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Shaping the World with Agora ELITE Education Model: Myth or Reality?

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Professor Richard Li-Hua

Founder and President

ELITE Innovation College Cambridge


What is happening currently in the world is a major change with the nature of “breaking the traditional game” and “setting the new game” that has not occurred in the past 100 years. The impact of the great changes on the global higher education goes far beyond other fields. Oxbridge Model with a history of more than 800 years has never faced such a severe challenge. The world is now a different place to the one we knew. We need to be more imaginative and creative when socio-economic paradigms break down as they are currently doing.

However, there is an opportunity for innovation and experimentation. Innovation has never been as important as for today. There is an opportunity for the global higher education to tackle the digital landscape and identify solutions, new working approaches, innovative services and processes that create positive change in the global higher education.

A Revolution in the Global Higher Education

When MOOC was launched in 2008, it was only 25 students attended the course on the campus of the University of Manitoba while 2300 from around the world participated online. Hardly anybody could predicate that over one billion students around the world have to study online courses in 2020 after 12 years of the birth of MOOC. Today more emerging online innovative universities have begun to penetrate into the global higher education systems which post challenges in changing the traditional university model of 800 years old. When Professor Clayton Christensen published his book Innovation University in 2010, the main message that he wanted to convey was that 50% of the private universities will go bankruptcy if they do not understand the emerging technology and innovation. He could not imagine that his concept of Innovation University has to fact in the impact of COVID-19.

However, interestingly, I was honoured to deliver my keynote on ELITE O2O Initiative for Creating Innovative and Entrepreneurial University in the Global Higher Education at Ministry of Education Conference, 2016, Wenzhou, China. The ELITE O2O Education Concept that I created based upon the effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge transfer – Explicit knowledge, which has no need to convert, can be delivered and transferred online while tacit knowledge, which needs to be converted, must be delivered face-to-face@ [1]

Consequently, I delivered my keynote on Perspective of ELITE O2O Innovation University: A Revolution in the Global Higher Education in Post COVID-19 Era as a signal of formal launch of EICC at University President Forum, China Association of Higher Education (CAHE) 2020 Annual Conference, Zhengzhou University on 21st November 2020.

What is Agora ELITE Education Model?

Professor Christensen has been well-known as the founder of “disruptive innovation theory”, which describes the way in which new entrants in a market can disrupt the established business. If the outcome of disruptive innovation can be defined as winners, losers and changers, then we must adapt and accept. The ways that we access, transform, create, control and disseminate information and knowledge has changed radically since MOOC was. As knowledge continues to take primacy in society, the university’s primacy over knowledge erodes. Long the traditional generator, validator and manager of knowledge with its key role of teaching and certifying talent and skill of the next generation, traditional universities have no longer possess competitive advantages over emerging innovative form of Universities. The genuine innovative university with Agora ELITE Education Model is borne following the concept of the innovative university created by Christensen.

As technology innovation creates a near zero-marginal cost world, therefore, the core business model of the university is both threatened and offered new ways to make significant impacts on both quality and affordability of education and scholarship through global engagement and worldwide connective networks. As established previously, MOOCs and other online course options not only revolutionize the way that programmes and courses are taught but they also revolutionize the business model under which the university operates. Technological innovations and business model effects do not stop at MOOCs, however, there will be new business models as substitute.

We are proud that we have pioneered Agora ELITE Education model and ELITE Business Model, which is pivotal and convincing in tackling the challenges and opportunities in the post COVID-19 era. Agora, a Greek word, means a public space used for assemblies and market. The literal meaning of the word "agora" is "gathering place" or "assembly". In our terminology, the “gathering place”, is not only physical but also virtual, which means online and offline. ELITE is an acronym of e-learning of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship within an O2O Innovation University@[2] in the global higher education. Agora and ELITE have organic relation which complement each other which are instrumental in providing philosophical answers to the challenges and opportunities of GHE in the post COVID-19 era.

The Agora ELITE Education model makes every endeavor to convert this special knowledge into general education knowledge in the liberal arts education delivered though its well- crafted teaching and learning pedagogy in its well-established FOUR ELITE Colleges for the enhancement of the student journey and experiences through extra curriculums, mentoring and coaching and ELITE Global Talent Programmes as well as our prestigious ELITE Fellowship and EICC Internship scheme.

  • College of Innovation

  • College of Technology

  • College of Entrepreneurship

  • College of Leadership

Which are led by a well-known global faculty, connecting its offline delivery centres/campuses in our ELITE Global Colleges around the world.

Why do we need a global vision?

Since the elements of globalization are much advanced in research and innovation in the global higher education, and public and private sectors, however, it is less prominent in teaching and learning of the universities. It is even becoming much less attended in online learning. A global vision, a buzzword in the global community, is strategically situated in the global marketplace, which can attract various stakeholders and collaboration partners and allows us to nurture and develop global talents. A global vision provides a single point of contact for all the stakeholders and collaboration partner institutions.

