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UCL president & provost Michael Spence delivers speech at ZJU


On May 19, Dr. Michael Spence, president & provost of University College London, visited Zhejiang University and gave a lecture in the Global Lecture Series.

ZJU President DU Jiangfeng warmly welcomed Dr. Spence and his delegation, briefing them on ZJU’s latest development. He emphasized the significance of UCL as an important partner of Zhejiang University, highlighting the strong foundation of cooperation between the two institutions. He expressed the hope that Dr. Spence's visit would serve as an opportunity to further enhance research collaboration, expand bilateral student exchanges, and promote joint graduate education. “We look forward to deepening the strategic partnership and turning it to a model for China-UK university collaboration,” he added.

In response, Dr. Spence showed his appreciation of the achievements ZJU has made in research and education. Interdisciplinary collaboration is a time-honored tradition and globalization is a long-cherished philosophy at UCL, he pointed out, adding that both of them are essential to addressing global challenges. Hesuggested that whilefostering ongoing collaboration in multiple fields, the two universities should carry out in-depth cooperation in key areas so as to make even greater contributions to global sustainable development.    

Representatives from the Office of Global Engagement, as well as the College of Biomedical Engineering and Instrument Science, attended the meeting and reported on the current progress of collaboration, while also offering suggestions to deepen inter-university cooperation.

Following the meeting, Dr. Spence delivered a lecture titled “Frontiers and Friction – The challenges and rewards of international, interprofessional and interdisciplinary collaboration”. Utilizing data and examples, he began by presenting the remarkable co-publications between UCL and Chinese universities in recent years. He emphasized the necessity of finding cooperative solutions to the numerous shared challenges faced by the world. In this context, Dr. Spence stressed the importance of being able to “work across various interfaces” and seeking common ground while retaining differences. Additionally, he underscored the role of world-class universities in empowering students and scholars to engage in international, interprofessional, and interdisciplinary collaboration, thereby deepening friendship between different countries through people-to-people dialogue.

Dr. Spence highlighted that “cultural difference can sometimes feel like a problem, a source of friction, as sort of like a grain of sand in the oyster”. However, he believed that these efforts would eventually pay off. As a veteran Chinese language learner, Dr. Spence appreciated the rich cultural heritage of China and the determination of the Chinese people. He also expressed his confidence in the future of China-UK relations. He encouraged young students to explore new knowledge alongside people from diverse countries, cultures, and disciplines, with an open and inclusive mindset, thus making a positive difference on the world. 

ZJU’s Vice President He Lianzhen (left) presented President Michael Spence with a certificate of acknowledgement and a crystal commemorative plaque for his participation in the Global Lecture Series.

In the afternoon, the two universities held a series of discussions regarding bilateral cooperation. The School of Public Affairs, the College of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the School of Public Health at ZJU exchanged ideas with the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and the Faculty of Population Health Sciences at UCL. Dr. Spence and ZJU’s Vice President HE Lianzhen made concluding remarks. Both sides reviewed the course of cooperation, applauded the fruits of the Strategic Partner Funds, and expressed their commitment to supporting extensive cooperation among disciplines and scholars.

Founded in 1826, UCL is a world-leading university, with outstanding strengths in social sciences, medicine and life sciences. This year holds particular significance as it marks the 10th anniversary of the partnership between UCL and ZJU. Over the years, the two universities have carried out multi-dimensional cooperation in the fields of philosophy, archaeology, education, architecture, materials science, and chemical engineering. In March 2021, Michael Spence was invited to participate in the Global University Leaders Forum hosted by ZJU, where he responded positively to the forum's call for Joint Statement of Global University Leaders on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the same year, the two universities launched the Strategic Partner Funds to strengthen cooperation around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


Reconnecting with UCL’s valued Chinese community