Online platforms change how universities work

Seventeen presidents from universities around the world attended the World University Presidents’ Forum both in person and online on Oct 14, to discuss the challenges and developmental trends facing higher education in the post-epidemic era.

The forum was organized by Shandong University (SDU) as a part of its 120th anniversary celebrations.

Challenges created by the global COVID-19 pandemic are shaping the contours of a new internationalization of higher education and encouraging universities to look for ways to deepen collaboration, such as by working digitally, presidents of universities said at a recent forum held in Jinan in Shandong province.

“The COVID-19 pandemic triggered profound changes in education. It has accelerated the deep integration of higher education and modern information technology,” said Fan Liming, SDU president. “Openness and cooperation are important to universities promoting scientific research and innovation, as well as addressing global challenges.”

She added that she was considering how to use SDU’s current resources to deepen global cooperation in the post-epidemic era.

SDU cooperates with over 200 higher education schools and scientific research and development organizations in 30 countries and regions. Leveraging its contacts, the university invited 204 overseas teachers to offer online classes using interactive features such as real-time video this summer. The classes were taken by a total of 5,507 students.

Brian P. Schmidt, vice-chancellor and president of the Australian National University, said via videolink to the forum, “Although the pandemic has given the world a set of tools to work together digitally in a way that wasn’t possible before, we’ll have to work hard not to go backward in terms of international collaboration and fracture into groups of those able to travel to meet each other.”