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Double PhD opens doors in China

Friday 25 Nov 16

PhD programmes

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A Danish/Chinese PhD has helped Claus Davidsen become one of the leading Danish experts in the Chinese water sector.

Claus Davidsen from DTU Environment has become the first Danish student to be awarded a PhD from both DTU and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) in Beijing, one of the leading universities in China.

Claus Davidsen, who completed his 3-year project in both Denmark and China, explains that it was an educational experience, but also involved a number of challenges:

“Some of Chinese data about water are classed as secret, which means they are normally only available to Chinese researchers. However, on account of my links with the elite research unit at UCAS and the insight I built up into Chinese culture and language during my stay in the country, I finally managed to get my hands on more-or-less all the data I needed. Backed by my own measurements and interviews with Chinese operators, this gave me a sufficient basis to bring my project to a successful outcome,” he says.

Claus’s PhD is the result of the Chinese-Danish partnership programme entitled ‘Sino Danish Center’ (SDC), which is a platform for increased collaboration between China and universities in Denmark. In this case, Claus was enrolled at DTU and UCAS, which are both leading institutions with regard to knowledge and research in the aquatic environment.

Quashed myths
Claus Davidsen’s work has resulted in his becoming one of Denmark’s leading experts in the Chinese water sector. His project has contributed a range of economic models for optimizing the administration of water resources in the north of China. Water is in short supply in the region, where the different provinces, companies and farmers are locked in a tough battle for the sparse resources.

Using Claus Davidsen’s models, the Chinese authorities can now calculate how best to utilize the water resources, how much they need to pump up from the groundwater reservoir, and what is the cheapest way to achieve good water quality in the rivers.

“Myths about the Chinese attitude to environmental issues abound in the West. Our default position is that the Chinese focus exclusively on optimizing profits and looking after the financial interests of their companies. In reality, however, the Chinese people place great emphasis on the environment. For example, the government has allocated a billion yuan every day for the coming ten years to improving the aquatic environment in China,” relates Claus Davidsen.

New PhDs on their way
The agreement between DTU and UCAS was concluded in 2011 via the Sino Danish Center, and in addition to the two certificates issued to Claus Davidsen, the centre has recently awarded a double PhD to another DTU student, Bentje Braun from Germany. Moreover, DTU Environment has three other PhD students on the same scholarship, all with the opportunity to earn double degrees for their work.

Claus Davidsen has a postdoc position at DTU until February, and in this context has just spent a month teaching Danish and Chinese Master’s students in China. He is also the co-supervisor for two student projects following on from his own PhD. These students are affiliated to both DTU and SDC, in exactly the same way as Claus Davidsen was.

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