21st century Silk Road: Swansea joins international alliance of universities

Swansea University has joined an alliance of universities from Asia, Africa and Europe which aims to boost co-operation and strengthen international ties, in a 21st century version of the famous Silk Road, the trading route linking China and Europe.

The Alliance is called the Belt and Road, combining the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.  Set up in 2015, its 47 founder universities were drawn principally from China, but also from countries such as South Korea, Sudan, Malaysia and Russia.

The Alliance aims to develop “comprehensive communication and cooperation in education, technology and culture” amongst its member universities, promoting economic and social development of the countries and regions along the Belt and Road.

Swansea University was invited to join the Alliance, and formalised its membership at a forum held in Dunhuang, China, where it was the only UK university to take part.

600 x 406‌ Picture:  Prof Iwan Davies with senior figures from the Chinese government, at the Belt and Road conference.

Around 120 universities are now involved in the Alliance, with 110 of them represented at the Dunhuang Forum.   Top-level officials from China were amongst the 280 delegates at the event, including Mr Tao Xu, Director of the Department of International Cooperation and Exchange, Ministry of Education, China, and Mr Yuan Hao, Deputy Governor of Gansu Province, where the event was held.  The event, and Swansea University’s participation, was supported by the Chinese State Administration for Foreign Expert Affairs.

 Professor Iwan Davies, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor represented Swansea University at the forum.  In his keynote address, which was extremely well received by his audience, Professor Davies outlined Swansea’s ambitions to be a fully international university, mentioning the strategic partnerships it had formed with top universities overseas. Professor Davies was also interviewed by Chinese media.

400 x 317Picture:  Prof Iwan Davies being interviewed for Chinese TV

Student and staff exchanges, training, and research links are amongst the benefits that are likely to flow from Swansea University’s membership of the Alliance.

The University already has a link with Lanzhou University, which co-ordinates the Alliance.  Professor Paul Dyson of the Medical School is co-operating with colleagues there to find new ways to tackle the problem of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.  The link was strengthened during Professor Davies’ visit as he signed a Memorandum of Understanding, committing the two universities to work more closely together.

Professor Iwan Davies said:

“International partnerships are increasingly important for universities; they offer benefits for research and teaching, as well as create opportunities for staff and students.  

We have already developed strong links with China, for example through our collaboration with Lanzhou University, Professor Dyson’s joint research with scientists there.    This visit helped strengthen these existing links. 

The Belt and Road Alliance, however, also offers us an important new opportunity.  It gives Swansea University access to an international network of universities, including some of the top institutions in south east Asia, which is one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world.”      

A delegation from the provincial government in Anhui Province, where the forum took place, is to visit Swansea to explore further collaboration, illustrating the benefits already stemming from the University’s membership of the Belt and Road Alliance.