Expectations to Generate Synergy and Unique Potential Ties between Europe and East Asia

Possibility of Merging University Diplomas into One

Under the slogan of Global KU 2.0, Korea University founded the East Asia-Nordic/Benelux University Consortium (hereafter referred to as ENUC) and hosted a commemorative conference. 

On Tuesday, May 4, presidents, officials, and researchers from 12 universities in 10 countries, including Korea, China, Japan, Nordic and Benelux countries attended the conference.

(* Korea University, Korea / Fudan University, Renmin University, China / Waseda University, University of Tsukuba, Japan / University of Copenhagen, Denmark / The University of Oslo, Norway / Lund University, Sweden / University of Helsinki, Finland / University of KU Leuven, Belgium / University of Amsterdam, Netherlands / University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)

In his opening speech, Korea University (KU) President Jaeho Yeom said, “We need new horizons in education on the basis of academic integration and collaboration. I hope this conference brings us together to open new opportunities of cooperation and collaboration between Europe and East Asia. Let us move forward by creating great synergy with our unique potentials.”

Joon-sik Lee, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs and education minister, attended the conference to deliver his congratulatory message. Lee said, “An era that co-exists with artificial intelligence will come, which means that it is crucial for universities to be prepared to foster creative and talented intellectuals. Universities should be ready to meet the many demands of the new generation of university students, and therefore, put emphasis on the importance of dynamic networks. Today’s conference will be the foundation of this, and it is hoped that active academic exchanges will prosper for a constructive future.”

In his keynote speech, Jukka Kola, President of the University of Helsinki, congratulated KU on its 111th anniversary, and talked about the three “I’s” (Investment, International and Impact). Education investments at a university level lead to a better future. Universities produce numerous graduates; some stay and become researchers, while others enter the labor market and become workers who contribute to creating the future. They will attempt to make changes in a positive direction, which could generate a genuine influence upon society. In order to make that happen, we need to look deeply into the education methods. By hosting online mass international lectures and creating Internet education curricula universities will be able to offer various types of cooperation and collaboration opportunities. He also stated that there could be a possibility of merging university diplomas into one in the future.

Sunhyuk Kim, Vice President for International Affairs at KU, said, “Asian parents are still very devoted to their children’s education. This is because they believe that education guarantees their children’s bright future. Recently, however, there have been doubts on the roles that universities are playing. There have been intensified concerns on whether universities, as institutions of higher education, could guarantee students’ bright futures. Korean society needs diversity. The current Korean education methods follow the same as those of the days of the industrial revolution and we need to escape from them.” He continued to present what KU has been doing on education reformation over the past year.

KU introduced a flexible academic term system in order to allow students to spend their time on overseas studies, internships, and conducting domestic and foreign research. KU has also created the π-ville (Pioneer’s Village) which is an open space that operates 24/7, allowing students to come up with creative ideas. With regard to the scholarship program, instead of compensating and giving merits to those who receive high GPAs, scholarships will be used for those in need. The SK Future Hall, which is currently being constructed, will be reserved exclusively for discussions and for fostering students’ individual critical thinking in seeking knowledge and research. The College of the Future (tentative name) will be a division with a new concept that integrates IoT, big data, nanotechnology, and others, including the convergence of humanities and sociology. Representatives of each university who attended the conference sympathized with the direction of education reformation to a large extent.

At the Presidents’ Roundtable which was held afterwards, presidents and vice presidents from major universities got together to discuss the future of universities and higher education regarding the various challenges that all universities are facing.

KU President Yeom emphasized the importance of flexibility and fluidity in education. He also added that universities need to increase exchanges with industries and the government by mentioning the ties that universities and society have, and that business corporations are now facing an era in which they need to compete with universities in the R&D sector. President Yeom stated that, unlike the 20th century where professors were the sole providers in delivering information to students, we now have access to a variety of information via online sources. Therefore, we now have to create new information and build skills in providing solutions to problems by putting emphases on resolving new types of emerging problems. He explained that using intellectual energy generated through small group discussions in a new system would be a more efficient way. 

Rik Torfs, President of the University of KU Leuven in Belgium, said, “When we are to talk about the roles of future universities, we need to mention education, society, and research together by integrating the three instead of mentioning them separately in order to discuss various topics and issues. By doing so, universities can evaluate themselves and cross check each other on whether they are going on the right track. From a societal perspective, governments last for only 5 years. From a long-term perspective, however, the impact that universities can exercise is influential and more far-reaching.”

Jukka Kola, President of University of Helsinki, said, “There are various ways to collaborate between universities. The most important thing is not the method, but the quality. Students’ futures depend on the flexibility of a university. How to educate young intellectuals is of paramount importance. This is due to the fact that it is connected to the influence that has on the society. We are planning to set up a course related to entrepreneurship in all departments and I hope that many universities can join us in creating wonderful opportunities.” 