Where does the world go?

How did human society develop? What is the driving force for development? There is no doubt that the ability of social innovation and technological innovation is crucial. Innovation is the driving force for human development. Conceptual innovation, theoretical innovation, technological innovation, and social management innovation are all the driving forces that promote the development of human society. We believe that conceptual innovation and theoretical innovation are primary. Imagine that if there is no conceptual and theoretical innovation in human society, then all other innovations are empty talks, which will undoubtedly stand still.

Why is Agora ELITE Education Model Convincing?

Nowadays, we will need fresh perspectives and profound strategic thinking to address a set of questions. What is the sustainable model of the university? Could the online innovative model substitute the traditional one? Could the vision and mission of the university be delivered without compromising the quality? How will global higher education evolve over the next 20 years? How can governments and education institutions take the challenges and make the most of the opportunities in the post COVID-19 era?

No doubt, technology enhanced learning has been playing a key role for the continuity of the education and learning. However, the side-effect of this, such as, severe disruption of the learning journey, inhibition of the enthusiasm for teaching and learning, frustration of the students, and their absence from the university’s participation system, lack of a familiar academic atmosphere on campus, etc. will have a long-term effect on the student journey, and education quality, which must be addressed and attended.

Almost all the universities and colleges are currently delivering courses online based upon the MOOC experiences since the outbreak of Covid-19. In fact, there is similarities of online delivery around the globe as universities and colleges have been forced to do so. The strategic intention of establishing the Agora ELITE Innovative Education Model is an exploration of an innovative education pedagogy through the integration the delivering students experiences, transferring knowledge, and embracing an aspirational education ethos with a global vision and embedded in technological system of O2O university. This technological innovation system demonstrates how various features and objectives of innovative and entrepreneurial university is created, translated, articulated and achieved in a learning organization context.

What have we achieved so far?

Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit, faith, hardworking, diligence, perseverance, resilience, commitment, engagement and contribution of co-founders, founding members, partners and collaborators, innovators and investors, colleagues and friends, with endless and non-stopping virtual meetings via zoom / Microsoft Teams and offline face to face interactions and discussions, we have overcome many hurdles in making tremendous progress and great achievements within two years out of expectation. As planned, we have two phases of the projects - The first phase is that we have self-creation of income generation while the second phase is that we apply the university title and degree-awarding-power.

In this difficult time, one of important distinctions that EICC has shown is that the attribute spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship have been built into the DNA and blood the innovative college. Also our global team has demonstrated the in-depth understanding the three words: Innovation, leadership, and resilience through which we shape the world in the global higher education. These words support and complement to each other.

My philosophy in this difficult time is that transformational leadership is that which embraces innovation, and can bring about strategic change that delivers growth, effectiveness and sustainability. Leadership roles are those that translate the vision and mission of the universities into deliverable and measurable objectives and goals, develop and implement the corporate strategy and facilitate the execution of the university’s strategy by: 1). building alignment; 2). winning minds by sharing the vision of the organisation and 3). expanding the capabilities of others

Global leadership is a process of influencing the thinking, attitudes and behaviours of a global community to work together synergistically toward a common vision and achieve common goals. We feel that the global leadership plays an important role as we have colleagues from eight different countries working together. Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Resilience can be defined as the ability – and tendency – to “bounce back”, which is what people do when face disappointment, mistreatment, defeat, or failure, but instead of wallowing or letting things keep them down, people choose to get back up and continue their work and lives with positive attitude towards the future.

In this challenging time, what we need is not only innovation and leadership but also resilience. Resilience is more important today than ever. No doubt universities should have a strong commitment in providing the education of innovation and entrepreneurship, but themselves need to become more innovative and entrepreneurial and demonstrate strong leadership with resilience to make change for the enhancement of the student journey.

We would like to summarize the followings aspects related with the great achievements that we have made. With sharing a great vision, we have made the self-creation of income generation via collaboration with Degree Awarding Power academic partners. We are proud and honoured being co-branded and have strategic collaboration with the following renowned institutions:

  1. Trinity Western University (TWU), Canada

  2. Davis College (DC), USA

  3. International University of Applied Science (IU), Germany

  4. University of the West of Scotland (UWS), UK

  5. Canterbury Christ Church (CCCU), UK

We are now able to offer and deliver degree and non degree programmes, including undergraduate, postgraduate, taught and research programmes in Cambridge with our partners.

