LEAD Digital Academic Leadership Forum Enhances EU-China Higher Education Cooperation under HPPD in Beijing on 29 March 2024

The Forum on Digital Academic Leadership & Cooperation of European and Chinese Higher Education was held in Beijing on March 29, 2024, marking a successful gathering as a parallel event of the sixth meeting of the China-EU High-Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD). The event, organized by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the National Academy of Education Administration (NAEA), with co-organization by the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, attracted about 200 attendees from China, Belgium, Croatia, Portugal, Sweden, and Turkey. These included a mix of senior and middle-level academic leaders and higher education experts, coming together to forge the future of digital academic leadership and to strengthen EU-China higher education collaboration.


Prof. Huijun Hou, Executive Vice President of the NAEA, opened the forum with a warm welcome to the participants, emphasizing the importance of the forum for strengthening academic collaboration. Vice-Minister Jiayi Wang of the Chinese Ministry of Education highlighted the progress made in EU-China educational dialogue and called for continued joint efforts to tackle global challenges. Prof. Melita Kovacevic, representing the LEAD Academic Network Advisory Committee, identified seven key reasons why European and Chinese higher education institutions should intensify cooperation in higher education and discussed obstacles such as language barriers and systemic differences between educational institutions.



The opening session concluded with Prof. Chang ZHU, Director of the LEAD Academic Network, outlining the network’s growth and its role in bringing together leaders from the EU and China to enhance university governance and innovation in leadership.

Keynote speeches followed, focusing on the development of academic leadership and collaborative initiatives. Prof. Shen Wei from Zhejiang University moderated the session, noting the significant participation of Chinese HEIs in European research programs. Prof. Paul Wylleman from Vrije Universiteit Brussel examined the challenges faced by academic leaders and advocated for a wellbeing-focused leadership approach. Insights into the development of academic deans in China were shared by Prof. Jinghong Wang, while Prof. Antonio Rendas discussed the Portuguese higher education quality assessment methods. Prof. Lifeng Zhang presented on the collaborative achievements in metallurgy engineering between China and Europe, demonstrating the benefits of international cooperation.



The following panel discussion centered on the perceptions and implications of digital academic leadership as well as its development, with seven academicians from different countries sharing their insights. The importance of integrating digital processes into university governance was a major focus, alongside ethical considerations and the broader transformation of higher education in the digital age.



The forum wrapped up with a focus on the necessity of trust and cooperation in the academic sphere. Prof. Liping Chen, Pro-Vice President of the NAEA, encapsulated the event’s discussions and stressed the importance of continued dialogue through the LEAD Academic Network.



In a time of rapid digital change, the forum underscored the crucial role of international collaboration in higher education. By concluding on a note of ongoing commitment to shared knowledge and excellence, the forum established a promising path for European and Chinese HEIs to jointly navigate the challenges and opportunities of the future.