On 16 April 2019, STINT and the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions’ expert group on internationalisation hosted a seminar on academic collaborations with Chinese higher education institutions (HEIs).

The seminar was opened by Prof. Eva Åkesson, chair of the expert group, and Dr Andreas Göthenberg, Executive Director of STINT. Thereafter four speakers presented their experiences of cooperation with Chinese colleagues in research areas such as electrical engineering, energy, medicine and sinology.

The speakers had all worked at Chinese HEIs since the 1980s and 1990s, and could describe developments up to the present. They said that access to funding had been a problem before, but that there now are many sources of research funding in China, something that generate possibilities to engage in international research cooperation. The Chinese state has long invested in supporting Chinese students and postdoc researchers who want to study and do research abroad. Today there is also much greater interest from students and researchers in Sweden to participate in the scientific development taking place in China. The speakers moreover discussed the restriction of academic freedom in China in recent years, particularly in the social sciences. This is a challenge faced by Swedish HEIs in cooperation with their Chinese counterparts.

The considerable interest in the seminar indicated that Swedish HEIs want to and should continue to work with Chinese HEIs. Yet one conclusion of the discussion was that Swedish HEIs should work in a more structured way with their Chinese counterparts without being too naïve in certain contexts. This could for example include more coordinated cooperation between HEIs. It is clear that different types of exchanges of experience are of great value as regards Swedish cooperation with Chinese HEIs.