WIMEK delegation visits Tsinghua University

Published on
June 10, 2016

by Prof. Gert Spaargaren

In the first week of June a delegation of the WIMEK research school of WUR paid a visit to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. The aim of the mission was to develop collaborative projects for education and research, and to officially declare that both Universities are serious about further developing mutual collaboration in the field of environment.

On the first day of the visit, the Wageningen team – including Arthur Mol as the Rector Magnificus of WUR – was given a warm and very official welcome. An impressive banner indicated the name of the event: Wageningen Day at Tsinghua University (picture). After the opening and welcoming speeches, the ‘treaties’ were signed to formalize the intention for future collaboration, and a group-photo was taken (picture). This was the first highlight of the visit.

During a mini-conference, presentations from both sides were made regarding ongoing research and education programs at WUR and Tsinghua University. During this exchange it became clear that 1. Both universities have a strong research agenda in the field of water, waste-water treatment, energy, solid wastes, air quality and biodiversity/nature and 2. Both universities have the intention to combine their overall technological approaches to these issues with social science research on the governance and management of transitions and on the role of different stakeholders – including citizens – in the transition process. For that reason it was concluded that in the year to come, both universities will work on the establishment of a Tsinghua-Wageningen Research Centre on Liveable Cities. This research centre (the name is still under negotiation of course) fits well in the ongoing activities within both universities, and the exchange of staff, PhDs as well as MSc-students would benefit both partners in a number of circumscribed respects. Wageningen students interested in Panda research, or heavy air-pollution, or ICT as used by citizens to improve the quality of the urban living environment, could perhaps in the near future already benefit from the collaboration as agreed upon by both universities. So that would count as a second highlight.

The third highlight comes from the visit that the WIMEK delegation made to the MOOC centre that was established by Tsinghua University now three years ago. This centre has developed very fast into a professional organization with worldwide reach, producing more than 150 MOOCs with a team of about 100 specialists. We were informed about the setup of this organization and about the possibilities to develop a MOOC on ‘liveable cities’  in collaboration between Wageningen and Tsinghua University.

For ENP, these developments and initiatives are more than welcome and they provide new chances for our students and our staff to further strengthen the China/Asia research initiatives that were developed over the past two decades, not the least by the efforts of Arthur Mol as former chair of ENP. His presence in the delegation and his in depth knowledge about Chinese academia turned out to be very instrumental for making the WIMEK-mission into a success.