Wei Liu, President of Renmin University in China, stated, “There have been continuous discussions on the relationship between universities and government and universities and society. Universities have three types of influence, which are: influences on education, research, and society. Universities should never be isolated from society. Society expects many things from universities. One thing to note is that the freedom that universities have is relative. Universities need to keep a certain distance from the government and society, but, at the same time, they should not be isolated from them. Universities should not only contribute to the society, but also keep a certain distance to protect their freedom. In order to do so, universities need a lot of wisdom to maintain their independence.”

Shuji Hashimoto, Vice President of Waseda University, said, “In Japan, the pressure that society and the government are putting on universities is increasing. I believe that universities themselves should become more revolutionized. Of course, it is important for universities to progress in ways that society expects us to develop. However, the roles that universities play should not be limited to the society’s needs. We need to continuously think on how to overcome difficulties for future generations through education.”

Jun Ikeda, Vice President of University of Tsukuba in Japan, said, “The University of Tsukuba created a campus within a campus. Partner universities have opened their resources to us. In 1997, many airline companies created the world’s largest global alliance called Star Alliance, which enabled to them to increase travel stops through code sharing. Currently, the University of Tsukuba shares a system called the Course Jukebox with three other universities, which allow us to share over 150 lectures. Instead of being satisfied with being a good university, I believe we could make progress in advancing our universities by sharing resources.”

Dongmei Yin, Vice President of Fudan University in China, said, “Reformation begins with intellectuals, and therefore, the roles that universities take are crucial. The Chinese government is also promoting reformation and this will bring development opportunities for universities, as well as the Chinese economy. We need to enhance the education quality and students need to creatively change their way of thinking and acting. Since 2005, Fudan University has changed its education policy. It changed its curricula and opened new lectures to foster creativity and entrepreneur mindsets. Moreover, it encouraged students to cultivate convergent knowledge through an interdisciplinary approach and created a college of creativity. In order to move forward, students should develop and seek their individual interests. It is hoped that other universities could also generate opportunities in setting up education in which students could foster their creativeness together.”

Bringing the roundtable to an end, KU President Yeom stated that this opportunity enabled the representatives to come together and share common issues, challenges, and vision from participating universities and suggested a few plans that could possibly become the foundation of ENUC’s distinguished values and continued success in the future. ▲KU has over 1,700 professors and researchers, and by organizing and putting the research fields and research achievements of all professors and researchers from respective departments on a one page, the Research Portfolio, KU can share this with other universities in order to promote joint research. ▲For international joint research, universities can get together to make the most out of utilizing respective resources with global research funds offered by their respective governments and industries. ▲ Taking turns in preparing and hosting joint programs, such as International Summer Schools, will allow students to engage in broad networking and promote opportunities to share their respective universities’ innovative education systems. By suggesting cooperation for future education, the roundtable came to an end.

In the afternoon, under the theme “Potentials, Great Synergies,” group sessions were carried out, which were divided into: 1) Informatics/Computer Science & Information Systems, 2) Biomedical & Life Sciences, 3) Welfare Systems/Policy & Social Change. In each session, researchers representing their respective universities took time introducing what studies were being conducted in their universities that were pertinent to each subject and spent time searching for possible future collaboration in various aspects, including research, education, and administration, through intensive networking.

A session related to Welfare Systems/Policy & Social Change took place in a group presentation room located on the 2nd floor of the KU Centennial Memorial Hall. During the conference, which started at 2:30 pm and lasted for an hour and a half, seven professors (KU Professor Hyeok Yong Kwon, Professor Danny Pieters from the University of KU Leuven, Professor Heikki Tuomas Hiilamo from the University of Helsinki, Professor Ann-Katrin Backlund from Lund University, Professor Keyoung Dong from Renmin University, Professor Troels Ostergaard Sorensen from the University of Copenhagen, and Professor Lizhu Fan from Fudan University) participated and gave their presentations. 

KU Professor Hyeok Yong Kwon first presented on “Duplicity of the Labor Market and Korea’s Insider-Outsider Policy.” In his presentation, he mentioned the importance of the Insider-Outsider policy in the fields of comparative political economy and comparative social policy. He said, “Although it seems like there is a decrease when observing nonstandard employment patterns and trends, the nonstandard employment rate itself is, in fact, actually very high. Foreigners in the labor market are not under the protection of the social insurance plan and the very low rate of labor unions among the nonstandard employees is exacerbating this issue.”

