Founded in 2015 by Professor Adam Nelson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Professor Shen Wenqin at Peking University, the UW-PKU Workshop on Higher Education has met in alternating years in Madison and Beijing to discuss pressing issues in post-secondary education in the United States, China, and the world. Past workshops—led by historians, social scientists, and comparative educationists with an interest in institutional strategies of knowledge production—have addressed such diverse topics as intellectual property and technology transfer, liberal education and cultural/political leadership, student flows and strategies of higher-education internationalization, universities and “the new urbanism,” the role of area studies/regional inquiries in the relationship between universities and geo-politics, and the pursuit (and politics) of “equity” in modern higher education.
Each year’s workshop includes participants from various universities, not only from the United States and China but also from many other countries. Participation is by invitation, with roughly 20-30 scholars per workshop, plus additional observers from the host institution (and beyond). All papers are distributed in advance of the workshop, with each assigned a respondent to initiate a robust and rigorous discussion. Many papers from the workshop have found their way into publication. With its constantly expanding network of participants, the annual UW-PKU Workshop on Higher Education is arguably the most active ongoing scholarly collaboration between the United States and China on the history and sociology of higher education—a topic of urgent policy interest. The principles and practices of U.S.-China academic exchange have attracted significant attention in part because the strength of this exchange is likely to have a major impact on academic knowledge production, the global circulation of ideas, and higher-education policy-making in the 21st century.