First Forum for Heads of Higher Education Institutions of China and Portuguese-Speaking Countries opens at UM

The First Forum for Heads of Higher Education Institutions of China and Portuguese-Speaking Countries (1.a Edição do Fórum dos Reitores das Instituições do Ensino Superior da China e dos Países de Língua Portuguesa) opened today (26 October) at the University of Macau (UM). The event attracted representatives of more than 70 higher education institutions in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Portuguese-speaking countries. During the forum, participants discussed the future of, and opportunities for, higher education, in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Officiating guests at the opening ceremony included Tam Chon Weng, secretary for social affairs and culture of the Macao SAR; Xue Xiaofeng, deputy director general of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Macao SAR; Yuan Hengge, deputy commissioner of the Office of Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the Macao SAR; Liu Jin, director of the Office of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Affairs of the Ministry of Education; Tian Liangang, head of the Division of the Education, Science and Technology of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the PRC; Bishop Stephen Lee Bun Sang of Macao, chancellor of the University of Saint Joseph; Orlando da Mata, president of the Association of Portuguese Speaking Universities; Pedro Miguel De Jesus Calado Dominguinhos, president of the Portuguese Polytechnics Coordinating Council; Rui Vieira de Castro, representative of the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities; Sou Chio Fai, director of the Tertiary Education Services Office; Yonghua Song, rector of UM; Peter Stilwell, rector of the University of Saint Joseph; and Yao Guanxin, representative of Jiangsu province.

In his speech, Tam said that earlier this year the SAR government and five higher education institutions in Macao jointly established an alliance to promote the training of Chinese-Portuguese bilingual professionals. The alliance supports the institutions to increase the depth and breadth of their collaboration in Portuguese language education and to work together to develop Macao into a training centre for Chinese-Portuguese bilingual language professionals as per the instructions of Premier Li Keqiang. Tam added that against the backdrop of the Belt and Road Initiative and the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Macao will continue to serve as a ‘bridge’ between China and Portuguese-speaking countries and will continue to promote collaboration between universities in China and lusophone countries in cultural affairs, technology and innovation, and personnel exchange.

In her speech, Liu said that China and Portuguese-speaking countries have made considerable progress in strengthening their relations and have achieved fruitful results through collaboration in education. She said that looking ahead, China and Portuguese-speaking countries are blessed with unprecedented opportunities in terms of exchange and collaboration in education. She provides two suggestions for how to take advantage of the opportunities. First, she hopes that university presidents participating in this forum will use this event as an opportunity and take advantage of Macao’s role as a platform to nurture more outstanding bilingual professionals, in order to provide intellectual support for economic and trade cooperation, cultural exchange, and mutual political trust between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. Second, she hopes that all parties will, based on their needs and strengths, draw upon their wisdom, reach a consensus, and increase collaboration in talent development, the exchange of teaching and research personnel, and key research projects, in order to contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative.

In his speech, Rector Song said that the Belt and Road Initiative is a key strategy of China; participating in and supporting the initiative will help Macao to tap into its unique advantages and accelerate the implementation of China’s growth strategy. He expressed hope to discuss with all university heads at the forum on how to strengthen multi-party collaboration in higher education between China and Portuguese-speaking countries in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative. According to Song, UM  will continue to strengthen collaboration with universities in Portuguese-speaking countries, as well as those in the Greater Bay Area and other parts of mainland China. He is confident that UM will become a centre for technology and innovation and a powerhouse for talent development on the west bank of the Pearl River, in order to make contributions to Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macao, and the world.

In his speech, Peter Stilwell explained the five reasons behind the timing of the forum. He believes that universities are the most suitable to initiate academic conversations between different countries and civilisations. He hopes participants in the forum will reach a consensus and be remembered as witnesses to a new model of collaboration in higher education among participating countries.

On the first day of the forum, there were two sub-forums, titled, ‘The Role of the Belt and Road Initiative in Portuguese-speaking Countries’ and ‘Opportunities and Challenges in Higher Education in the Greater Bay Area’. Participants had in-depth discussions on how Macao can better play the role of a ‘bridge’ between China and Portuguese-speaking countries and promote Sino-Portuguese collaboration in higher education, in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative and the plan for developing city clusters in the Greater Bay Area.

Jiangsu Education Department provided support to the forum by including the joint meeting for representatives from universities in Jiangsu province, Macao, and Portuguese-speaking countries in the forum. This helped to increase the synergistic effect of the forum and created more favourable conditions for multi-party collaboration.

The forum will last two days. Tomorrow (27 October) morning, two sub-forums titled, ‘Innovative Businesses and Cultural Tolerance’ and ‘Harmony in Diversity: Cultural Conversations and Conflict Resolution’, will be held at the University of Saint Joseph. The summit for university heads and the ceremony for the Declaration of Collaboration in Higher Education in Macao will be held in the afternoon. Participants will also visit Hengqin and Shenzhen to learn more about the latest development of the Greater Bay Area.