UK universities have been encouraged to deepen their ties with China in a new report produced by the Confederation of British Industry.
The report, Bridges to the future: The role of universities in the UK-China relationship, argues that opportunities for universities to develop partnerships and deliver growth based on "foundations of knowledge, innovation and the skills of their peoples" should be seized.
As the UK enters a period of uncertainty regarding its global position following the EU referendum, China is well placed, the report says, to become a close economic partner.
Efforts have been made to strengthen relations between the UK and China, such as with President Xi Jinping’s 2015 state visit, the first state visit by a Chinese head of state to the UK in 10 years. The CBI advises in its report – produced in partnership with Middlesex University – that the UK continues to develop relationships through its world leading universities: "Universities are a great foundation to build a strengthened UK-China partnership."
As the world’s most populous country, China has more university students than the EU and US combined, and there is a growing demand for higher education among its young people. About 90,000 students from Mainland China currently study at British universities, accounting for a fifth of international students in the UK.
Existing connections between British and Chinese universities are, according to the CBI’s report, "some of the most well-developed and innovative that exist between our countries". These include international research collaborations, and the development of satellite campuses in China, such as the University of Nottingham's campus in Ningbo. Businesses and government also have a role to play in helping to develop further partnerships, the report recommends.
“The links between our two countries are extraordinarily diverse and higher education institutions across a wide range of disciplines lie at the heart of this,” says Guy Dru Drury, head of the China Office at the CBI.
“With higher education a top priority for China, the vibrant range of existing research partnerships, high-quality teaching and business incubators demonstrate how both nations can benefit from a closer working relationship.”