The cooperative friendship between Tongji University and Italy can date back to the 1980s when exchanges and collaboration existed among professors. 2005 saw the signing of the Joint Communiqué on Educational Cooperation by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China and the Ministry of Education, University and Research of Italy. In 2006, the agreement of Italian-Chinese University Projects was signed by the ministries. This cooperating framework brought about the establishment of the Sino-Italian Campus of Tongji University (TJSIC), and the then Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi attended its inauguration ceremony. In the same year, TJSIC launched two double bachelor’s degree programs in Tongji University with Polytechnic University of Milan and Polytechnic University of Turin, known as POLITONG program.

TJSIC serves as the platform and window for Sino-Italian cooperation for Tongji University. It aims to promote the cultivation of international talents, provide a platform for Sino-Italian scientific research and industry-academia-research cooperation, and facilitate the cultural communication and mutual appreciation between China and Italy. TJSIC currently comprises the Center for Italian Studies (CSIUT), the Sino-Italian Center for Sustainability (SICES) and the China-Italy Design and Innovation Center (CIDIC).

With the solid foundation of cooperation with Italy, Tongji University established an overseas campus in Florence in 2014, and through joint efforts with the University of Florence, set up the Confucius Institute along with other overseas bases and platforms for student innovative practice and joint research cooperation.

Sino-Italian Higher Educational Cooperation and Joint Talent Training Programs

Over the years, TJSIC has been actively promoting the cooperation between various disciplines of Tongji University and Italian universities at all levels of bachelor, master and doctoral degree, and carrying out joint training programs for outstanding talents, forming a comprehensive cooperation network with Italian universities.

In September 2006, Tongji University recruited the first batch of students for the two majors of Mechanical and Production Engineering, and Information Technology Engineering under the double bachelor’s programs in collaboration with the prestigious Polytechnic University of Milan and Polytechnic University of Turin. In 2007, Tongji University and the University of Bologna signed a cooperation agreement, launching the  bachelor’s degree program in Automation, abbreviated as the ALMATONG program. POLITONG and ALMATONG programs were approved by the Ministry of Education as China-foreign joint running education programs in November 2008 and August 2013 respectively.

At present, the cooperation projects between Tongji University and Italian universities have expanded from the initial double bachelor’s degree programs in engineering majors to more than 20 joint education programs for master’s and doctor’s degrees, involving more than 10 disciplines such as Mechanical Engineering, Electronics and Information Engineering, Civil Engineering, Architecture, Design, Software Engineering, Law, Economics and Management, etc. Partners in Italy include more than 20 prestigious Italian universities such as Polytechnic University of Milan, Polytechnic University of Turin, University of Bologna, University of Florence, University of Trento, University of Pavia, University of Rome La Sapienza, University of Pisa, University of Rome Tor Vergata and so on.

Over the past 15 years, the Sino-Italian double bachelor’s degree programs have trained nearly 1,000 Tongji students and Italian students to become proficient in Chinese, English and Italian languages, with more than 100 teachers from Tongji and Italian universities involved in exchange academic visits. Statistics show that about 90% of the graduates of Sino-Italian double bachelor’s degree programs have chosen to pursue their master's and doctoral degrees in China or abroad, entering top universities in the world such as Cambridge University, ETH Zurich and MIT. Fields of employment include IT, Internet, intelligent manufacturing, education, finance etc., and many graduates have entered well-known Chinese and foreign companies such as Ferrari, Microsoft, STMicroelectronics and Alibaba.

The establishment of Tongji University’s overseas campus in Florence further promoted the Sino-Italian educational cooperation. In April 2013, Tongji University, the Italian Ministry of the Environment, Territory and Sea (now Ministry of Ecological Transition), the Tuscan Regional Government and the Municipality of Florence signed a quadripartite joint declaration to co-establish the overseas campus in Florence, which was officially inaugurated in March 2014. The overseas campus offers students and faculty in Tongji the access to abundant resources in art, architecture and design and innovation, and is set down as an important base for general education and innovative practices. The overseas campus is open to the teachers and students from Tongji University, and serves the international cooperating and communicating strategy of Tongji University. For the cultivation of talents of international competence, the overseas campus organizes short-term exchange programs and academic forums in Italy on the basis of mutual recognition of courses and credits. With the support and promotion of TJSIC, from 2017 to 2019, about 600 students and more than 80 teachers from 31 groups of more than 10 colleges of Tongji University attended the summer school program in Italy. The program combines the characteristics of individual disciplines and local teaching resources in Italy, and carries out various teaching activities, including classroom teaching, field trips, lectures, internships in local enterprises and museum tours etc. Partner institutions include Italian universities, enterprises and museums, thus forming an overseas general education and practical teaching model.

