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Liu and Vassiliou

CHINA-EU HPPD

18 April 2012

Following an agreement at the last EU-China Summit in February the first EU-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue took place at the Centre Flagey on 18 April.  There were three panels covering culture, education and youth followed by a plenary.

The panel on education entitled ‘The 21st Century Student: Learning in a Globalised World’ chaired by Lesley Wilson, Secretary General of the European University Association, discussed the challenges and future prospects of university education in the EU and China. The topics ranged from employment and innovation to mobility and language training.

Professor. Zhou Zuyi of Tongji University and Professor. Gong Ke of Nankai University both suggested that graduates from top-ranking universities like Nankai or Tongji have always been in high demand in the Chinese job market. But the career prospects of Chinese graduates vary due to geographic differences and discrepancies in the reputation of universities. The expectation of graduates in recent years have also been increasingly shaped by the rapid social and economic change in China. Professor Li Jiajun of Tianjin University offered an account on how his university bridges the gap with the need for innovation and employment. Mr Hu Zhongliang, Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association, noticed that there is some increasing soul-searching amongst Chinese young graduates with regard to how they value education beyond employability and their contribution to the society.

Professor Dirk Jan Van Den Berg of the Delft University of Technology suggested that students in Europe could be motivated by various reasons to go to university. Employability was a major concern under current the economic climate, but universities should also have long-term visions about how to best contribute to society. Dr Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Asia Centre, asked how Chinese universities should better prepare themselves to respond to the increasingly competitive global labour market in which Chinese workers are expected to be more innovative than ever before. Professor Giuseppe Silvestri of the University of Palermo suggested that more comprehensive language training in European universities was needed. The diversity of languages in the global education system should also be encouraged.

In the discussion there were questions about the possibility of double-degree programmes between European and Chinese universities; and how to promote critical thinking in the Chinese cultural environment; and funding in an age of austerity.

In the plenary session Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Liu Yandong, State Councillor, both emphasised the importance of enhancing the level of intercultural exchange, mutual understanding and long-term cultural cooperation between scholars, journalists, writers, artists, entrepreneurs and youth representatives so as to open ‘an important new chapter in the strategic partnership between China and Europe’.