XJTLU: breaking barriers to reach the future
“We wanted to create an international university in China and a Chinese university recognised internationally”
The future of education is about bringing together multiple worlds. To create a robust higher education sector, universities need to form partnerships with each other, industry, and the community. It Is also beneficial to blend teaching methods and philosophies. Youmin Xi of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University explains.
Bring together online and onsite
Even before the global Covid-19 pandemic forced everyone online, higher education had been growing more virtual thanks to new technologies. But online learning, with its low commitment and high amount of choice, can lead to students getting a superficial level of knowledge about a large number of topics. So, in our high-tech future, is online-only education a viable strategy?
I believe the main direction for future education is HyFlex, or hybrid flexible. Online education has many comparative advantages – anywhere, anytime, cheap education – but teaching and learning still need some personal connection. Even a high-quality online education needs an onsite element to support it.
Bring together East and West
Hybrid online/onsite education enables universities to give hands-on teaching while also reaching further across the world. This is why, even with the pandemic, it is no time to reduce internationalisation. In fact, we need to increase it. We need to seek new cooperative mechanisms between domestic universities and international partners.
In China, we are trying to develop universities with international standards to strengthen our internationally competitive education. Fifteen years ago, when we established XJTLU, we wanted to create an international university in China and a Chinese university recognised internationally. We combined the high standards of the quality control and assurance system from the UK, the flexibility from the US, and the education foundation system from China.
Bring together universities and the community
But being globally minded shouldn’t lead one to neglect what’s right at home, and a university has a significant impact on the community surrounding it.
In May 2020, XJTLU launched its Learning Mall, which has been available to staff and students, to the broader public. The Learning Mall is an online learning platform, but in 2022, it will expand to onsite, with the construction of the facilities of the XJTLU Entrepreneurial College (Taicang).
It was vital for us to open the Learning Mall to the community. For example, if some local kids have a thirst for knowledge, they could contact us, and we could support them where we have the resources. We want to open our internal courses to people from the local community, where they can do a module and attend classes as an external learner, or do it online via the Learning Mall’s website.
Bring together universities and industry
As well as bringing together the community, a university is a bridge between students and industry. Over the past year, XJTLU launched several new academies that help us create an ecosystem that includes the university, industry and society at large. For example, our XJTLU-JITRI Academy of Industrial Technology is a partnership between XJTLU, Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute and industry players. The academy allows us to deliver PhD programmes and research that benefit everyone involved.
Bring together the way things are and the way they could be
Transnational education has changed in the wake of Covid-19, with many forced to abandon their plans of studying overseas. Universities need to adapt to allow students to broaden their horizons.
We believe transnational education is here to stay, so how can we make it robust enough to withstand another pandemic? One solution is to give students an array of locations to go. For example, suppose a student wanted to attend XJTLU to soak up Chinese culture, but they could not travel here. In that case, they could study online for a while, then travel to Liverpool for a semester, and then come to China when able to.
By fostering partnerships with institutions worldwide, we can transform what it means to study internationally.
About the author: Professor Youmin Xi is the executive president of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, a Sino-foreign joint venture university established in Suzhou, China.