During a trip to Beijing in May 2012, University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan met with China’s vice minister of education, Hao Ping, who expressed interest in having her talk with Chinese university presidents about elite schools in the United States. That interest became reality last week with the visit of a 16-member delegation that included a high-level official from the Ministry of Education.
Speaking through an interpreter Wednesday at the Colonnade Club, Sullivan told the group what it is like to lead an American public university in the 21st century. During her speech, she focused on why public schools are important, how they are changing and how U.S. leaders are working to sustain and improve them.
Sullivan also emphasized Thomas Jefferson’s founding vision of academic freedom. “This means that professors can disagree and criticize each other – and they do. They can criticize our national leaders – and they do. Professors can criticize me – and they do,” she said to polite laughter.
During a question-and-answer session, Ge Hua, deputy director of development and planning in China’s Ministry of Education, thanked Sullivan for her remarks and said they were very relevant to China, where most universities are public. “It is the same in China, these challenges that you face,” she said.
The delegation included presidents from Xinxiang, Qujing Normal and Gansu Agricultural universities. The group spent five days at U.Va. learning about everything from university governance to research and development, and student affairs.
On Oct. 28, Leonard Sandridge, special adviser to the president and former executive vice president and chief operating officer, gave a presentation on the relationship between government and universities.
U.Va.’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies organized the visit. “China is increasingly becoming interested in establishing partnerships with the University due to its reputation for quality as a leading public university,” said Billy Cannaday, who is the school’s dean as well as vice provost for academic outreach.
Another Chinese delegation will visit U.Va. in February. Cannaday said the State Administration for Foreign Expert Affairs and members of the Ministry of Education will talk with faculty and senior leadership about ways to create and advance quality improvements in education, research, management and institutional efficiency with leading Chinese universities.
“Establishing world-class universities is a strategic priority of the Chinese government,” Cannaday said. “We are excited to build on our professional relationships with SAFEA and the Ministry of Education through our strategic partnership with the Tri-way International Group,” a consulting firm that develops and implements training programs for many delegations from Chinese government agencies and business organizations.
“We look forward to facilitating these professional conversations and learning experiences that require the engagement of the vast talents and resources across the University,” he said. “I believe our school is uniquely positioned to work with colleagues across the University to create these tailored, multi-disciplinary programs.”