposts.

Gent University and China in figures

  • more than 100 Chinese master and doctoral students have graduated from Ghent University in recent years
  • in the 2017-2018 academic year, we had 469 students and researchers from China: 309 doctoral students and 38 postdocs
  • 426 Chinese students and researchers are currently enrolled at Ghent University: 378 students and 48 exchange students
  • More than 50 active cooperation agreements are in place for student and staff exchange with Chinese partner institutions
  • 4 agreements involve a "3 + 2" or "3 + 1 + 1" programme
  • 6 agreements concern a Joint Laboratory with a Chinese partner university
  • researchers from China and Ghent University have collaborated on more than 3,000 co-publications

Chinese Scholarship Council (7 November, Beijing)

On Wednesday 7 November, the rector will pay a visit to the Chinese Scholarship Council. Through the China Scholarship Council (CSC), the Chinese government grants scholarships to study in China for a semester or a whole year. Of the 90 Chinese CSC students in Flanders, 85 are currently studying at Ghent University. A new record for Ghent University!

The first agreement between Ghent University and the CSC dates back to 2013 and was based on the intensive cooperation between Ghent University and various Chinese institutes of higher education and research at the time. The provisions of this agreement boosted Ghent University’s appeal to Chinese students. Now, six years later, the cooperation between Ghent University and China continues to grow, and a new co-financing agreement was signed in June 2018 to testify to this.

During the network reception organised by the Belgian embassy in Beijing on Wednesday 7 November, the rector will meet Baoyi Yu, among others: he is an alumni ambassador for Ghent University in Beijing.

"My name is Baoyi Yu. I graduated from Ghent University as a master in Environment Sanitation at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering. After my master’s programme, I followed a doctoral programme at the Faculty of Sciences. Now, I am employed as a lecturer at the Agricultural University of Beijing.

The role of alumni ambassador in Beijing consists mainly of setting up alumni activities, representing Ghent University and organising networking events."

Ghent University has a long and rich tradition of collaborating with a number of top universities in China, such as Beijing University, Tsinghua University and Renmin University. This collaboration is covering an increasing number of fields and scientific disciplines, which reflects the strength of our partnership. By visiting these three universities, the rector aims to stimulate further cooperation and create new opportunities.

Beijing University

This visit follows a request from the Faculty of Law and Criminology: "The Faculty of Law and Criminology considers the development of a strategic partnership with Beijing University as a priority. This is based on the collaboration agreement signed between our faculty and Beijing University law school in 2018, which created the Hu Yuanxiang Fund for International Legal Studies. The Fund provides a framework to encourage both student exchange and research collaboration. It is based on the financial contribution of Ghent University alumnus Dr. Jan Hu", says Professor Peter Van Elsuwege.

Tsinghua University

During the visit to Tshinghua University, a new cooperation agreement will be signed between the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture and the School of Civil Engineering. This agreement, a new foothold in China, is the outcome of a collaboration between Professor Luc Taerwe and Professor Li Kifei and is the direct result of two previous visits to this university.

Renmin University 

Ghent University and Renmin University have been working together for several years. Given all the different aspects of existing but also potential future partnerships, the delegation of Ghent University will also visit Renmin University.

"For me, Renmin University is a university that cultivates the Chinese elite. Renmin has some of the best professors and students in the human and social sciences. Entrepreneurship, ambition, tension and energy are, in my opinion, the best words to describe Renmin and its community. 

Shi Jing, Joint PhD student in Eastern Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy."

Zhejiang University of Technology (9 November, Hangzhou)

On Friday 9 November, the rector will join the delegation of Ghent University and visit Zhejiang University of Technology. Since June 2018, it has been an active partner of the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University, with Professor Diederik Rousseau. This collaboration is currently being extended to the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture - Campus Kortrijk (with Professor Michael Monte).

At the Belgian Consulate General in Shanghai, a networking event will take place on Sunday 11 November, with several rectors from partner institutions, alumni and students from Ghent University, and representatives of local Belgian companies.

The rector and the Ghent delegation will meet Fan Peng, alumni ambassador for Ghent University in Shanghai.

"My name is Fan Peng. I graduated as a Master of Corporate Finance from Ghent University and I was the first alumni ambassador for Ghent University in China. The Shanghai alumni platform, founded in 2014, organises several annual alumni events, networking events, specific thematic meetings as well as a job fair.

Personally, I am currently working on a start-up that produces charging stations for electric vehicles. Together with Dr. Wukai, also an alumnus from Ghent University, I would like to address the problem of industrial residual waste in China. I would very much like to share my knowledge and experiences with every alumnus interested in China."

On Monday 12 November, the rector will visit Tongji University. Since 2004, the collaboration with Tongji University (with Professor Luc Taerwe) has mainly focused on the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. Today, the partnership is no longer limited to one domain and also includes two other faculties: the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy (with Professors Ann Heirmann and Bart Dessein) and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (with Professor Claus Bachter).

There are currently five exchange students from the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at Tongji University. You can follow their daily lives this week on the Ghent University Instagram account !