24 May 2017

China is both a “developed economy and a developing economy - and it is both of those things at scale”, according to Patrick Horgan OBE

Speaking on a panel at Going Global 2017 on China’s development, Mr Horgan, regional director of north-east Asia of Rolls Royce in China, said universities should obtain specific, detailed information when considering partnerships with Chinese institutions. “For universities considering your partnership arrangements – there’s a lot there that can give you guidance.”

However he added that universities needed to rely on more than just the support of the Chinese government when evaluating programmes. “Just because it is mandated at the centre does not mean it will be a success,” he added.

Chairing the panel, Professor Alice Gast, the president of Imperial College London, said: “In the last decade we’ve gone from working occasionally with Chinese collaborators to an equal exchange of knowledge.”

The next move for the country would be from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created in China’, a development that would involve a shift from the current ‘triple helix’ of ‘university, industry and government’ to one of ‘money, people and environment’.

Michael Hill-King, collaboration director at Huawei in the UK said: “It’s very important to find the right kind of partner. Find a partner with similar interests to you in terms of research agenda, similar local environment characteristics.”. Organisations should look for institutions at a similar ranking and with good transport links. 

“You have to visit. You have to spend time on the ground,” he said, adding that organisations should ask themselves if they could envisage being 'friends' with such an organisation, carrying out joint publications over a decade and attempting to jointly leverage government funding. 

Matt Durnin, Regional Head of Research and Consultancy, British Council, China, also pointed to the varied governance and funding of science and research parks across the country. He said that universities needed to significantly scale up ambitions to get attention in China, even to the point of working with institutions that were previously conceived as competitors.

In discussion of outward mobility, and at what point China would stop wanting its best and brightest to go abroad for education, Patrick Horgan said that while the “guaranteed gravy train” of hundreds of thousands of students coming to UK was “something that will not continue indefinitely”, students still had their own aspirations for personal development. 

Speaking of attitudes to globalisation in China, and in particular compared to the increasing resistance seen in the West, the panel agreed that it was largely positive but with nuances. Mr Horgan said: “China clearly knows which side its bread is buttered. The attitudes overall are pretty positive. When you actually set it against the reality in China, the commitment to open market and level playing field is not as uniform as the rhetoric would suggest.”

Ultimately, he said, China would continue to uphold the international system but “with Chinese characteristics”.

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