We are also proud that we have developed our own well-established and featured programmes as follows:

  • ELITE Global Talent Programme – Passport Programme

  • EICC Well-crafted Executive Development Programmes (EDP)

  • Chief Innovation Officer

  • Global Leadership for Women

  • Transformational Leadership Embraces Innovation

  • Leadership and Management for Academic Excellence in GHE

EICC-TWU Co-branded Programmes

We are proud to be co-branded with TWU to deliver EICC-TWU Co-branded programmes with Agora ELITE O2O innovative Structure with the following arrangements and strategic planning:

  • EICC/TWU Co-Branded Certificate - Undergraduate Level

Certificate in Global Innovation Leadership (CGIL)

  • EICC/TWU Co-Branded Certificate - Graduate Level

Certificate in Advanced Innovation Leadership and Impact (CAILI)

Also we have created a global O2O universities alliance not only with 6 our co-branded and degree-awarding-power partners but also with 26 global universities/colleges from countries, including China, USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Italy, India, Turkey, Nepal, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, UAE, Libya, Brazil, Malaysia, etc. which provide pipelines of students to EICC.

We welcome government and private sector to partner with us to structure the upgrade and provide the incentives along with key venture capital to support Agora ELITE Education Model innovation and develop it as the future of the global higher education and nurture it into sustainability.

Profile of ELITE Innovation College Cambridge

ELITE Innovation College Cambridge (EICC) is a British Educational Institution that provides undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes with our co-branded academic partners, academic and executive education, workshops, conferences, and seminars in various subjects, locally, internationally, and globally, working with Partners in the United Kingdom, Asia, Africa North America, and the Middle East.

ELITE is an acronym of E-Learning of innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship. It was during the COVID-19pandemic that ELITE Innovation College Cambridge (EICC) was consolidated and re-created. Still, its history can be traced back to 2006, when a group of outstanding management scholars launched CAMOT[1] during IAMOT [2] International Conference in Tsinghua University.

IAMOT [2] International Conference at Tsinghua University

The four colleges: Innovation College, Technology College, Entrepreneurship College and Leadership College that we have established based upon the 15 years of accumulation of global academic resources provide an academic arm of EICC and extra liberal arts curriculum to our degree and non-degree programmes and qualifications that we deliver for the enhancement of student journey which delivers alongside our degree awarding power universities.

Four colleges of EICC

Further, our Agora O2O Innovative Structure with education of innovation and entrepreneurship pioneering education innovation platform that challenges the traditional ways of learning, coupled with prestigious academic quality, global engagement, and strategic collaboration with worldwide partners, is what differentiates EICC from conventional higher education.

EICC headquarter at St. John's Innovation Centre, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Our strength lies in our innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that has underpins a holistic educational framework and a unique pedagogy with online capabilities to create focused and flexible learning for our learners and offline delivery centres – ELITE Global Colleges around the world extends the online learning to provide further engaged social learning experience. Such learning model combines explicit and tacit knowledge transfer that is entrenched in human learning behavior and contributes to the delivery of an enriched and enhanced student experience.

EICC headquarter at St. John's Innovation Centre, Cambridge, United Kingdom

In addition, EICC's global research and engagement, which includes EICC’s Global Innovation Webinar series and the Global University President Forum, develops and sustains worldwide higher education, research and global engagement, creates globally connected learning and practice communities so as to enhance the learning journey and student experience. We are privileged to be a strategic partner of United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI).

Over a decade, we have been successfully organizing international conferences and forums with global universities, including Tsinghua University (CAMOT Conference 2014 Beijing) and University of Cambridge (CAMOT Conference 2016 Cambridge) and University of Law(University President Forum 2021 London) with university presidents, vice-chancellors, deans, experts, scholars, government officials and doctoral candidates in the field of higher education participated in the events.

We are also honored being co-branded strategic partners with Trinity Western University (TWU) in Canada, along with University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom and in the delivery of degree and non-degree undergraduate, postgraduate, and taught & research programmes in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

We look forward to having sincere cooperation with like-minded people and institutions to meet the opportunities and challenges of global higher education in the epidemic and post-epidemic era. Leading educational innovation and promoting educational innovation together.

Stanford University was founded in 1885 and rebuilt after the devastating 1906 earthquake and it became the world-famous Stanford today. Henley Business School was set up in 1945 during the Second World War at Henley-on-Thames and it became a global known institution today. ELITE Innovation College Cambridge (EICC) has been known as “the little peach tree borne in Tsinghua in 2006 and grown up and settled in Cambridge in 2014”. However, our college was re-launched in late 2020 during the pandemic, which has a strong capability of survival.

For further information, please visit

1st January 2023

[1] Please refer to Page 60, Technology and Knowledge Transfer in China, Richard Li-Hua, 2004 ASHGATE [2] Please see further details on Working Paper ELITE Initiative for Creating Innovative and Entrepreneurial University in the Global Higher Education presented by Richard Li-Hua at MoE Conference, 2016, Wenzhou, China.

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