The second presenter was Professor Danny Pieters from the University of KU Leuven who dealt with “Research and Teaching in Social Welfare System /Policy & Social Change.” With regard to teaching, he covered “Master Europe and Social Security and “The ELSS Researchers’ Forum, EFESE’s Plans Regarding Hybrid Education in the US”. Under the heading of research, he mentioned “Future Social Protection System in Comparison to Reality” and “Understanding of Mutual Social Protection.”

The third presentation, led by Professor Heikki Tuomas Hiilamo from the University of Helsinki, was titled “Towards a Society of Fairness and Equality.” He began his presentation by saying, “A nation has the responsibility to help its people pursue happy lives, and global justice carries the meaning of showing equal respect to every human.” He also said, “In order to create a society of justice and equality, setting up welfare principles that can be applied universally is the goal of global justice.”

The fourth presentation carried out by Professor Ann-Katrin Backlund from Lund University and was titled “Research on Welfare Systems/Policy & Social Change.” She provided an outline of welfare policy of social change and its response and said, “Scandinavian society, especially Sweden, is a well-known country for publicly establishing a welfare system. The North European society is still obviously called a welfare-state. However, its welfare system has been under strong political and economic pressure for the past 10 years.” She continued her talk on the tension that lies between sustainability and welfare.

The fifth presentation by Professor Keyoung Dong from Renmin University was about “Chinese Social Welfare System and Its Duty.” Topics on “The Structure of Chinese Social Welfare System,” “Two Main Social Welfare Systems,” and “Definition of Pension and Health Insurance” were summarized and dealt with in the presentation.

The sixth presenter was Professor Troels Ostergaard Sorensen from the University of Copenhagen who presented on “Recent Research and Education Activities in the Department of Social Science at the University of Copenhagen.” He said, “This will be an example of current and forthcoming research plans of the Department of Social Science. Moreover, I will talk about two things regarding the education plans for international students in the department of social science.” By saying so, he further mentioned the risk management of the social welfare system and global growth. 

As for the final presentation, Professor Lizhu Fan from Fudan University presented on “Social Science Regarding the Research on the Chinese Society in Fudan University.” He said, “The social welfare sector in China is engaged in an alliance of world class academic institutions along with scholar exchanges and it is functioning as one of the most prominent social welfare education and research institutions. Social development and public policy already have wide-ranging collaborative connections with many major research universities.”

In the meantime, a conference on Biomedical and Life Science took place in Cukoo Hall, in the LG-POSCO Hall, attended by professors from seven universities: Ji Hoon Ahn and Ho-Sung Son from Korea University, Professor Olov Sterner of Lund University, Svein Stølen from the University of Oslo in Norway, Tomi Pekka Mäkelä of the University of Helsinki, Mitsuyasu Kato from the University of Tsukuba, Lene Juel Rasmussen from the University of Copenhagen, and Zhexue Quan of Fudan University.

In his opening remark, Professor Sterner, who led the conference, said, “Biomedicine and life science are deeply intertwined with other fields of science, and biomedicine and life science indeed account for a substantial portion of the research projects of all universities.” Following the opening remarks, each of the participants introduced their research projects on biomedicine and life science from his or her university.

Professor Son first took the podium, introducing the guests to the history of the Korea University College of Medicine and its commitment to research and development. “The College of Medicine started as the Joseon Women’s Medical Training Institute founded in the early 1900’s by an American doctor, R. S. Hall,” he explained. He also noted that the college places a significance emphasis on research, thanks to which “Korea University’s Anam and Guro Hospitals have been selected as Research-Driven Hospitals by the government. Korea University is planning to establish the Future High-Tech Convergence Medical Center in order to boost interdisciplinary studies for biomedicine and life science.” He added, “It primarily focuses on biomedical engineering.”

The next speaker, Professor Stølen, said, “Life science is one of the top priorities for the University of Oslo, which seeks new solutions to health and environment-related problems by making investments to the field.” He also emphasized the importance of “interdisciplinary approaches in research,” for “thinking beyond the borders of each discipline enables us to solve problems that a single discipline alone cannot.” The University of Oslo plans to establish the Life Science Center in the Colleges of Science and Engineering, and of Medicine, as well as the university hospital, and to host the annual Oslo Life Science Conference starting this year, where people of all social standings can meet and interact.

Professor Mäkelä said, “Life science is one of the main research areas for the University of Helsinki,” which “has special focuses on the cancers, healthy-aging, brain science, reproduction, application of plants, food, microbial synecology, and has employed well-trained researchers for the research.” He also added, “The University of Helsinki will found the HiLIFE (Helsinki Institute of Life Science) in order to promote its research in life science and to facilitate its cooperative relations with the Health Capital Helsinki Life Science Hub.”

