Last month I visited China, meeting current and prospective partners in universities, government and non-government agencies, and research. The importance of our relationship with China can be demonstrated by the depth of the partnerships we have developed in a relatively short space of time.
In particular I am impressed by the model of educational collaboration developed at Swinburne over the past ten years. The Collaborative Articulation Program (CAP) model is our own version of the common 2+2 framework: but for important reasons the CAP model is more durable and enriching than its better known relative.
The CAP model is based on the philosophy that no one education system is better than the other. Instead the model seeks to unlock the inherent quality and strengths of both education systems in order to provide students with the best of both worlds and academic staff the opportunity to learn from one another.
The CAP model is flexible enough to allow varying amounts of time spent at both institutions and at vocational, undergraduate, postgraduate and research levels. Students receive degrees from both universities, which helps explain the special flavour of ceremony on display at the joint graduation ceremonies attended by our Chinese partners.
The visit to China included important meetings with the China Academy of Engineering and the China Academy of Science. The nation's top researchers belong to these prestigious academies. Swinburne will sign agreements with both, a distinction rarely afforded an individual university. We will also establish a relationship with the China Scholarship Council which manages a program to enable Chinese students to undertake research abroad and Australians to study in China.
I was fortunate to visit two excellent universities in Beijing that will become close partners of Swinburne. Meetings with the Beijing Foreign Studies University - China's 'diplomats' factory' - were fruitful and will lead to a mutually beneficial relationship.
Our meeting with the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) - one of that nation's top universities - was particularly exhilarating. Like us, BIT shares pre-eminent research expertise in the applied sciences and engineering. We are very similar universities across a range of metrics and we share a similar approach to internationalisation. The President of BIT and I agreed that Swinburne will host a conference for researchers in 2012 as the first step in our partnership.
I was also delighted to join the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) to celebrate the organisation's 30th birthday. For the past three decades, CEAIE has been at the forefront of promoting international cooperation through education. I have no doubt that CEAIE will continue to develop new ways to deepen the cooperation between Australian and Chinese universities.
Another highlight of my time in China was a visit to the impressive Suntech facility in Wuxi, where I signed a new agreement to continue the significant partnership between Swinburne and China's largest manufacturer of solar energy. The Victoria-Suntech Advanced Solar Facility (VSASF), established by Professor Min Gu and Suntech CEO Dr Zhengrong Shi, is a prime example of the impact Swinburne research is having throughout the world. The collaboration is providing a platform to commercialise NANOPLAS, a revolutionary new solar cell technology that has the potential to be twice as efficient as the current generation of cells.
And finally, I was privileged to participate in discussions with a number of media outlets which gave me an opportunity to talk about Swinburne's achievements and history in China. Our colleague from International and Development, Brian Zhang, arranged for me to spend time on China Radio International's popular 'Tea House' program, which has an audience of millions and can be viewed online.