Mari-Anna Suurmunne has been working in Beijing as a Senior Specialist in education and science at Finland’s Embassy to China since October 2018. Thanks to her previous position as Director of International Affairs at Aalto University, she is well aware of the complex nature of Chinese higher education and science policy. Suurmunne, who holds a doctoral degree in international politics, is head of the education focus area of Team Finland in China, and is accumulating expertise in all sectors of education.
China – superpower also in science and higher education
With its population of nearly one and a half billion, China has become a superpower in higher education and science in recent years. Strategic steering and investment have even made China a world leader in engineering science (China held 11 top ranks out of a total of 22 in the Shanghai rankings of 2019, and its overall contribution was strong in other respects too). However, in other academic areas, especially in social sciences and humanities, China still has some catching up to do.
China is the world’s second largest country after the United States to produce scientific articles, and the second most important international research partner for the majority of the world. Its budget for R&D is also the second largest in the world. China’s goal is to be a leading country in higher education and research by 2050, and is seeking to make its 42 universities into world-class institutions within the same period of time. International cooperation plays an important role for China in scaling to the top. In fact, the best universities already have ample resources and provide attractive opportunities for both foreign academics and Chinese academics who have studied abroad.
Finland and China – partnerships and sharing Finnish knowledge, expertise and educational innovations
Nearly all Finnish higher education institutions have forged partnerships with Chinese higher education institutions. Similarly, China is high on the list of Finnish actors who share Finnish knowledge, expertise and educational innovations. The potential for cooperation and market opportunities, which seem virtually limitless, speak for China.
With Chinese higher education and research becoming more predominant and powerful, hegemony in the West is now being challenged. To this end, networks with Chinese actors offer opportunities for world-class research cooperation. Similarly, with China's economic impetus growing, being knowledgeable about China is ever more of an asset for our students. Finnish higher education institutions already benefit from well-qualified Chinese postgraduate students; indeed, there are many talented people in China who are interested in Finland's innovative higher education institutions.
China also invests strongly in early childhood education, basic education and vocational education and training. China is interested in Finnish teacher education, pedagogical models and learning solutions, and these offer opportunities for sharing Finnish knowledge, expertise and educational innovations.
Mari-Anna Suurmunne on Twitter: @MASuurmunne