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Beijing Forum 2009: Nov 7 UC Berkeley Panel

Peking University, Nov 9, 2009: The UC Berkeley Panel of the 2009 Beijing Forum was held in Yingjie Exchange Center at Peking University on the morning of Nov 7th. The Panel was presided by UC Berkeley's Vice Chancellor of University Relations, F. Scott Biddy and accompanied by his colleagues David A. Hollinger and Yeh Wen-hsin, both professors of American history, and Carla A. Hesse, Dean of Social Sciences. From the PKU family, Professors of Education, Ma Wanhua, Yan Fengqiao and Shi Xiaoguang also attended and presented compelling arguments on the ideals of education.


The meeting began with a short introduction made by Vice Chancellor Biddy, where he lectured on the long and successful road that has made Berkeley what it is today. He also stated that Berkeley's mission is to make elite private institutions' education accessible to all. To prove that Berkeley is currently on the right track, he quoted that Berkeley currently has three times more the Pell Grant students than typical Ivy League schools, while at the same time also has over 25 programs that are ranked top 5 in the nation. Berkeley is the only institution of higher education that has over 20 programs in this category. On a more modest stance, Biddy also mentioned that although Berkeley is very successful at becoming an elite university, "a fine example of university still persists."


The Panel continued with Professor David A. Hollinger, where he seconded Vice Chancellor Biddy in his speech titled "Berkeley: Higher Education as a Public Good" that education should be shared among the general public. He gave numerous examples of former students and faculty members of Berkeley that have long advocated this belief and came to the conclusion that education in this light has been a tradition at Berkeley since the dawn of its construction.


The following speaker, Prof. Ma Wanhua, from PKU School of Education, presented her essay "System Reform and Developing Chinese Research Universities." In her thesis she clarified that due to the past 30 years of economic reform, a revolution has overcome the Chinese educational system, and thus the paradigm shift is so profound and significant because it provides the tools for China to form research universities. For the majority of her thesis, Prof. Ma gave an overview of the current situation on China's effort to build research universities, while also presenting strong incentives for building such universities. She went on further to conclude that the sole purpose of forming research universities in China is to close the digital gap between the East and the West and also hoping that they may one day rival those of the elite institutions of the Occident.


The remaining Berkeley professors, Carla A. Hesse and Yeh Wen-hsin presented their essays "Looking to the Future for the Humanities and Social Sciences" and "Public Higher Education and the Pursuit of Excellence in Modern China" respectively. Professor Hesse furthered Vice Chancellor Biddy's opening remarks regarding that it is the fact that Berkeley combines monetary sources, including public funding, revenue-generating grants, contracts and programs and gift endowments that redefines the term "public" university. She continued to describe how this financial plan combined with new research technologies is revolutionizing the research landscape.


Prof. Yeh's presentation provoked the audience to rethink the differences in the definitions of "public" and "excellence" between those of Chinese universities and those of their Western counterparts. He stresses that this is a very prominent issue due to the fact that more students internationally are choosing to pursue higher education in China, while also including the increasing number of students from Hong Kong and Taiwan, over the original choice of attending universities in North America.


PKU School of Education Prof. Shi Xiaoguang, presented his essay "Reconsidering Ideas of Higher Education in a Time of Difficulty," while the final speaker Prof. Yan Fengqiao, also from the School of Education, gave his speech "Historical Legacy: Advantage or Disadvantage?"


The Panel proved to be a huge success. Faculty members of PKU also had a precious opportunity to learn the story of Berkeley's success of becoming a world-class institution and building a research university that adheres to the ideals of higher education.

 

Edited by: Seren