Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Executive President, Professor Youmin Xi joined thought leaders from around the world last month when he spoke at the 2021 World Universities Summit.

Organised by the International Institute for Higher Education Research and Capacity Building at O.P. Jindal Global University in India, the three-day virtual event explored the theme of ‘Universities of the Future: Building Institutional Resilience, Social Responsibility and Community Impact’.

Professor Xi was part of a panel discussion titled Responsible Research: Harnessing Knowledge Resources for Creating Tangible Social Impact, where he offered insight into XJTLU’s education model.

Interest-driven research

“In universities, there can be a lot of noise and interruptions that can easily take researchers in the wrong direction,” he said.

“To tackle this problem, we encourage our scholars to follow their hearts; to conduct research they are passionate about.

“While academic standards and an institutional strategy cannot be disregarded, we must not let them diminish our researchers’ professional spirit.

“We also place great importance on focusing on what the real demands from society are in the long term. We let that guide our research, which is easy to say but harder to do.”

Working with industry and society

According to Professor Xi, creating an innovation ecosystem that brings together academia, industry and society is key to driving responsible research.

He said universities need to be future-focused, solutions-oriented, and integrated in the wider community.

“Our goal is to develop an ecosystem that allows us to both take research outcomes to industry and society quickly and seamlessly and for industry or society to bring us their problems so we can help find solutions,” he said.

“It is our responsibility as researchers to serve the society we live in and to conduct innovative research with real-world impact.

“We also use this integrated approach in the education we give our students. At a traditional university, you might use disciplines to organise teaching and research.

“What we are exploring with our new campus is how we can use industry, and the associated knowledge and skills, as a new way of providing focus and innovation in our degrees.”

Professor Xi said another part of fostering a responsible research environment was to make sure researchers don’t exist in silos.

“We have recently improved our organisational structure at XJTLU to sustain a highly productive research environment,” he said.

“It’s easy to get isolated by departments, by schools, by disciplines. We have overcome these barriers by developing collaborative platforms that give both students and staff, no matter where they are from in the institution, opportunities to collaborate.

“Interdisciplinary education and research are fundamental to our university and our structure reflects that.”

The summit brought together more than 150 international experts, including higher education leaders, policy makers, leaders from the government and regulatory bodies, and representatives from media and other industries.

The 2021 World Universities Summit was live-broadcast on the YouTube.

By Huan Zhu

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