University News

Panel examines Chinese higher education

Staff Writer
Sunday, December 4, 2011

Globalization is the only path by which underdeveloped regions can catch up to the technological power of the developed world, said Andrew Chi-Chih Yao of Tsinghua University Friday at a talk hosted by the Year of China initiative.

The talk, “Trends of Globalization: Some Perspectives from Asian Universities,” drew an audience of about 35 students and faculty to Englander Studio. President Ruth Simmons moderated the event.

Yao, who previously taught at Stanford and Princeton before returning to China to teach at Tsinghua, highlighted the growing internationalization of higher education. “I think in that spirit that globalization is a powerful force for higher education to go forward with, and I think that is actually already taking place.” he said.

A panel including Yao, Professor of Anthropology and Vice President for International Affairs Matthew Gutmann, An Wang Professor of Computer Science Franco Preparata and Associate Professor of East Asian Studies Lingzhen Wang discussed the implications of Westernization at Chinese universities for the sciences and humanities.

“I thought it was very important for those who have spent time in Chinese universities to point out the tremendous changes underway in China,” Simmons said. “While they’re not complete, the fact that they’ve had such a dramatic change already is something that we need to understand better.”

Students in attendance were largely drawn by personal connections to the material.

“I’m Chinese, and it’s the Year of China, so I was recommended by some friends (to attend),” Zhichao Wei GS said. “I think it’s great.”

“Frankly speaking, the talk sounded very interesting,” said Kelly Jin ’12. “I think the discussions were engaging, and it brings everything into perspective. It really changed my idea of globalization to some extent.”

For faculty in attendance, the discussion also reflected current issues in their line of work.

“It’s very interesting to think through the Americanization of Chinese universities, and to consider the stakes of transforming Chinese higher education using U.S. higher education as a template,” said Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Eng-Beng Lim.

Lim is interested in the spread of U.S. satellite campuses in Asia and the Middle East. He noted the growing scholarship around globalization. “The Chinese example is one that has been closely watched by a lot of academics, so it’s very revealing to hear the different perspectives on the table,” he said.

But for Simmons, the panel’s topic was also an indication of Brown’s mission in the future.

“China is going to be a major force in almost any sector going forward — whether it’s in the economic sector, whether it’s in science and technology, in culture,” Simmons said. “China will be a part of our lives and in universities, if we’re not educating on China, our students will be receiving an incomplete education.”