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Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Professor emeritus, former School of Education dean to speak in China

Will address universities in midst of changeover in Chinese higher education

May 7, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- University Dean Emeritus of the IU School of Education Donald Warren will speak at four Chinese universities during a two-week trip that will take him and his wife Beverly across the country.

Appearing at the invitation of Chinese educators, Warren will discuss American higher education at Peking University and Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA) in Beijing, as well as at Yunnan Nationalities University in Kunming, and Nanchang Hangkong University in Jiangxi Province.

Warren has traveled to China to speak four times before, and at the invitation of his hosts, has always addressed issues in higher education because of heightened interest in university reform. The government began investing in the higher education system in the 1990s, with a goal of lifting China's universities into the top tier of world class institutions. Several achieved that stature years ago, and even more now aspire to global recognition.

In presentations to English language classes, Beverly Warren, director emeritus of IU's Student Advocates Office, found comparable interest in issues related to campus life. The reforms are requiring universities to rethink basic policies and practices.

"When we first went there in '91, college graduates were guaranteed jobs, which eased the universities' sense of accountability," Donald Warren said. "Then as part of this reform effort, they became very interested in accreditation, faculty evaluations, administrative structures, and in what students were learning. Comprehensive reassessment and planning have now been under way for several years. Changes have come rapidly."

China also is widening access to higher education, raising admissions from approximately 3 percent of the age cohort to 25 percent and eventually higher. Some existing institutions will need expanded facilities, and many new universities will have to be established. Plus, there is a determination to provide technological leadership, a commitment underscoring the importance of engineering universities like BUAA to the future of Chinese higher education.

Warren, who teaches history of education and education policy in the School of Education's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, will address policy analysis and policy effectiveness during a keynote address at Peking University's annual Education Forum. At BUAA, where the Higher Education Institute conducts policy and organizational research, he'll address higher education policy and reform occurring in the United States. At the universities in Kunming, in the western part of the country, and Nanchang, on the eastern side, Warren said he will try to learn more about how they are engaged in the new higher education climate through discussions with professors and students.

"China's interested in reform developments around the world because of the changes that they're experiencing and the fact that they want to be effective and competitive globally," Warren said.

Through long-time relationships the School of Education has built with Chinese institutions, Warren has found that the collaborative model is key and important to remember as IU develops its relationship with China. IU President Michael McRobbie led a delegation to the country last November.

"The U. S. has much to learn from Chinese higher education, and we at IU can benefit significantly from joint projects that promote mutual interests and cooperation," Warren said. He pointed out that the School of Education co-sponsored a conference on technology and learning in Beijing with the BUAA Higher Education Institute in the late 1990s, an event that led directly to faculty and student exchanges and faculty research ventures.

"The School of Education has numerous faculty who have joined these initiatives and are eager to advance still more collaborative efforts," he said.

The Warrens will be in China from May 12 - 27.

Media Outlets: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at Look for this news release under "News" on the home page. The sound bites below will have a clickable link to hear and to save the files.

Warren says the recent move towards reforming Chinese universities is why educators in China asked him to come:

"They want me to talk about higher education, which is what they've always wanted me to talk about when I go there because China is in the midst of a major upending of its higher education system. When we first went there in '91, college graduates were guaranteed jobs, which sort of put the universities off accountability because they didn't have to prove anything. The graduates got jobs. Then around the mid '90s as part of this reform effort they stopped that and all of a sudden the universities got very interested in accreditation and in what students were learning, how could they market their students to get jobs. So all of those things which are in a way old hat to us are now of some interest in China. So they want me to talk about higher education and I always say I don't know enough about Chinese higher education to talk about it, but I'll talk about American higher education and they say, 'Oh that's what we want to hear about anyway.' So that's what I'm doing."

During the trip, Warren says he'll be doing as much listening as talking:

"Because I just think we need to know what's going on there. The president wants us to be focused on China, but there's a really important model to follow in doing that and it is interactive. That is, if we think, even vaguely think, that our job is to save Chinese higher education, we've got another think coming and we won't be welcomed. So how to get the dialogue going is going to be a problem, because of the Chinese tendency not to think that way and not to organize academic experiences that way. On the other hand, they don't want someone to come in and tell them what to do and when to do it. And I certainly agree with that."