Setting a president

Lu Gaoqing, the China-born head of the University of Surrey, is working to forge tighter bonds between the institution and its mainland alumni, Xing Wen reports.

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A special graduation ceremony took place in Shanghai on Oct 19. A delegation from the University of Surrey made a trip all the way from Guildford in the United Kingdom to Shanghai to host the event for its Chinese students and their families.

It’s compensation for those new graduates who were unable to attend the graduation ceremony held in the UK, because their student visas expired before the event was scheduled.

“The ceremony here in Shanghai follows the same process as that in the UK, while also being open to our alumni and their friends and families. We came to forge deeper university ties with our Chinese graduates,” says Lu Gaoqing, or Max Lu, president of the Guildford-based university.

Since Lu’s appointment as the president and vice-chancellor of the university in 2016-the first time that a China-born and educated scientist has been given such a high-ranking position at a top-rated British university-he has made continuous efforts to network with Chinese graduates and establish quality partnerships with universities, institutions and corporations in his homeland.

For instance, Lu has invited the Chinese telecom company Huawei to invest in, and co-found, a new 5G innovation center there, a platform which aims to carry out research in fields like virtual reality and digital healthcare.

At a time when Huawei became a target of the United States in trade disputes, being banned by the US on espionage accusations, some UK universities severed links with Huawei. But Lu still pressed forward with this research agenda, arguing that if universities want to maintain their neutrality and academic freedom, they should not be affected by geopolitics.

The Chinese-Australian chemical engineer and nanotechnology expert believes that, to make a sustained contribution to society, it is best to do so jointly, utilizing talent from different countries.

As a multinational scholar who pursued his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at China’s Northeastern University, completed his PhD at the University of Queensland and lectured at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, the 56-year-old knows how important it is to be exposed to cultural diversity.

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