The 2022 China and Higher Education (#ChinaHE22) conference focuses on ‘kindness’, in light of social and political climates characterised by increasing levels of polarisation and even international conflict. We argue that polarisation frequently impacts issues and discourses around China, Chinese students, and international higher education. Therefore, this Call for Papers (re)imagines kindness in the conceptualisation and practices of higher education, both in higher education within China and in China’s relations to sectors internationally. Some may think that kindness is an approach of the naive, but we would welcome a frank but also open dialogue regarding the potential and the limitations for ‘kindness’ as an approach that affects change in teaching, research, and social responsibility in higher education.
This builds on recent work by scholars such as Cheng and Adekola (2022), who propose kindness as a lens for understanding Chinese students. Together with others (Krane et al., 2017; Markle, 2019), they find that acts of kindness create positive impacts on students’ learning and wellbeing. The term kindness is linked in studies with ‘trust’ (Jasielska, 2020), ‘happiness’ (ibid), ‘positivity’ (Passmore & Oades, 2015), ‘safety and calm’ (Layous et al., 2017). These are in stark contrast to the largely negative concepts that Chinese international students used to describe some of their anxieties during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many were subjected to racist aggression (Lim et al, 2022).
Anxieties and ‘unkindness’ in higher education predate COVID. In regards to practices with students, unkind experiences have been outlined by Chinese and Chinese international students linked to increasing pressures to perform in higher education (Ma, 2020). Stereotyping and deficit narratives of Chinese international students also limits a sense of empathy and kindness as portrayed by institutions (Heng, 2020).There are ‘unkind’ interactions between and among academics and students that extend to Chinese higher education. And, finally, in some countries there is also what Lee (2007) describes as neo-racism – certainly a lack of kindness.
We would welcome further studies of the experience, understanding, and construction of kindness among individuals, but also call for thinking about kindness at the institutional, national and international levels. When thinking about these different ‘levels’ and the context of our conference, we recall with Cheng and Adekola (2022) that ‘the notion of kindness is of high importance to Chinese students and that ‘teachers’ kind-heartedness is a central value in the Chinese educational system’. In addition, Fabio and Tsuda (2018) and Li (2010) suggest that ‘harmony’, as one of the core Confucian values, highlights the importance of sustainability in living with both natural and social environments to realise internal, external, and inter-relational peace. Also, given the constant changing situations, there is likely a worldwide urge for the ‘grand harmony’ (Li, 2006) to bolster global peace, recovery, sustainability, and new opportunities at this extraordinary time.
To further respond to this changing world (#ChinaHE21), we hope this conference both addresses the notion of kindness as a psychological feature, but also wishes to draw attention to kindness as a potentially fruitful concept in other fields of relevance to higher education such as pedagogy, public (education) policy, sociology, international relations, among other disciplines. Referring particularly to the fields of law and cultural studies/anthropology, we would also like to consider how kindness can be incorporated into organisation and general culture (Kaplan et al., 2016) and as a ‘moral duty to act that extends beyond legal responsibility’ (Cheng and Adekola, 2022). Additionally, this conference would also call for collaborative contributions to further understand how we can potentially respond to times of conflict and rebuild new global normalcy, and what role China and higher education can play to promote kindness.
Conference Dates and Format
This year’s conference will be a hybrid format. After two years of ChinaHE online, we are really looking forward to meeting some of you in person again! However, we realise that not everyone is able to travel, and we therefore want to keep the online aspect too. ChinaHE22 will run over 3 days, with 1 face-to-face day in Manchester with online streaming available, and 2 fully online days.
Wednesday 30th November 2022 – Manchester and Online
Thursday 1st December 2022 – Online only
Friday 2nd December 2022 – Online only
Please indicate in your submission whether you want to present in-person at Manchester, or online.
Confirmed Keynote Speakers
- Prof. Ming Cheng, Edge Hill University
- Prof. Yingyi Ma, Syracuse University
Submissions should include the following details:
- Name of presenters and institutional affiliation
- Title of paper
- Abstract (around 250 words)
- Format: In-person or online.
Send to: ChinaHE@manchester.ac.uk
Deadline: 15th August 2022
Please choose between online only registration or in-person registration so we can cater for the right numbers.
Photo by Adam Nemeroff on Unsplash