Bridging many worlds

Education | Katie Hung 5 Mar 2019

The university of Chicago has been strengthening its collaborations with institutions in China and Hong Kong.

The university renewed two memorandums of understanding in January on student exchanges and research with the University of Hong Kong for three years until 2021.

While the number of HKU undergraduate students going on exchange doubles, students from the university taking part in quarter-long academic programs based at the new Hong Kong campus are granted access to HKU's campus and facilities.

New projects, such as symposiums for radiology for breast and body imaging, and workshops about robotic surgery, are covered under the expansion of the joint Global Partnership Fund. It provides more support for cross-disciplinary activities from both universities.

More research initiatives focusing on China are targeted to roll out fast with the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics - China being launched with a memorandum of understanding signed with Tsinghua University in Beijing.

With the newly established Hong Kong campus serving as its base, the new project has three initial areas of research focus - the Chinese model of economic growth, a macro study of the Chinese financial markets and Chinese energy and environmental policy, said the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics director, Michael Greenstone, who is also a professor of economics at the college and its graduate institution, Harris School of Public Policy.

He agreed there is a lot of room to develop research on China's economy and these research initiatives are expected to work hand in hand with Chinese institutional partners.

"I think what has happened in China in the last 30 years is without global precedence. Since 1990, per capita income in China has gone up by 900 percent."

"We don't have a very deep understanding of what happened in China, how they managed to come this far, what are the implications for Pakistan and India today, and what are the implications for sub-areas in Africa today.

"All those are super-important questions and we don't have a very compelling answer. What are the implications for China? The primary thrust for all of this is trying to unpack what happened in the past three decades."

The deal also fosters short-term faculty and student exchange programs between the two institutions.

"A lot of economic research is done with co-authors," Greenstone said. "I think choosing co-authors is a bit like getting married. You don't just do it with anybody and there's no way it could happen without people getting to know each other.

"And the aim of having Tsinghua's faculty institute come to Chicago is to get to know each other, start exchanging ideas and make people work together. The same thing goes for the Chicago faculty coming to Hong Kong, or Beijing."

He added that a research grant program, to which faculties from both universities have contributed money to, will allow the two to apply for projects to deepen engagement or do research together.

The affiliate of the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, has also announced a five-year research collaboration with another institute in Beijing, the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Tapping into energy and environmental issues and challenges, it is aimed to offer Chinese policymakers new tools to solve priorities in different issues.

The Becker Friedman Institute for Economics is named after Nobel Laureates and economists Gary Becker and Milton Friedman. It aims to bridge the gap between academic researchers and decision-makers by making research conducted by the university's economics community into more accessible formats.

katie.hung@singtaonewscorp.com

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