Report: Towards Sustainable Europe-China Collaboration in Higher Education and Research


The LeidenAsiaCentre has published a new report on sustainable Europe-China collaboration in higher education and research. This report discusses recent developments in China’s higher education and research sector, the importance of collaboration in this field with China, the challenges that it entails, and the increasing awareness of these challenges among European stakeholders. Based on an analysis of existing guidelines, the report provides recommendations for European policy makers on how to design a sustainable approach to this cooperation.

‘Towards Sustainable Europe-China Collaboration in Higher Education and Research’ builds upon previous LeidenAsiaCentre publications on this topic. The complete project and its publications can be found here.

Executive summary

Europe and China are indispensable partners in higher education and research (HE&R). As a result of strategic policies and strong investments in HE&R, China has become an increasingly powerful and advanced player in this field and the two sides have engaged in numerous successful research projects. This joint collaboration has led to major achievements in science and it is to be expected that Europe and China will continue to invest in expanding and deepening collaboration in HE&R. However, this collaboration also presents various challenges and concerns. In recent years these concerns have become more pronounced and the political climate in which HE&R cooperation with China takes place has become increasingly complicated. As a result, European policymakers at HE&R institutions and government organizations increasingly face the question of how to develop safe cooperation, as well as how to best minimize strategic, security, and ethical risks.

This report argues that in order to effectively address these challenges, European HE&R stakeholders need to develop and implement approaches aimed at making collaboration with China more sustainable. Doing so is in their own interests. It is in their interests not only regarding their security and the academic freedom of their staff and students, but also in terms of their long-term competitive positions in research and their reputations as institutions. A number of actors have already taken action. Several stakeholders with broad reach have developed guidelines for strengthening knowledge security and safeguarding academic freedom in international collaboration, including collaboration with China. These guidelines can provide inspiration and input to European stakeholders who want to take measures but are hampered by a lack of financial and human resources, and knowledge about China.

This report concludes with a set of recommendations for stakeholders. These highlight that, in addressing the challenges posed by HE&R collaboration with China, European collaborative efforts involving peer HE&R institutes and government organizations are most effective. This way, different stakeholders can pool their resources and knowledge, while joint coordination will broaden support and contribute to mutual trust. In addition to taking protective measures, stakeholders should also develop an approach that allows them to identify the possibilities of expanding sustainable collaboration. A major prerequisite for all endeavours in this area is the expansion and deepening of China expertise.

A video interview with the authors:

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Published On: October, 2020