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Creating a Global-Connected University of New Beacon of the Future

22 February 2019

By Professor Richard Li-Hua


Very much honoured to accept the position of the President of New Beacon. Our vision is to create a global-connected university of New Beacon of the future. Very much privileged to work with a global and local team here at New Beacon campus. I have deliberately used the word “creating” rather than “building”. This means that we are not building a university physically with concrete, bricks and wood, cement and mortar, etc. as we have already possessed a beautiful garden-like campus with well-established classrooms, lecture-theatre, seminar-rooms, conference facilities, gymnastics and sports & fitness facilities, student-accommodations as well as catering services on a grand area of 50 acres of land in the Borough of Stafford. We are “creating a global university of New Beacon of the future”, which is more accurate and precise. We are proud to be revitalising the former university campus and bringing our own perspective to the rich history of global higher education.


Leading Strategic Change:  Why a clear vision is important?


Well-crafted vision is the soul of the organization. It is important for a university to have wonderful buildings, trees, gardens and premises, but a clear vision is much more important than all these. Without a vision, the university or an organization has no soul and direction. A leader will lead an organization going nowhere without a clear vision. Also, a leader is similar to a driver. Do not assume that you are always in front of a car — you can pull it. Clearly you are driving a car with a clear direction. You cannot be too fast neither too slow. You need to be at appropriate speed. When you want to make a turn, not only you need to look at the direction of your turning, but also front and back, even the opposite. It is almost the same as you lead an organization, not only so, but also you should be aware the “organizational wall” – the driving force and the resisting force can make the wall into a zig-zag shape.


A transformational leader in a university is a facilitator who manages a leading change by encouraging people to a higher level of motivation, engagement, empowerment and morality. The process of transformational leadership aims at delivering changes through influencing people in attitudes, behaviour and assumptions held by staff, students, alumni and employees, as well as building alignment and commitment for the achievement of organisational goals and objectives. However, we aim to do things differently – We are creating a globally-connected university, tackling the challenges and opportunities between west and east, which has never existed before.


However, how does a leader lead a strategic change? By what, a leader can build an alignment and commitment of his/her workforce? The ability to visualize and articulate a possible future state for any organization has always been a vital component of successful leadership, which enables the organizations to design its road-map of the future. A vision statement sets out long-term goals, future expectations and aspirations of the stakeholders clearly and concisely. A well-crafted vision statement is intended to inspire and motivate the organization’s workforce by providing a picture of where the organization is heading. To the external stakeholder, a clear and firm vision is also important.


However, for us with a clear vision in creating a globally-connected university, tackling the challenges and opportunities between west and east and developing future leaders and managers, the alignment with and articulation of the trends of the global higher education and the trends of the higher education in the UK in our vision is absolutely essential. For us, furthermore innovation is important. We are not pursuing innovating education ethos of talent development, but also pursuing management innovation, system innovation, talent innovation, marketing innovation and campus innovation. We have to manage the university in an innovative way, in our own way. Only innovation that will make it work.


East Meets West:  Deeply rooted in Beaconside soil with a global vision


The idea and practice of universities has, for most of 800 years, for example, Oxford and Cambridge, etc. been dominated by a western view of what a university should be. Universities around the world have already developed various, new, innovative and entrepreneurial activities in an attempt to understand, adapt and contribute to the rapidly changing global environment. Therefore, the shape and content of the global higher education has been radically altered by the impact of the globalization in the world economy. The research-driven elite universities in the UK and US have offered a model that has been replicated around the world, including China latterly, in particular, in the last 40 years.


In the last decade, China phenomena has shifting the knowledge balance of the world. Chinese economy is all the way up since China’s reform and opening up in 1978 last century. It grew at a rate of 9.3% per annum from 2008 to 2012, accounting for 29% of the global net economic growth. After 2012, it slowed down, however, still maintaining a growth of 7.0%. At this point, China’s economy remains stable and keep growing steadily while resisting protectionism, it has shown the world that it has a trend of sustainable development, but also serves as a world innovation power house.


What has enabled China to do so? My humble research – China embracing innovation that I have coined – has to some extend shed light on the peaceful rise of China. The theory has been established from a global perspective, a historical and philosophical angle and a strategic management perspective, based upon my 30 years of observation of global challenges, rapid changes between East and West, my longitudinal academic research on China’s technology strategy and innovation strategy, competitiveness and sustainability, so as to resolve the paradox of China’s economy with sustained, high-speed and stable development within 40 years, to analyze the root of China’s social, political, economic and environmental sustainable development, and to explain the path of China’s peaceful rise.


