The Nordic Centre in Shanghai will, by the beginning of next year, be reduced from 25 to 24 universities, as CBS is withdrawing its membership.
“I’m surprised, baffled, that CBS of all Danish member universities, is the one that wants to withdraw. It’s all about business in Shanghai and CBS is a business school, so CBS should be there first,” says Poul Duedahl, associate professor at the Faculty of Social Science at Aalborg University and the board member representing Denmark at the Nordic Centre in Shanghai.
The aim of the research center is to assist researchers by providing them with office spaces, conferences to attend, a network of researchers in China, and Chinese contacts – which are generally difficult to obtain.
They will think that we are not interested in China anymoreAri Kokko, Professor at CBS
But the Nordic Centre is not just a tool for researchers, it also creates opportunities for CBS students to go on exchange, take part in summer courses in China, and collaborate with or get involved with internships for companies in Shanghai. Poul Duedahl finds it hard to understand why saving on 7,400 euros justifies pulling out from a city, which is “a global hot-spot.”
What will China think?
Ever since the 1990s, CBS has closely collaborated with four institutions – Nordic Centre in Shanghai, Nordic Centre in Delhi, Danish-Chinese Business Forum, and Nordic Institute of Asian Studies – that were involved with research and education about Asia. These collaborations have resulted in closer ties between researchers and students from various Nordic and Asian universities.
However, in March this year, CBS senior management made the decision that the university was no longer in a financial position to support all collaborations.
Ari Kokko, Professor at the Department of International Economics and Management, and Director of Asia Research Centre at CBS, is afraid how the decision will be looked upon in China.
“Our Chinese counterparts will be asking themselves what leaving the institution means, and they will think that we are not interested in China anymore,” says Ari Kokko.
This leaves CBS’ researchers and students with fewer options, argues Thomas Skinnerup Philipsen, President of CBS Students.
“Right now, the discussion is, can we cut some low hanging fruits? It was the idea to achieve administrative efficiency, but what we see now, is that there are no more low hanging fruits. As such, you have to cut back on talent development programs both for researchers and students and that’s a shame,” says Thomas Skinnerup Philipsen, Chairman of CBS Students.
CBS stops paying for memberships
For now, all the other Danish universities will maintain their membership in Shanghai. The newest member to join their ranks will be the University of Lapland in Finland.
But CBS pulls out, because it has a general principle that “membership fees which have CBS wide benefits can be paid centrally. On the other hand, membership fees which have relevance to only one or few departments should be paid locally,” writes Martin Kramer-Jørgensen, Head of Secretariat at CBS in an email to CBS WIRE.
Jens Gammelgaard, the Head of the Department of International Economics and Management, is taking a neutral stance about the decision made by the senior management, but when it comes to the funding of the membership fees which the Asian Research Center is in need of, his opinion is clear.
“INT doesn’t want to pay the membership fee, since I – as the head of department – think that I have to administer the grant we are given to support the employed researchers work, teaching, and communication. Furthermore, the outcome of the Nordic Research Center is primarily focused on students,” writes Jens Gammelgaard, Head of Department of International Economics and Management at CBS, in an email to CBS WIRE.
Savings ran out
The Asia Research Centre (ARC) especially took a heavy hit when the cutbacks were introduced. In 2015 and 2016 the budget was cut to half and from this year, ARC has lost all of its budget, explains Ari Kokko.
He adds that ARC managed to continue their collaboration efforts, only by using money that was saved up over years past.
This strategy was successfully implemented, until the inevitable occurred and the funds dried up
Ari Kokko, realizing that ARC’s future ventures with the intrinsic institutions were being threatened by budget cuts, wrote a letter to CBS imploring them to revert back to the way it was before and pay the full sum of the membership fees.
Four months later, he received a reply in which CBS offered to pay for half of the fees. A decision Ari Kokko strongly opposed.
“ARC (Asia Research Center) was not able to convince senior management that the memberships in question had CBS wide benefits, hence ARC and INT (Department of International Ecocomics and Management) were asked to find resources for the membership fees within their own budgets or through external funding,” explains Martin Kramer-Jørgensen to CBS WIRE.
Notably, young researchers benefit from the local resources offered by the Nordic Research Centre, as they can get unique contacts such as other researchers and companies in China. The students on the other hand, get an opportunity to go on exchange and take part in summer schools – this goes both ways.
Withdrawing the membership therefore creates a dilemma, as Thomas Skinnerup Philipsen sees it.
“It’s a real dilemma. Either we let the students take these affordable summer schools in Shanghai and we let our researchers be up to date on matters regarding Chinese and Asian economics, or we can give more feedback on an exam. It’s sort of a lose-lose situation or a zero-sum game, you obviously can’t have both,” says Thomas Skinnerup Philipsen.
An open door
Obviously, the funding of the membership is the big issue here. Neither CBS centrally nor ARC are able to pay for the membership fee, so why can’t it be funded externally?
A lot of research at CBS is funded externally, however, getting money for a membership is a whole different story, explains Ari Kokko:
“Funding for memberships are difficult to get from external sources because they are against overhead costs.”
So, what is to be of ARC and their research effort in China?
“The most important for ARC’s continued effort will be the Danish-Chinese Business Forum and the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies because there, we have big applications for research funding that are currently in the loop. If we drop out of these memberships, we cannot be a part of the research funds,” says Ari Kokko.
Even though it seems, as if the party at the Nordic Research Center is over, Martin Kramer-Jørgensen leaves the door open for the people at ARC.
To the question: Will CBS reconsider paying the membership fee for the Nordic Centre in Shanghai again, Martin Kramer-Jørgensen says:
“The management will reconsider paying if ARC/INT can convince senior management that the memberships have CBS wide benefits.”