In March 2014, the Confucius Institute, jointly established by the University of Florence and Tongji University, was officially inaugurated. As the fourth Confucius Institute of Tongji University, it makes the best of the history and culture of Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and shows distinctive features highlighting the themes of humanities, art, design and historical heritage conservation, while keeping up collaboration and interaction with the overseas campus of Tongji University in Florence. The Confucius Institute offers Chinese language courses for the public at three teaching locations, at levels of the beginners, the intermediate and the advanced; it organizes the HSK Chinese language proficiency test, as well as numerous activities in the fields of architecture, art and design. The Institute plays a significant role as the window and platform for Sino-Italian, Sino-European cultural exchanges in design and innovation.

High-End Research Cooperation Platform, Sino-Italian International Studies Think Tank, Sino-Italian “Design and Innovation + Sustainability”

TJSIC is located in the Yunchou Building on Siping Campus of Tongji University. Yunchou Building is a highly "readable", energy-efficient and environment-friendly building with a metallic look from the outside. This building obtained its current look due to the sustainable recovery and renovation of the old building initiated by Tongji University and the Italian Ministry of the Environment, Territory and the Sea after they agreed on co-building the Sino-Italian Center for Sustainability (SICES) in 2012. Through joint planning and designing of the two parties, the renovation of Yunchou Building was completed and the renovated building was inaugurated together with the SICES in 2017. The renovation project was guided by the concept of "returning to the building per se". The ecological, energy-efficient green-designs of the building include the optimization of the outer-building envelope, rainwater recycling, green roof, rooftop photovoltaic power generation, high-efficiency air-conditioning, high-efficiency lighting, environmentally friendly building materials and sub-metering system. Yunchou-Building has been transformed into a model of energy-efficient and environment-friendly building, making its contribution to the Sino-Italian cooperation in the field of environment-friendly and sustainable technology.

Focusing on the global issue of "sustainable development", experience from Italy provides a bonus in dealing with the challenges in the process of urbanization in China. With the support of the Italian Ministry of Environment, Territory and Sea, TJSIC has successfully completed a series of joint research projects on sustainable development, green campus and smart cities, promoting China-Italy cooperation in areas of technological innovation in electric vehicles, clean energy, sustainable development of urban construction and sustainable design.

In 2011, the China-Italy Design and Innovation Center (CIDIC), jointly established by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and the Italian Ministry of Public Administration and Innovation, was set up at Tongji University. In 2013, CIDIC set up a secretariat which has been run by TJSIC. CIDIC is committed to forming an effective link of design and innovation resources from China and Italy, and plays an active role in urban development, creative economy, design industry upgrading and high-end design talent training, etc. CIDIC organizes Sino-Italian design and innovation exhibitions and forums, and takes part in international student innovation and entrepreneurship competitions, to promote Sino-Italian design research and the transformation of its achievements.

In 2017, the Center for Italian Studies (CSIUT) was successfully filed as a research center of international studies by the Ministry of Education, signifying a great advance in Sino-Italian in-depth research cooperation. On the basis of the existing advantages of disciplines of Tongji University, CSIUT carries out Sino-Italian international studies in education, justice, politics, languages, architecture, humanities and philosophy, art and design, environmental engineering etc. The Sino-Italian Center on Administration of Justice, newly set up by TJSIC and Tongji Law School, with the University of Pisa as partner, aims at providing a platform for the dissemination of the thought of ruling by law, the communication between students and researchers, and conducting judicial research projects.

Meanwhile, TJSIC has actively promoted research cooperation between Chinese and Italian universities. The efforts made are as follows: setting up the Sino-Italy Robotics and Automation Lab with the University of Bologna; co-establishing the Innovation Hub with Polytechnic University of Milan; co-establishing the International Joint research Laboratory of Earthquake Engineering (ILEE) with the European Center for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering (EUCENTRE, Italy), the University of California, Berkeley and the Tokyo Institute of Technology; co-establishing the Joint International Research Laboratory of Transportation Safety in Tongji University with the University of Catania and the University of Naples Federico II, as well as a number of universities and research institutes in the US, Germany and Japan. In addition, the first Sino-Italian international cooperation research project of Tongji, “Research on the Key Technology Cooperation in the Sino-Italian Digital Collaborative Design " supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, was completed in cooperation with the Polytechnic University of Milan, with the operations of Chinese and Italian designers in transnational digital collaborative designing and design drawing linked in seamless connection.

