The Consortium of China 9 Research Universities signed a statement with the world's three strongest groups of research universities on Thursday in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, aiming at working together to promote the foundational value of higher education.
C9 signed the Hefei Statement with the Association of American Universities, the Group of Eight Australia and the League of European Research Universities.
Similar to the Ivy League in the United States, C9 is an organization formed by nine universities in 2009, which includes the well-known Peking, Tsinghua and Fudan Universities and the University of Science and Technology of China, representing the top level of higher education on China's mainland.
"Universities undertake a significant mission in the construction of an innovative country," said Professor Zhang Jie, president of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
The past decades have seen huge changes in higher education globally. The Hefei Statement reads: "Universities have increased in number and size. Elite education catering to a small, select proportion of the population has evolved to offering education for an increasingly large and more diverse cohort."
Hou Jianguo, president of the University of Science and Technology of China, and also an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Science and the Third World Academy of Sciences, said universities must take new social responsibilities in the current age by cultivating modern talents with innovative abilities, international outlook and a strong sense of responsibility, and promote the sustainable development and economic transition of China with knowledge and talent.
In a keynote address, Professor Lin Jianhua, president of Zhejiang University, said higher education in China has made remarkable achievements since the country's reform and opening-up. The expansion in the scope of higher education has answered, to a certain extent, the increasing demand for education and supported social and economic development. However, the academic culture is still to be fully established, he said.
John Vaughn, executive vice-president of AAU, said: "Today, it is clear that US research universities have provided enormous benefits to the nation in economic competitiveness, national security and the quality of life of the nation's citizens. But the rising cost of education, the economic recession, and other pressures have increased the tension between higher education institutions and the government and the broader public.
"In many countries, policy is taking an instrumentalist view of universities, a view that ties their roles and purpose to producing the knowledge and skills necessary to operate in a modern economy and to performing research that supports national development."
The four signatory groups to the Hefei Statement expressed their concern about this phenomenon, stating, "Changes in national priorities may put research universities in danger of losing what makes them unique participants in national innovation and major contributors to national well-being.
"Much of what governments and the broader community prize in universities derives from their deeper capabilities and more intangible outcomes that this kind of instrumentalist approach can devalue and even lose."
Michael Gallagher, executive director of Go8 who comes from Australian National University, said: "In the Hefei Statement we find 10 characteristics of contemporary research universities around which we can talk about collaboration in education, student exchanges, faculty exchanges and research collaboration. All these things create an opportunity for students and young faculties particularly who want to work together. The door has been opened," Delegates from the C9, AAU, Go8 and LERU all pledged to commit themselves to the Hefei Statement and cooperate with each other. (ChinaDaily)