The College Tribune has been recently reporting on UCD President Andrew Deeks’ alumni tours to Australia and China. While UCD’s links with China have grown over the past number of years, Deeks has been accelerating these developments. Information about his visits, or his itinerary in general, can be hard to find, especially for students. Fortunately, Deeks normally informs staff of his trips in his Presidential Bulletins. Since this is the last issue of 2017, here is a brief account of UCD’s Chinese dealings and visits over the earlier part of the year.
End of 2016
Correspondence between Deeks and Richard Bruton, Minister for Education and Skills, in September 2016, over the Minister’s Education Trade Mission to China, revealed there were 686 Chinese students studying in UCD and 1,015 Chinese students studying at BDIC. There were a further 81 Chinese exchange students in UCD, with 25 UCD students on exchange in China.
UCD signed an agreement in October with the Beijing University of Technology for the next phase of the Beijing Dublin International College (BDIC) project. Deeks then headed to BDIC for a conference, where he noted that ‘innovation and entrepreneurship are currently high on China’s political agenda, and we are well placed to take advantage of this.’
Deeks attended an Asia Matters lunchtime event, which featured a presentation from UCD alumnus, and current Irish Ambassador to China, H.E. Paul Kavanagh, on the ‘opportunities for Ireland in Asia generated by Brexit.’ Deeks noted that the ‘changing world political environment will only strengthen our position and present us with new opportunities.’
Dolores O’Riordan, Vice-President for Global Engagement, was off to the Chinese Spring Festival Gala at the Convention Centre for Chinese New Year. Performers included the Irish/Chinese Youth Concert Organisation, UCD Confucius Institute, Jiani Chinese Zither Studio of Irish Chinese Arts Centre, and the China Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble. Deeks noted that Professor Liming Wang and the team at the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland organised the event.
Dr Xiaoyong Yue, the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland, visited UCD to give a talk to staff and students on the development and transformation of China since 1978. The event was hosted by the UCD School of Politics and International Relations, the School of Economics, and the UCD Confucius Institute in Ireland, alongside student societies, including the UCD Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the UCD Economics Society, and the UCD Politics and International Relations Society.
Deeks was back in China as part of the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council delegation to the 2017 Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fair. He gave a presentation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit of Elite Universities, in which he covered the ‘innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem’ in UCD. In a reflective tone, Deeks stated, ‘I think the combination we have of Nova UCD, Nexus UCD, the UCD Innovation Academy and the UCD Cantillon Research Centre for Entrepreneurship, Design and Innovation, coupled with our €60 million University Bridge Fund, gives us a unique innovation environment spanning education, research and commercialisation activities.’
His most revealing observation was the sentence, ‘I saw nothing presented by other ‘elite’ universities to match the comprehensive environment we have here at UCD.’ Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of the Council, signed an agreement with the Mayor of Chengdu for ‘Establishing Friendly Cooperative Relations’, which Deeks noted was ‘the first step to sister city status.’ Deeks went on to a colloquium on Citations, Impact and Rankings organised by the University of Hong Kong. He gave a keynote presentation on ‘Challenges for Ranking Metrics’ and took part in a panel discussion.
Deeks commented that he ‘made the point that ranking metrics must be relevant, robust and consistent, and then showed that the metrics currently used in the popular university rankings fail on at least one of these criteria. In particular I showed there was very little correlation between the two measures used by the Times Higher Education to measure research, and that the most consistent measure used in the QS ranking is actually the reputation survey, rather than the formal metrics.’
Deeks was asked at the discussion about the extent to which rankings should be allowed to shape university strategy. His reply; ‘a university should set its strategy in terms of the objectives it considers to be important, and to use its own KPIs and management information to measure progress towards these objectives. If the rankings are valid, then they will reflect the advance of the university. Of course, if there are minor tweaks that can be done to optimise ranking performance, then these should be done, but the overall direction of the university should not be dictated by rankings. This is exactly the approach we are taking at UCD.’
Deeks met His Excellency Mr Hu Chunhua, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Secretary (equivalent to Governor) of the Guangdong Province, who visited UCD as part of a four day visit to Ireland. Deeks said he was told ‘this was the largest official delegation received by Ireland from China, which is an indication of Mr Hu’s status.’
The Secretary, alongside Richard Bruton, watched him sign a Letter of Intent with the President of South China Agricultural University, to further explore strategic relationships between the two universities.’ Deeks noted it will involve talks about ‘the future development of joint UCD-SCAU academic programmes in areas such as agri-food science, plant biology, life science, horticulture and agricultural economics.’
Deeks headed for Chongqing University, where he signed an agreement for a joint Masters programme with UCD’s School of Business. He discussed their applications to the SFI-NSFC (National Science Foundation China) partnership programme. He attended the conferring ceremony at BDIC, then hosted a reception for incoming Chinese students, and also visited the Yen Ching Academy at Peking University. Also on the agenda was a meeting with the Deputy Secretary General of the China Education Association for International Exchanges (CEAIE), to discuss ‘changes in Chinese policies for cross-border education, review and quality assurance for joint-programmes/joint-colleges.’
Cian Carton – Editor