UQ Vice-Chancellor discusses international collaboration with the Journal of World Education

12 May 2016

Interviewed and written by LU Yiwen, ZHANG Liwei and GAO Li for the Journal of World Education

 

Part I: the Confucius Institute has strengthened multi-lateral cooperation, and serviced the development of communities

Journal of World Education:
The Confucius Institute of The University of Queensland was unveiled in November 2010.  What do you think are factors that have contributed to the unveiling of the Confucius Institute of the University and its healthy development?

Peter Høj:
Australia is a multicultural country that has successfully integrated various cultures.  One of the important causes why it is successful is that we pay a lot of attention to and understand various cultural backgrounds and life styles.  We believe that although there exist differences among different cultures, however, there should also be close exchange and cooperation among various cultures so that we can promote development of Australia and other countries in the world.  This is a point that is completely suitable for various countries.  The University of Queensland (simplified to UQ hereafter) knows very well that if we let the Australian students know and grasp some Chinese culture and in the meantime let the Chinese young students learn and know some Australian culture, so as to deepen understanding and cooperation between each other, then both parties would benefit mutually and develop together therefore we can build a better world.  Besides, the economic and trade relationship between the two countries and the personnel contacts and dealings are getting increasingly close as well.  The two countries have also signed Free Trade Agreement.  These are all important causes for the establishment of the UQ Confucius Institute and its healthy development.       

Journal of World Education:
In your opinion, what are the major achievements in the development of the UQ Confucius Institute in the recent five years? 

Peter Høj:
I think there have been three major parts of achievements.  First of all, it has played an important role in integrating teaching and research resources in Chinese studies.  We have incorporated the Chinese programs offered by the Confucius Institute into the University’s credit system, and have facilitated the overall cooperation between the Confucius Institute and the University’s humanities and social sciences studies and the Institute of Modern Languages.  We have created an excellent united and win-win situation in programs of Chinese languages and Chinese studies within the University.  In the meantime, we have supported the Confucius Institute’s work in high end Chinese studies, and have encouraged and recommended students and teachers of UQ to actively participate in the project of “Confucius New Chinese Scheme”.  Secondly, the Confucius Institute has come into cooperation with Queensland State Department of Education, to officially admit the Chinese Proficiency Tests “Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi", or HSK, into  Australia’s High School Graduation Certificate examination system.  This means when high school students in the state of Queensland have passed tests of relevant levels of HSK, they can then obtain the responsive credit in their High School Graduation Certificate.  Thirdly, the UQ Confucius Institute has established the strategic cooperative partners’ relationship, to offer Chinese language and Chinese culture studies programs to students of the Police Academy of the State of Queensland Police Service.  It has also cooperated with Queensland Real Estate Association and the Queensland Lawyers’ Association, to offer business etiquette programs and legal Chinese training to firms under the associations and they have been welcomed by learners and local residents. 

Journal of World Education:
What are the future development plans of the UQ Confucius Institute?  What are the prioritised projects in its development plan of 2016? 

Peter Høj:
In 2016, we will continue our development on the basis of already obtained achievements.  In the teaching staff of  UQ, we have 150 teachers who were born in China.  Therefore,  UQ has been well positioned in our cooperation with Chinese universities and research institutions, enterprises and government agencies, as we have favourable conditions and solid foundations.  In 2016, we will focus on offering more social services to the broader community.  UQ has already run four Confucius Classrooms, spreading around the vast areas of  Queensland. We plan to further increase the number of our Confucius Classrooms.  We may increase our Confucius Classrooms by adding six new Classrooms.  We will also offer more training programs in Chinese language and culture to staff of Queensland government agencies such as the Queensland Police Service and relevant organizations of the broad community.  More and more students, their families and tourists from China are coming to visit Australia, the most beautiful country in the world. Various walks of life in Australia need to learn more about the Chinese culture, so as to better receive the guests from China.        

Journal of World Education:
Currently there are 13 Confucius Institutes and 35 Confucius Classrooms in Australia.  How do you think, in the process of future development, these Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms can better cooperate with local Australian universities and institutions, to achieve the results of mutual development? 

Peter Høj:
On the one hand, we should integrate Confucius Institutes into the relevant programs and activities of the host universities, so that the teaching objectives of the Confucius Institutes can be consistent to those of the universities, and consistent to the development objectives of the broad community.  On the other hand, if we want to incorporate the Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms into the university and school systems, then we must take the local situations and factors into consideration, when designing programs to be offered.  The local universities should also appropriately adjust their relevant Chinese language programs.  Take the state of Queensland as an example, among the local students, there are quite a number of students who have studied Chinese language as their elective subject in the high school programs, and have achieved good results.  When these senior high school students who have good foundations in Chinese language enter universities, they would have very different demands from those who entered universities with zero foundation in the Chinese language.  Therefore, the universities need to offer these students more refined Chinese classes. 

