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[Beijing Forum 2018] Diversity and multi-discipline in modern university

MAY . 08 2018
 Peking University, May 4, 2018: While the opening ceremony of the 2018 World University Presidents Symposium & Beijing Forum is being held at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, four presidents from universities in four countries are being interviewed one by one by domestic media at the same time. They are professor Brian Schmidt from the Australian National University, Professor Tan Eng Chye from National University of Singapore, Professor Sung Nak-in from Seoul National University, and Professor Mohamed Osman Elkhosht from Cairo University. In the interview, the four presidents all talk about how to build a world-class university in their diverse backgrounds and give suggestions for Chinese universities to become leading universities globally.

Professor Brian Schmidt

Professor Schmidt, as the first interviewed, says that the value of a university is to teach and teach well; and research and research something interesting. The university, he says, should be able to change the way people think and knowledge should have impacts beyond the walls of university. What’s more, he believes it is the professoriate that has power in running the university. The president's role is to make sure professors have the resources they need. For him, talents are those who have creativity, work together as a team and are willing to take risks. Also, he believes that while doing basic work, university should equally value creative ideas. For this reason, creative entrepreneur professors in ANU are highly welcomed. ANU is a diverse and comprehensive university. He emphasizes that equal importance should be attached to humanities and science. Professors of science need to consult professors of humanities, for instance, to better utilize artificial intelligence to human kind.

Professor Tan Eng Chye

Professor Tan Eng Chye is the second guest. He talks about two great attributes to NUS to be a world-class university: alumni and knowledge. Alumni has a lot of social influence, not only in Singapore but also around the world. As a result, he says that for PKU, more international students can lead to more global influence of PKU in the future. Knowledge enables a university to impact society. Besides, Professor Tan Eng Chye believes that for general education, the depth and the breadth are equally important because students need to be better equipped for the fast-changing world and realize the importance of lifelong learning. Later, he talks about the challenges NUS meets with. As a small country, Singapore's population is only about 5.7 million in 2018. Professor Tan Eng Chye says that it is impossible to recruit enough talents from Singapore only. As a result, NUS has no choice but to be international. Nationalities of the candidates is not what NUS cares about but how good these talents can do research. As to the question how student organizations may impact higher education, Professor Tan Eng Chye says that students are another life-blood of the society, so as the president of the university, he will try his best to support their activities. “Students may vary in their interests and field of study, and because of this they may create new possibilities”, he says.

Professor Sung Nak-in

Professor Sung Nak-in from Seoul National University talks about how, as an East Asian university, Seoul National University can cooperate with other universities like PKU and the University of Tokyo to better establish the prestige of East Asian universities around the world. Communication between PKU and Seoul National University has always been frequent. President Lin Jianhua visited Seoul National University for its 70th anniversary, professor Sung says, and he is here for PKU 120th anniversary. In 2014, president Xi Jinping visited Seoul National University and donated many books to the university. He received warm welcome. In memory of him, the library of Seoul National University even names one of its rooms after president Xi. As to Chinese universities, Professor Sung Nak-in proposes that it is impractical to apply one set of rules to thousands of universities. Diverse rules and specific evaluation systems should be used. Besides, he believes PKU as well as THU, as the two best universities in China, should set their goal higher than to build a world-class university, but a leading university and super first-class university in the world.

Mohamed Osman Elkhosht

Professor Elkhosht from Cairo University emphasizes the importance of Egyptian culture and says that Cairo University has been constantly making efforts to introduce their culture abroad and import cultures of other countries into Egypt. When talking about the efforts Cairo University has been making to become a world-class university, he raises two approaches. The first is to improve the world ranking of Cairo University as a whole and the second is to develop several subjects in particular. He says that medicine, engineering, language and economy are some of the top majors at Cairo University. He also emphasizes the importance of critical thinking, and how to help students better put what they learn into practice. When asked about the influence of the Belt and Road Initiative, he highly praises it and says that the initiative has helped strengthen cultural interactions among different nations.

All four presidents will attend the discussion panels of Beijing Forum on May 5 held at PKU campus.

Reported by: Yan Shengnan & Wang Chutong
Edited by: Zhang Jiang
Photo credit to: Wang Xiaopeng