Universiteit Leiden

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Universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam aiming to work together on cooperation with China

Chinese universities have big ambitions to be among the leading international higher education institutions. What does this mean in terms of opportunities for researchers at the universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam? Staff at the universities recently discussed the issue.

Each of the three universities already has partnerships with China, but the idea now is to combine the expertise of the universities and to set up joint projects with China. This is certainly much needed, commented Leiden Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker: ‘International competition within excellent research is increasing. At the same time we see that China is investing heavily in internationalisation, and this is something that Dutch universities can benefit from. This is why it is wise for us to work with our partners and combine our efforts. We are already doing that in our Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) alliance, but it is also a good idea to bring together all our collaborations with China within this alliance.'  

Joint exploration

Rob Fastenau, former dean of Delft University of Technology, has a long history in collaborating with Chinese universitieis. He proposed a joint exploration of the possibilities for strengthening the partnership with Tsinghua University, given that the scale of this university (measured in terms of academic output) is comparable with the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus alliance. Participants in a workshop  looked at what is needed to further develop this collaboration. This could be in the form of summer schools, joint-run research projects, and exchanges of students and staff. The circular economy and cryo-electron microscopy could be interesting areas for joint research. 

Participants in the second workshop considered the criteria for promising themes for collaboration in China. Leiden-Delft-Erasmus has a good reputation in the area of multidisciplinary themes such as space law and urban development. 

Danish example

The next keynote speaker was Morten Laugesen, director of the Sino-Danish Center. He explained that eight Danish universities have a longstanding partnership with the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS). The Danish model is based on three themes: research, teaching and industry. The establishment of the Danish industrial organisation Industriens Fond in China was an important factor in making use of the activities of the Danish universities. A further important success factor was political support, for example in the form of the visit of the Danish prime minister to China. Laugesen: ‘The path from idea to reality is long and difficult, and it always turns out differently from what you had expected or planned. My advice is to be pragmatic and always think in terms of solutions.'

'A lot of interest and enthusiasm'

This symposium is just the first step in a long process, said organiser Geert de Snoo, dean at Leiden University, but he was pleased with the results of the day. 'I have seen a lot of real interest and enthusiasm for further exploring the possibilities for collaboration between Leiden-Delft-Erasmus and China. Many of the participants expressed the opinion that it is wise to work together, but that we need to make a start and focus first on the basics. In addition, sending a small joint delegation of senior people to China and receiving Chinese delegations here have to be feasible.' 

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