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Monday, August 9, 2004

  • 'Profound' opportunities in Asia
  • The president's days in Hong Kong
  • UW links with Dalian and Jilin
  • 'Next steps' according to Johnston
Chris Redmond

Information and submissions: bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

Notes on an August Monday

Spring term exams continue, winding up this Saturday. The special almost-24-hours-a-day schedule at the Dana Porter Library continues until then. Unofficial grades for undergraduate courses will start to appear on Quest on Monday, August 16.

The 11th annual workshop on Selected Areas in Cryptography (SAC 2004) is under way this week, with about 100 researchers hearing talks under such titles as "Basing Cryptography on Biometrics and Other Noisy Data". Anwar Hasan of the electrical and computer engineering department is the local co-chair.

The arts undergraduate office will be closed August 16 through 27 for its annual "advising hiatus" -- offices will be closed and students will find advisors not available during those two weeks.

'Profound' opportunities in Asia

A trip to China this spring left UW's president eager to build closer international links. "China and Hong Kong are enormously powerful forces in the world," writes David Johnston in a report on his trip. "With India, they should be our two major international priorities."

His comments -- as well as anecdotes about seeing huge industrial developments, being detoured by a snowstorm, greeting UW alumni and experiencing a Japanese tea ceremony -- are included in a memo written to UW's executive council and board of governors shortly after his return from the trip in April.

Johnston has given his okay for the Daily Bulletin to quote at length from the memo. Here goes:

"I spent ten precious days from March 23 to April 3 just after the public launch of our $260 million campaign travelling to Hong Kong and then China, As always, it was exhilarating, inspiring, and exhausting. This is my 15th or so trip to Hong Kong and 10th or so to China since 1980. The changes and challenges and opportunities are profound for us in Asia."

(Johnston notes that he -- accompanied by Linda Kieswetter, director of Campaign Waterloo -- had individual meetings with about 25 Waterloo alumni in Hong Kong, where he also attended a reception for more than 100 alumni. Along the way he met other people with UW links, including the president of a huge oilfield operation who studied in China with a faculty member who's now at UW: Sherman Shen of electrical and computer engineering.)

The president's days in Hong Kong

The report goes on with some background on higher education in Hong Kong:

"There are eight Hong Kong universities for 8 million HK people and the average size is about 10,000 students. They provide post-secondary education for 18% of their high school graduates. [Green campus of 120 buildings] It was 3% in 1970. They are aiming for 50% in 2010. The Canadian universities helped to take up the slack since 1970. There is a very precious Canada/HK university founded bond as a result. The HK universities are much better funded than we are -- about $40K per student vs. our $10K. Still they feel besieged. They have just had a 10% budget cut as a result of economic downdraft and our conference had to be moved from the CUHK campus (left) to the HK Jockey Club Race Track Complex because of demonstrations by faculty members concerning pay cuts.

"I was a guest at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Presidents' Global Forum for three days. The conference was a very intriguing cross-cultural mosaic. I led a panel on the Liberal Arts in Professional Education in the 21st Century University. We spent a lot of time on the U.S. four-year Liberal Arts followed by two, three, or four years professional education model and the Oxbridge 1-on-1 tutorial residential college model and had some good discussion around the prospect of what do you do when these two models are too expensive and you have to make do with less.

"UW's cooperative education model was, of course, a revelation and somewhat bemusing/confusing to the group. Our challenge remains how do we make this work in five years with work terms and the obligation to ensure our students are both deeply and broadly educated? For me, ensuring international exposure for our Canadian students and diversifying our community with international students is the easiest first step.

[Johnston speaking] "The gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world in the quality and accessibility to universities and investment in post secondary education and research grows. It was interesting that no leading U.S. university attended this conference -- though the leading UK, Australian, Chinese, HK and Canadian ones did. The U.S. is in a league and a mindset of its own. Truly, there is a new Rome and that is a pity for global higher education and research."

UW links with Dalian and Jilin

Johnston (right) writes: "I spent 2 days in Dalian with Geoff Wall, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in Environmental Studies, primarily to view a $4 million CIDA funded study to establish a School of Environmental Planning at the Dalian University of Technology. Geoff and his colleagues built this out from their earlier successful Environmental Planning Program with Nanjing University and Hainan University, also CIDA supported.

"Dalian University of Technology is complimentary to us without a Medical, Law, or Education School but with 32,000 students, 9,000 of them graduate students, and all housed on one of their three campuses. We have a general Memorandum of Understanding with them but only the Environmental Plan project is deep to date, thanks to the effort of Geoff Wall. There is much enthusiasm on their part for a much more generalized student exchange and research collaboration.

"Dalian is a city of 6 million -- China's Northeast port city. I visited the Research and Technology Park which stretches for 30 km along a 1 km band back from the coast. In scale, it is perhaps 1,000 times our North Campus park, starting 12 years ago. The Chinese have the capacity to move dramatically with massive scope and expenditure, not always prudently but certainly dramatically.

"The park is linked to the city centre by a 70 km Light Rail Transit electric rail system built in two years. By contrast, we are waiting for Federal and Provincial word on our $250 million LRT system of 7 km to run from central Kitchener to our campus and it will take more than two years to build. Their park is expected to create a new city of 5 million by 2010, almost the size of Dalian today. They understand how universities and talent and knowledge creation institutions spawn high tech industry and higher quality of urban life. The scope and impact of this undertaking are worth close monitoring. They are attracting leading high tech names from around the world.

"Changchun is an industrial city of about 5 million in the province of Jilin which ranks 7th in China in industrial production and 5th in profitability. It is still a Soviet style centrally planned, large ugly block buildings, unlike Dalian, Shanghai, Guangchou or increasingly Beijing which have modern differentiated architecture.

"The Jilin oilfields are China's largest -- discovered in 1960 and with a 100 year expected life. It is home to the largest automobile production industry, led by Volkswagen, whose factory I toured, and Jilin University, which is China's largest in size at 63,000 (10,000 grad students) and 8th in quality, covering eight campuses.

"I got off the plane -- sleepless, unshaven, 24 hours of wear on my clothes -- and was whisked to an auditorium filled to overflowing with about 500 students and spent a magical 90 minutes. I spoke for about 30 minutes in English without translation being necessary, answered questions for about an hour, and could have still been there had my hosts not intervened.

"The students are extremely keen to study in Canada -- more so than the U.S.A. given the current chill there - and very anxious to enhance their English skills. I was besieged with requests for how to obtain admission. Quite apart from that there is an urgent need for exposure to English speakers. Our students have excellent opportunities to attend Jilin for Chinese study and assisting in English classes.

"We have extraordinary opportunities with Jilin. The foundation and good will is there. It is large enough to have critical mass and high quality but does not have the overexposure of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangchou."

'Next steps' according to Johnston

Among the president's recommendations following his trip:

"In Hong Kong we should concentrate on recruiting undergraduate full paying students. They are 'under universitied' and the Canadian universities well known.

"In Hong Kong we should also make sustained alumni and development efforts, recognizing progress is slow. U of T which has made a sustained effort, with 2 full time employees and a convocation for 1,000 graduates every 2 years, see this as its most expensive fund raising effort anywhere. But sustained effort pays off as I learned at McGill. Hong Kong also gives us co-op placement opportunities.

"In China, we should concentrate in three or four places in recruiting graduate students by sending alumni to targeted places, in particular Jilin and Dalian and building around our committed faculty.

"In China, we should also choose one or two universities like Jilin and send large numbers of our undergraduate students to their international programs. There are rare high schools like the Maple Leaf School in Dalian where we should look for 50 to 100 students each year."


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