"Leaping over" disciplines: Historical context and future potential for interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in Chinese higher education

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Inter- and transdisciplinary research and education, as carried out by scholars trained in the West, is rooted in assumptions about the legitimacy of academic freedom, autonomy, and governance structures. What happens, however, when this type of research is undertaken in a new cultural context in which these assumptions are not self-evident? In this chapter, I explore higher education teaching, research, and governance in China from a historical perspective to answer a key guiding question of this book in this context: How are inter-and transdisciplinary research and education tied to historical notions of higher education within Chinese culture? Are they imports of recent internationalization of a globalized educational system? How are inter- and transdisciplinary approaches visible in institutes and programs that have been or are being created in China? The chapter starts with a description of past traditions in higher education in China and continues with developments that influenced the contemporary higher education system under the regime of the Chinese Communist Party. Finally, I conclude by linking these past developments with manifestations of inter- and transdisciplinarity within the contemporary system of Chinese higher education. The chapter shows that while inter- and transdisciplinarity have historical roots in a traditional notion of Chinese higher education and are beginning to take root in the contemporary system, significant barriers remain for its future development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Institutionalizing Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity
Subtitle of host publicationCollaboration across Cultures and Communities
EditorsBianca Vienni Baptista, Julie Thompson Klein
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge - Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003129424
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameResearch and Teaching in Environmental Studies

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