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[Beijing Forum 2016] Building World-class Universities: An Institutional Perspective

NOV . 09 2016
Peking University, Nov. 4, 2016: On the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2016, the second session of the panel “Building World class Universities: An Institutional Perspective” was held at Stanford Center at Peking University, focusing on institutional contexts and organizational structure of World-class Universities. Scholars from top universities and educational institutions shared their opinions and joined the discussion.
 
During the session, Simon Marginson, professor of international higher education from University College London (UCL) Institute of Education, Lloyd B. Minor, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Qian Yingyi, dean and professor of School of Economics and Management in Tsinghua University, Professor Takahiro Ueyama from Keio University, Professor Wang Yingjie from Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University and Shin Jung-Cheol from Seoul National University gave keynote speeches respectively. Professor Min Weifang was the chair of this session.
 
Professor Simon Marginson focused on the global commonalities and national characteristics of world class multiversity and showed us the trend of multiversity development in a whole picture. In his keynote, he indicated that despite several exceptions, organizational modernization, massification, marketization, world class movement and globalization are the worldwide tendencies. In addition, nationally driven domains including inherited political cultures, state-university relations, funding and tuition, are also crucial, and they articulate the global system effects. As for the configurations of systems and institutions, he said, “It is likely that there is an overall decline in diversity in the horizontal sense, with the (relatively peripheral) exception of on-line forms and in some countries, the growing role of for-profit private sectors.”
 
It is no coincidence that every top university has an outstanding medical care system. Professor Lloyd B. Minor, as a dean of medical school, highlighted the indispensable role of academic medical centers. To demonstrate the function of medical centers in scientific research, he gave Professor Crystal Mackall as an example. Professor Crystal Mackall focuses on the study of novel therapies for early phase testing and effective immunotherapies of cancer. According to Lloyd, Crystal’s approach is to “simultaneously conduct basic studies alongside clinical trials, leveraging an iterative bench-to-bedside-bench rotation to efficiently optimize clinically relevant cancer immunotherapies” and this is not possible without the medical center in Stanford. Medical centers have a tripartite mission of research, teaching and patient care, based on fundamental research and biomedical data science, and simultaneously provide tremendous cooperative opportunities for world class universities. Lloyd stressed that although keeping the alignment of various departments remains tricky, it is significant that multiversity embrace the complexity of medical system to provide predictive, preventive, and personalized health care for the entire society.
 
After the coffee break, Qian Yingyi, dean and professor of School of Economics and Management in Tsinghua University analyzed the basic questions that a university should answer. He showed the great progress that China had made in building world class universities and raised his concerns that during this period of catching-up we might have neglected the original mission of education and deviated the nature of a university. He gave his philosophic reflections on the three pillars of modern university: “For whom”, “For what” and “How” by contrasting original ideas and currentalternatives. “Whether we are closer to building a world class university is a question”, as he said in his keynote, he reminded us to keep this in mind as we move on.
 
Based on his intensive research on the cases of Stanford University and University of California, Professor Takahiro Ueyama explored the strategic governance and management of research universities. He applied lots of statistics and diagrams to show that in the two cases, managerial decision created the future picture of its academic preferences and competition among research universities resulted in the division of research strength in the academic market. Professor Wang Yinjie encouraged shared governance as a basic system of world class university and drew to a conclusion that professors should be main stakeholders of university. He also criticized the phenomenon of paying too much attention to rankings and the level of internationalization for they didn’t bring as much as we wanted.
 
Shin Jung-Cheol compared different university systems worldwide to find common rules that could be applied to Korean multiversity and showed us his current work at Seoul National University.
 
All the seven speakers joined the discussion mainly focused on practical methods to realize a system with shared governance and whether rankings are important to a university. They also had a hot debate over the rationality of using the number of papers as a reflection of a university’s academic level.
 
PKU is still on its way of improving, facing a combination of tremendous opportunities and great challenges. Building a world-class university has always been what we want, but we don’t build a world class university for its own sake. With a clear knowledge of our advantages and shortcomings, we should be bold to innovate, active to cooperate and diligent to explore. This is not a competition but a process of self-improving, which has no end. Keep our faith, embrace the changes, and we’ll always be among the best.
 
Through the speeches and discussion, everyone got inspired and gained a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges we are facing globally in building world class universities. Pushing the development of human society by converging various opinions from various cultures -this is exactly what Beijing Forum is all about.

Reported by: Li Guannan
Edited by: Zhang Jiang