Danish-Chinese research centre shows early promise

November 24, 2011 - 07:01

The Danish-Chinese university centre in Beijing is enjoying a flying start thanks to strong relations between the two countries – and the Chinese fascination with Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales.

The road to success is long and winding for the Danish-Chinese University Centre in Beijing, says director Hans Gregersen. But only a year and a half after the contract about the centre was signed, 75 PhD students have been appointed.

Professor Hans Gregersen had his bags packed for China when he visited ScienceNordic’s seminar on the internationalisation of research earlier this month.

Gregersen is the executive director of the Sino-Danish Center for Education and Research (SDC), a new joint project on education and research between Danish and Chinese universities (see factbox and link below).

He spoke about the process of promoting Danish research in China, and explained the need for a project such as SDC:

”Chinese research budgets are growing by over 20 percent a year. Internationalisation of education is of great importance, and we have now reached a point where some 450 Danish businesses have set up in China.”

Businesses attract students

Some 75 PhD students have already been appointed at SDC, which is one of the goals set for 2013.

Danish students are among the least mobile in the world, and that’s a great challenge, explained Gregersen.

“But the possibility of getting a good job after graduation means a lot. So the internships we offer here seem to be a great attraction to them.”

China, a land of resources

One of the main things that draw researchers to China is the country’s rich access to resources.

Chinese research budgets are growing by over 20 percent a year. Internationalisation of education is of great importance, and we have now reached a point where some 450 Danish businesses have set up in China
Professor Hans Gregersen

“If for instance you do research on water environments, you’ll need access to contaminated waters. We have none of those in Denmark, but China has plenty of them."

Gregersen is looking forward to moving to Beijing. He and his Danish colleagues are pleased with the high levels of cooperation they have established with their Chinese partners – which is unusual, considering the great difference in size of the two countries.

“The Chinese are currently being flooded with requests for international research partnerships,” he said. “First of all, we entered the stage at exactly the right time. And secondly, the good relations between the two countries go a long way back: they know that Denmark was the second country in the world to acknowledge The People’s Republic of China.”

There were also good business relations between the two nations going back some 3-400 years.

"And as early as in the 1970s Danish social scientists showed interest in China - long before the country became interesting to the rest of the world. The Chinese are also familiar with Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales, and that helps too," he added.

English language is key

The seminar audience wanted to know whether this new initiative meant that Danish students and researchers would mix with the Chinese, or whether it would end with small Danish enclaves in China.

Gregersen was keen to point out the great efforts they have made to ensure a good integration for the Danish students and researchers. Central to these efforts is the fact that all teaching and research at SDC is conducted in English.

The English language collaboration between Danish and international researchers was covered by Nikolaj Helm-Petersen, of the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation. His figures showed strong increases over the past years.

Facts

The Sino-Danish Centre for Education and Research (SDC) is a joint project on education and research between the eight Danish universities, the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (GUCAS) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The overall aim of SDC is to promote and strengthen collaboration between Danish and Chinese research and learning environments for the benefit of both countries.

“A third of all students who enrolled in a PhD programme in Denmark last year are from overseas. And in the past four years we’ve seen a tripling in the number of overseas PhD students at Danish Universities.”

This sharp increase, Petersen added, has led to queries about whether this would lead to an unhealthy influx of foreigners.

“But the National Research Foundation has categorically denied such worries because Denmark needs intelligent ambassadors,” he said.

Ten new partnerships a day

Petersen also presented new figures from the European Commision, which show a massive increase in Danish participation in international research programmes.

“Some 19,126 partnerships have been established between researchers from Denmark and other countries through the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) – which is probably the world’s most comprehensive research programme, worth around €51 billion.”

That amounts to almost ten new formalised partnerships with overseas researchers every day of the year. And this figure is expected to rise even more, said Petersen.

He also brought with him figures for the share of scientific publications with international cooperations. The figures revealed a doubling from 23 percent in the ‘80s to the current 55 percent for Danish research articles.

Read the article in Danish at videnskab.dk

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Translated by
Dann Vinther