The East Asian Research Collaborations Network was unveiled at the University of Hull on 18 March at a conference organised by the Society for Research into Higher Education that brought together academics from China, Hong Kong and Vietnam as well as the UK.
In a keynote address, Simon Marginson, professor of international higher education at the UCL Institute of Education, argued that “East Asia is on the margins in the UK, despite its overwhelming importance at the world level”.
“We must push it into the centre of everyone’s consciousness…Building a broad highway between the UK and East and Southeast Asia is of great historical importance. In this, higher education must move out ahead of British society, government and business.”
Professor Marginson pointed to the remarkable achievements of China and the other countries in what he called “the post-Confucian zone” in developing their higher education systems, improving participation rates, investing in research and development, increasing their number of publications in major scientific journals and unambiguously bringing “global standards…into the performance management regimes” of their universities.
Yet while “all 25 million tertiary students in China have learned English”, Professor Marginson pointed out, this year’s figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that “there were 300 UK students commencing first-year Chinese studies”.
Although Britain was probably the country which secures “the highest proportion of its research income from international sources”, this was largely through its success in accessing funds through European research schemes.
Since there were no such schemes and incentives in East Asia, we were developing “exceptionally low rates of collaboration [there] compared to other English-speaking countries”.
It was precisely in order to bridge this gap that Hull has launched its new network, whose explicit goals include “bring[ing] non-Western perspectives into higher education”, “collaborat[ing] in bids for international research grants” and “work[ing] together on high-quality publications based on internationalised research and shared exchange of ideas”.