“UArctic-HIT Training Centre: A Bridge Between Arctic and Chinese Universities”, an article in the UArctic Shared Voices 2021 Issue


The Shared Voices is the official magazine of the University of the Arctic (UArctic), which is published annually. Shared Voices highlights the UArctic activities, members, and broader issues in the Circumpolar North. To celebrate UArctic‘s 20-year anniversary, the 2021 issue envisions where UArctic will be going in the next ten years. In this issue, an article entitled “UArctic-HIT Training Centre: A Bridge Between Arctic and Chinese Universities” written by Dr. Yifan Li, the Director of the UArctic-HIT Training Centre (UArctic-HIT-TC), was published, which reviews the history, roles and achievements of the UArctic-HIT-TC, and looks forward to its direction in the coming years. Established on February 26, 2019, the UArctic-HIT-TC is the first UArctic Regional Centre outside the eight Arctic countries.

By YI-FAN LI, Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on POPs and Chemicals of Emerging Concern in the Asian Arctic, Executive Deputy Director, International Joint Research Center for Arctic Environment and Ecosystem, Harbin Institute of Technology

On February 26, 2019, the UArctic-HIT Training Centre (UArctic-HIT-TC) was established in Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), the Peoples’ Republic of China. This is an important event which will surely be recorded in the history of both UArctic and HIT, since UArctic-HIT-TC is the first UArctic Regional Centre outside the eight Arctic countries.

The suggestion to establish the Training Centre was brought up when I, on behalf of HIT, gave a presentation at the UArctic Congress 2018 held in the University of Oulu, Finland, where HIT was also accepted as a member of UArctic. This received a positive response from the leadership of both UArctic and HIT. After a visit by Outi Snellman, Vice-President Organization of UArctic, at HIT and successful strategic dialogue between UArctic and HIT, the establishment of the Regional Centre was approved by the leadership of both organizations.

As stated in the MOU between HIT and UArctic, “[t]he establishment of the UArctic-HIT Training Centre meets both China’s Arctic Policy and the mission, goals, and values of UArctic, which is strongly supported by the leaderships of both HIT and UArctic.” The mission is to “[s]trengthen understanding, friendship and collaborations between students, faculties and scientists of Chinese and Arctic universities and institutes by providing a unique and advanced platform for cooperative educational and research opportunities.” As the Director of UArctic-HIT-TC, I have tried and will continue to try to do my best to achieve the goals of the Centre.

To raise the awareness of Chinese students on Arctic issues and the awareness of students in Arctic countries on China's Arctic policy and research, the Training Centre has established the International Arctic School (IAS-HIT), with full support from HIT. The IAS-HIT Summer/Winter Schools are organized in collaboration with Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the University Centre in Svalbard (Norway), and North- Eastern Federal University (Russia). The Summer School opens every July to undergraduates and the Winter School every January for graduate students from universities in China and countries worldwide.

So far, the IAS-HIT has organized two Summer Schools and two Winter Schools. We have invited top Arctic scientists worldwide, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, the United States, and China, to teach courses to the students. Already over 400 students have participated in the Summer/Winter Schools.

With financial support from HIT, we have been able to provide scholarships to students to cover their accommodation and meals in Harbin. A full scholarship that also covered travel expenses was provided to Chiriaeva Avgusta, an indigenous student of North-Eastern Federal University, Russia, for attending the 2019 Summer School. She said: “My understanding is based on my educational background and personal interest in circumpolar regions such as Yakutia and Nordic countries. I am strongly motivated to immerse into and extend my knowledge on Arctic studies and to further apply it in practice. Therefore, I believe that the Summer School is the place to bring out beneficial dialogue through learning.”

The current global crisis caused by COVID-19 has changed our activities in the UArctic-HITTC. For example, the Arctic Schools cannot be operated in the usual way since we are not able to travel and engage in face-to-face communication. But the pandemic cannot stop learning, so the 2020 Summer School and 2021 Winter School were organized online. In the two weeks of 2021 Winter School, both students and lecturers worked very hard to make it a successful one. As stated by Dr Derek Muir, Senior Research Scientist, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Member of the Academy of Science of the Royal Science Society of Canada, “I was happy to participate as a lecturer in the Winter School. Judging from the program, the students certainly got a tremendous amount of information from some of the leaders in Arctic research and monitoring.”

We promise to continue our efforts to achieve the goals of the UArctic-HIT Training Centre and the International Arctic School, to make the UArctic-HIT-TC a strong and effective bridge between the Arctic and Chinese universities.