Leiden University strengthens ties with China
Twelve Chinese PhD candidates in the Netherlands who are funded by the China Scholarship Council met with Leiden staff on 26 April 2012 to exchange experiences. Ten days earlier Leiden had welcomed a delegation from Peking University.
Given the growing importance of China, Western universities are keen to collaborate with Chinese partners. China's economic power has increased strongly in a short space of time, and the country now needs highly educated workers with international experience. A programme of extensive funding, managed by the China Scholarship Council (CSC), has been set aside to achieve this aim. This programme enables Chinese students to travel to all countries of the world, including the Netherlands, to follow study programmes and train for a PhD. The Netherlands in turn supports students who want to spend part of their study time in China.
The ties between Leiden University and universities in China go back some thirty years: Leiden is still the only university in the Netherlands to offer a Chinese programme. Initially, the academic ties were focused on language, culture and history, but in recent years the field of China Studies has undergone rapid expansion. This can be seen in such developments as the appointment of Professor Peter Ho as Professor of Chinese Economy and Development. Leiden is keen to stay up to date with the most recent developments in China.
This development will be strengthened as area experts at Leiden University collaborate more closely with one another, for example in the Modern East Asia Research Centre (MEARC). There will also be a greater focus on other disciplines besides language and culture, such as political science, law and anthropology.
And how are the contacts between the Chinese CSC PhD candidates, who are spread over several different faculties, and the Leiden academic world? The Chinese visitors feel welcome in Leiden and are full of praise for the standard of Dutch academic endeavour. But the level of facilities seems to differ considerably from one faculty to another. There is, however, one particular issue that the different faculties do have in common, relating to the status of PhD candidates: the Chinese candidates are scholarship students, while the university only recognises the status of staff or student. This can cause problems for those who do not fall into either category. According to the Chinese, Dutch people are also quick to resort to their native language when they are in the majority. So, there is some room for improvement.
Leiden University has a China Steering Committee headed by Rector Paul van der Heijden. The Committee's task is to further intensify partnerships and exchanges with Chinese universities. Representatives of the Committee were present on 26 April, and also on 16 April when a delegation from Peking University, one of China's leading universities, visited Leiden. Peter Ho, Vice Chairman of the Committee, is keen to broaden the existing contacts, including in the area of urban planning and property law. His aims reflect current developments in China. As an example, at the instigation of the Chinese Parliament, a register is to be set up to chart and maintain land ownership. A new law is also planned dealing with land use. The recent visits have shown that there are many other area that are ripe for collaboration.
The Leiden Institute for Advanced Computer Science is already engaged in collaboration with the Software School of the University of Xiamen: Leiden and Chinese students work together at this Institute. Possibilities for collaboration with Peking University are also under investigation.
(8 May 2012)