Professor Kato said, “Tsukuba city, where the University of Tsukuba is, has a research complex that has been systematically designed and built by the national government, and it now has over 50 research centers. Tsukuba is a highly globalized city, where roughly 5% of its residents are foreigners, and my team has researchers from 9 different countries.” He then introduced his current project to look for “a method to pick out carcinogenic cells selectively, drawing on the fact that they and other normal cells grow differently as the environment changes.”

Professor Åkesson said, “Lund University takes a perspective of humanities to look at issues in natural science in order to find solutions to the problems of medicine and health. Lund University is actively supporting the interdisciplinary studies of humanities and science. Linguists, for example, are now studying the question “What does happen in our brain when we speak?” with the help of bioengineering.”

Professor Rasmussen introduced the University of Copenhagen’s CEHA (The Center for Healthy Aging). She noted, “Denmark is one of the most rapidly aging countries in the world. The CEHA studies the question “How can the elderly have a healthy life?” in preparation of an even more aged society. She added, the CEHA is “a network, consisting of independent research teams on humanities, sociology, medicine, etc.” with the aim of “interdisciplinary studies to look for another set of new solutions”

Professor Quan was the last speaker. “Fudan University has 250 professors in a variety of departments who study life science and medicine. Fudan’s primary research area covers functional genomics and developmental physiology, and it also has two government-supported laboratories for nuero-biology and genetic engineering.”

As each sub-session reached its end, all the participants gathered at the Global Conference Hall’s Centennial Digital Library at 4:30 p.m. to have a wrap-up discussion, in which they shared what they had discussed in the sub-sessions. Professors from Korea University, who had taken notes of the discussions in each session, gave presentations in the wrap-up discussion, followed by a Q&A session.

Jounghyun Kim, Professor of Computer Science, made the first presentation on “Session 1: Informatics/Computer Science & Information Systems.” “Each of us introduced his or her research, and commented on it,” he said, “Although only parts of our research could be discussed due to time limitations, it was a great opportunity to get the big picture of what researchers from other universities do.” In his concluding remark, he said, “This session, hopefully, will bridge experts in this field. For example, Korea University might introduce Norwegian scientists to Korean companies. To build up, the network requires, of course, to base our research on a systematic and firm ground, and that is the challenge that lies ahead of us.”

The second presenter was Ji Hoon Ahn, Professor of Molecular Biology, who summarized “Session 2: Biomedical & Life Science.” “I have studied at Korea University for the last 15 years, and now I have this great opportunity and honor to introduce our past research achievements and future paths, where we can cooperate with one another.” He then proceeded to give brief and detailed summaries of seven participants’ talks. He first talked about the issues in medicine and bio-technology each university is focusing on, and noted that “although each had their own specialties, there were three research areas that interest all: cancers, brain and internal cell networks, and healthy aging.” This, Ahn diagnosed, “signals that all participants acknowledged that the essence of our research lies in the concern for humanity.”

Finally, Woojin Lee, Professor of Economics, summarized “Session 3: Welfare Systems/Policy & Social Change.” “Some introduced their own research projects, some suggested new research topics and questions, and some discussed the areas of the common research interests,” he said, and then summarized each participant’s talk. He also added, “Each speaker was given 10 minutes, but Professor Peter (KU Leuven) who served as the chair did a good job in leading the session, by adjusting the time allocation so that we could have more time for deeper discussions afterwards.” He ended the presentation, summarizing the topics covered in the session as “issues that befall many countries such as aging, population mobility and low birth rate, and big data analysis for social sciences.”

Following the summary presentations, Vice President for International Affairs, Sunhyuk Kim, added, “There are two seemingly contradicting proverbs in Korea: “The beginning is the half of the whole” and “One first spoon of rice never makes you full.” These sayings, I believe, explain the reason why we are here. Today, we all had the opportunity to get to know each other. Although I have only a limited understanding of others’ projects, we will endeavor to seek a better understanding. The most important thing to remember is that this conference should not be the end. Our distinguished guests, you have all made significant contributions to the conference, which is the beginning. I hope this forum will promote regional and global cooperation for future research projects – if we could do so, the time and efforts that we have spent here at KU would be a price worth paying.” Kim then ended his speech, expressing sincere gratitude to all the guests.

In the Q&A session that followed, participants asked questions about the institutionalization of the conference, for which the participants actively discussed the methodologies, topics, and scopes of their prospective collective research projects. Having agreed on the synergy effects of interactions in the academia, they then decided where to have the next conference, and the participants concluded the wrap-up discussion.

Korea University plans to host and organize 2016 ENUC in order to promote collective research projects, develop collective education programs, and fulfill collective social responsibilities of major universities in the East Asia–Northern Europe-Benelux region, with the aim of building a cooperative network, adapting to the waves of globalization, and fostering “pioneering intellectuals” who will lead the world in the future.

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