Journal of World Education:
As Senior Consultant to the headquarters of Confucius Institutes, how do you evaluate the role that Confucius Institutes have played in the area of sino-foreign education cooperation and exchange? 

Peter Høj:
I think it would have excellent prospects.  More and more Chinese higher education institutions have developed regular and full scale cooperation with universities of other countries, which have included various aspects, such as students’ exchange and cooperation in scientific researches.  In my view, Confucius Institutes can play a very significant role in strengthening reciprocal cooperation.  Although it is still too early to give a holistic evaluation on it at this moment, however, I have a firm belief that Confucius Institutes can play an important role in the cooperation. 

Part II: International cooperation should pay high attention to quality and potentials

Journal of World Education:
Apart from the Confucius Institute, what other cooperative models do you hold with Chinese universities and institutions?  What are the greatest challenges? 

Peter Høj:
We have developed various forms of cooperation with Chinese universities and institutions, including teaching, scientific research, community service and transference of scientific research findings.  First of all, we have very frequent personnel contacts and dealings and very close cooperation between academics.  The second is joint publication of academic results.  In 2014 alone, the University of Queensland had published 450 academic results jointly with research personnel of various Chinese higher education institutions and research institutions.  In the meantime, we have established joint laboratories and R&D facilities with Chinese universities.  We have a joint laboratory with Shanghai Second Military Medical University.  We have two jointly established laboratories with the Chinese Academy of Sciences located in Beijing.  Not limited to the above, we are also planning to jointly establish China branches of UQ with Chinese universities.  As this will be a major project, we are very cautious on such matters as terms and conditions of establishment, and timing. 

Journal of World Education:
How does UQ select partnering Chinese universities and institutions?  To those Chinese higher education universities and institutions, what are your recommendations?   

Peter Høj:
In terms of selecting standards for a cooperative partner university or institution in China, as UQ is a university ranked within the top 50 of world universities, we pay highest attention to the quality and potential of a partnering institution.  Fortunately, we have seen quality and potential in many Chinese universities.  I am also glad to see many research based universities in China rapidly growing into world first class universities in the real sense of the term.  

Journal of World Education:
The University of Queensland is a member of the reputable Group Eight (G8) of Australian universities, and one of the six sandstone universities as well as a member of U21.  As the Vice-Chancellor/President, can you please specify what your emphases are in the development directions of your University?

Peter Høj:
I believe that the University of Queensland have great development in many areas.  UQ has developed matured cooperative partnering relationship with numerous first class universities and research institutions in the world, for example, universities in North American and European countries.  We will build UQ into a university that has closest global links among Australian universities.  We lay great stress on international exchange and cooperation.  Cooperation with Chinese higher education institutions is a focus area of our development.  China is a vast country, and it is progressing rapidly in terms of quality improvement.  We highly value our cooperation with Chinese higher education institutions.    

Part III: Disciplinary research that Chinese Higher Education institutions should pay attention to

Journal of World Education:
China is working hard toward building world first class universities and world first class disciplines.  Can you please offer some recommendations to the leaders of Chinese universities/institutions? 

Peter Høj:
As we have already seen, most significant research discoveries come from cross-disciplinary research.  Exchange and cooperation in cross-disciplinary areas is a very important aspect.  Therefore, the leaders of Chinese higher education institutions should ask themselves: what are the really important themes for our research?  How should we integrate various fields to achieve our targets?  Take an example in water quality research: water is a scarce resource.  When undertaking research on water quality, we do not only need scientists in the areas of water research, but also need experts in agriculture, in chemical engineering, and in economics and so on.  All these experts work in joint force, to research together on the problems that need solutions.  This is the first point I want to make.

The issue that followed is how to select research staff.  In order to establish an excellent research team, you cannot only select people from within your own organisation.  If you want to have the strongest research team with greatest strength, you should not only recruit team members internally but also at the same time recruit from outside your organisation, to recruit talents from other Chinese higher education institutions and even from world first class universities, for example, from UQ.  Whether it is in student education, or in scientific research and innovation, it is of vital importance to have a global view.  Depending exclusively on one’s own efforts is less productive than partnering, cooperation, and creating a win-win situation. 

Copy Editor: WU Ting; proof reader: LI Guangping

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