However, the delivery of sustainability closely relates to the development of talents. Would China’s higher education develop the talents needed to sustain its economy in the next 40 years? Whether China has evolved a new model of higher education remains an unanswered question. People were surprised at almost the collective absence of higher education leaders as recipients of awards of outstanding contributors. It is a bit difficulty for people to understand why university presidents collectively blanked out among the outstanding contributors of China’s 40 years of reform and opening up.


However, at the context of the global environment, the unbalanced social and economic development between west and east urges people that it is time for reflection and rethinking of the approach and education ethos of the global higher education, which present different global business opportunities and pressing challenges. The current tendency of anti-globalization and free-trade in the west has enabled globalization being at cross-road. The 21st century is an era of contending, reconfiguration and reconsideration, and an era which calls for big idea, wisdom and big strategy. It is against such a background that our vision statement has been designed and developed. East meets west: Deeply rooted in the Beacon side soil with a global vision.


The challenges? The opportunities?


I was in Beijing during the Christmas and New Year festival season, having a dinner with many friends and collaboration partners. Many expressed their intentions for collaboration, but some said, “You have got a really difficult and taugh job for creating a new university, professor”. Well, I answered the question without hesitation. I am so happy and proud to be the founding president of New Beacon University of the future, which is to be created on a grand area of 50 acres of garden-like campus. I am the lucky man that the Chairman has created such a great opportunity for me, where I can translate our great vision into deliverable, measurable, achievable, operational objectives – We are delivering and creating a global university.


If you look at the legacy of Stanford University, you are not surprised at what I am saying. Stanford University officially opened on October 1, 1891 to 555 students. On the university’s opening day, Founding President David Starr Jordan (1851–1931) said to Stanford’s Pioneer Class: “[Stanford] is hallowed by no traditions; it is hampered by none. Its finger posts all point forward.” However, much preceded the opening and continued for several years until the death of the last Founder, Jane Stanford, in 1905 and the destruction of the 1906 earthquake.


Stanford University is an American private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is today known for its academic strength, wealth, proximity to Silicon Valley, and ranking as one of the world’s top universities. However, Stanford University very much struggled financially after the death of Leland Stanford in 1893 and again after much of the campus was damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Following World War II, Provost Frederick Terman supported faculty and graduates’ entrepreneurialism to build self-sufficient local industry in what would later be known as Silicon Valley. The university is also one of the top fundraising institutions in the country, becoming the first school to raise more than a billion dollars in a year.


If you look at the legacy of SIAS University, a Sino-American university in Xinzheng, Henan, China, 20 years ago, it was nothing but a large piece of waste land, even the agricultural crops did not grow there. And the number of the address of the university was un-known.


Founded by Chairman Shawn Chen in 1998 with an enrolment of less than 300 students at the time, today SIAS has an enrolment of 28,000 including over 500 international students, and employs about 3,000 full-time and part-time faculty members, including over 200 full-time foreign academics with their family members. The rate of foreign faculty to students ranks first in China. It is composed of 16 academic schools and research centres, which cover nine discipline areas offering degrees include liberal arts, science, engineering, economics, management, medicine, law, education and performing arts.


SIAS occupies 500 acres of land embracing a modern, beautiful environment with European and Chinese style architecture on its garden-like campus. SIAS Students enjoy a visionary curriculum and diverse campus activities. The dynamic environment and rich campus culture broaden the views of its students and encourage entrepreneurship, creativity, independent and critical thinking among both students and faculty. The participation of foreign faculty members and the use of English-language teaching materials also enhance bilingual communication skills and encourage all students become global citizen with global mind-set and innovative thinking.


A thousand miles starts with a single step


Time flies! It has been three months since I took office at New Beacon. It is important that we start with a clear and firm vision, a strong feature of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, global mind-set, which enable our students to become a global responsible leaders and full-fledged competitors.


We have now built and consolidated a dedicated team – a global and local team, which is crucial for creating the globally-connected university. In terms of hard capacity building, we have now opened the coffee shop in the ground floor of the main building with more refurbishment of classrooms, lecture-theatres, seminar-rooms, conference facilities, gymnastics and sports & fitness facilities, student-accommodations as well as catering services. We have established New Beacon Research Institute for West & East Management in collaboration with Zhejiang University. We will soon formally launch New Beacon Business School. Importantly, we have well-crafted our vision and mission statement, and we have up-dated our website with a new look. We have started the processes of a series of accreditations of BAC, SQA, QAA, etc. with an aim to achieve a taught degree awarding power (TDAP) within a relatively short period. Our sports and fitness centre works really well. We have welcomed our first cohort of students and we are welcoming a few hundreds soon. A thousand miles starts with a single step.