Foreigners play vital role: Yale chief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

Foreign universities have a vital role to play assisting the mainland face up to developmental challenges, the visiting head of a leading US university said this week.

Addressing an Asia Society luncheon, Richard Levin, president of Yale University, cited three key areas where overseas universities could help Beijing; establishing a 'more robust rule of law', fostering independent and creative thinking in students, and mitigating 'the adverse environmental impact of rapid economic development'.

'As China continues to grow, the demands for a stable and predictable rule of law will come increasingly not from outside investors, but from its own rising class of businessmen and women,' he said.

The central government was aware of 'pervasive' corruption and was facing up to the need for reform. 'This is where Yale plays a role,' Professor Levin said, explaining that the university's China Law Centre was 'deeply engaged' in shaping reform through establishing exchanges between China's legal bodies and US officials, judges and legal experts.

He praisedBeijing's investment in science and higher education, and the move towards pedagogical change.

Elite mainland universities were also looking to drop the European specialised approach to tertiary education in favour of a broader 'American-style liberal-arts curriculum'.

However, Professor Levin conceded the US was not the best role model for environmental care. 'Global warming cannot be averted unless both China and the US make substantial reduction in emissions of greenhouse gasses,' he said.

Professor Levin has been president of Yale since 1993. He was in Hong Kong after leading a delegation of 100 Yale academics and students on a 10-day tour of China following an invitation from President Hu Jintao when he visited the Ivy League university in April last year.