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[Beijing Forum 2018] Exploring the Future of Higher Education

MAY . 09 2018

Peking University, May 4, 2018: The Opening Ceremony of the World University Presidents Symposium and Beijing Forum 2018, hosted by Peking University, highlighted the themes and ideas that the gathering of educators from all of the world would focus on over the weekend. As explained by the host, Peking University Council Chairman Hao Ping, the event included representatives from 44 countries and regions and 130 Chines universities. The Opening Ceremony featured speeches by both Chinese officials and guests including Chen Jining, mayor of Beijing, Chey Tae-Won, chairman of the SK Group, Viktor Sadovnichy, rector of Lomonosov Moscow State University, Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and Sun Chunlan, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the vice premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.

The theme of the World University Presidents Symposium and Beijing Forum 2018 is “Changes and Constants: Universities and Civilizations during the Past 120 Years.” The symposium, supported by the Chinese Ministry of Education, brings together leaders of prestigious universities from around the world not only to celebrate the 120th Anniversary of Peking University but also to explore trends in higher education and examine the future of universities. The symposium is organized around a number of sub-themes which are the focal points of panel discussions over the weekend. These themes include: Ecology of Civilizations, Building a Higher Education Power, Global Governance and the Mission of Universities.

While those who spoke during the Opening Ceremony touched on different aspects of higher education, everyone championed the importance of collaboration and working to develop institutions of higher education in China and around the world.

Mayor Chen, who spoke first, explained the importance of universities as sites of moral education and said that for universities the “core mission [is] to produce talents with the right values.” SK Group Chairman Tae-Won emphasized the role that corporations can play and introduced the concept of the “double bottom line” encouraging corporations to not just assess financial contributions but also contributions to society. Moscow State University Rector Sadovnichy touched on many topics including the need for bilateral cooperation and the importance of educational exchange between countries.  Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Toope discussed the need for higher education not just to change but to keep up with the changing world. He added that the most essential quality for a university was openness and emphasized the importance of embracing new, sometimes challenging, ideas while finding a workable balance between tradition and change.

The final speaker of the Opening Ceremony was Sun Chunlan who spoke on behalf of the government as a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the vice premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Quoting PRC President Xi Jinping’s speech at Peking University on May 2, Sun told the audience that it is “necessary to build world class universities with world class characteristics.” She explained that while China faced a number of issues, that education would help bring prosperity to everyone and would help realize the promise of a modern, socialist China. Sun also noted that universities should help meet China’s needs but should be run with a global vision that would allow China to take on more leadership in higher education. She concluded her speech offering suggestions for Chinese universities including cultivating talent and promoting international exchange.

Overall, the Opening Ceremony set the state for the rest of the World University Presidents Symposium and Beijing Forum 2018. Despite the challenges of the modern world acknowledged by the speakers, the feeling in the room at the Fanghua Hall of Diaoyutai State Guest House was hopeful. This gathering of leaders in higher education from around the world itself represented many of the goals of collaboration and embracing change with the goal of increased prosperity for all that were evident throughout the remarks given during the Opening Ceremony.

Reported by: Erin Dunne
Edited by: Zhang Jiang
Photo credit to: Wang Xiaopeng