With the support of the Chinese and Italian governments, TJSIC has brought together resources from the two countries in the fields of education, economy and business. Projects of industry-university cooperation have been carried out with many well-known Chinese and Italian enterprises such as Ferrari, Fiat, Ignazione Lighting, Ducati and Sany Heavy Industry. The school-enterprise cooperation, and particularly the "Italian Enterprise Day" organized by TJSIC in collaboration with Italian enterprises, created a channel for two-way communication between students and enterprises in both countries, and provided a platform for mutual learning and appreciation of advanced technology and management between China and Italy.

Creating Platform for International Cultural Transmission and Promoting Sino-Italian Cultural Communication and Mutual Appreciation

As a university platform for international cultural transmission based in China, TJSIC organizes a variety of activities for cultural communication to showcase the charm of Chinese and Italian culture, and promote cultural communication between the two countries.

TJSIC has organized a wide range of activities for the promotion of Italian culture on the Tongji campus. Numerous events combining elements of Chinese tradition and Italian culture, including the World Italian Culture Week and the Treasure-Hunt on Jiading-Campus, have been held in recent years, attracting both Chinese and foreign students to learn and enjoy Italian culture. In 2015, the 3D-Reading Serial Event "Italian Culture Experience" was held in Tongji University, featuring exhibitions, lectures, performances, music, masterwork reading, interactive activities and fine food tasting. The activities included the "Get-to-Know Italy" Lecture, classic Italian films show, the reading of 100 books on " Impressions of Italy", Italian classical music concerts, and the special exhibition of Milan EXPO in Tongji University. In 2020, the "Memphis in Shanghai" Design Exhibition in Tongji, the first Sino-Italian Design and Innovation Forum and the 2nd Tongji University Italian Campus Carnival were held to showcase Italian art and design concepts.

Moreover, TJSIC has actively promoted the Chinese culture in Italy. In 2015 and 2016, the series of documentaries on cultural heritage protection, Two Cities: Shanghai Meets Florence and Longquan Celadon, were displayed in screenings and forums in Florence and Venice, giving a lively impression of the tradition and innovation of Chinese traditional culture. Students and teachers of Tongji University have taken part in the film production in China as well as in Italy. In 2018, the series "Beijing Opera in Florence" was organized by Shanghai TV Station, Shanghai Media & Entertainment Group (SMG) and Shanghai Peking-Opera Theatre in cooperation with Tongji University, and supported by the Chinese Consulate General in Florence. The premiere of the 3D film "Farewell My Concubine" was extremely well received. Accomplished Peking Opera artists, students from the Tongji Beijing-Kunshan Art Heritage Base and pupils from the Chinese Elementary School of Florence participated in the performance. With the cultural exchange platform provided by university in China, the performance was an artistic way of telling the Chinese story to the world, showing the charm of Chinese culture and promoting cultural communication between China and Italy. In the same year, an exhibition of painting, calligraphy and paper-cutting art by Tongji University students and teachers was successfully held in Florence. In addition to providing regular Chinese courses, the Confucius Institute, which was co-founded by Tongji University and the University of Florence, organized a variety of cultural activities with the help of the discipline advantages of Tongji University such as cultural experience activities, academic forums, the “Confucius Institute Day”, “Dragon” Film Festival, thematic lectures and Chinese art exhibitions, which were received by Italians with enthusiasm. The events greatly promoted the exchange and appreciation of traditional Chinese culture in Italy.

TJSIC has been recognized for its achievements. Over the past ten years, the Italian Ambassador to China, the Italian Minister of Education and the Minister of Environment, Territory and Sea have visited Tongji University for many times and attended influential events such as the "Sino-Italian Rectors' Forum", establishing profound friendship and cooperation with Tongji University. In 2016, the then Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attended the 10th anniversary celebration of TJSIC. He said that the cooperation between Italian and Chinese universities is a cornerstone for the exchange of culture and ideas between the two countries; TJSIC with its ten-year practice in international educational cooperation signifies a continuation of China-Italy cooperation and communication since ancient times; TJSIC has greatly contributed to the development of Sino-Italian communication and friendship.

In recognition of Tongji University's contribution to Sino-Italian cooperation, TJSIC has been granted the Contribution to Italian Expo Award, the Contribution to the Shanghai-Florence, China-Italy Design Exchange Centre Award and the Contribution to the Construction of Shanghai as Design Center and Innovative Industries Award etc. The Italian government awarded the "Order of the Star of Italy" to Fang Shouen, then Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of Tongji University (now Secretary of the Party Committee of Tongji University), and Professor Zheng Shiling, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the promotion of Sino-Italian cooperation and exchange in the fields of education and culture. The achievements of Sino-Italian cooperation have been frequently featured in Chinese and Italian media, including Shanghai TV.