China charts own path in building world-class universities

By Liu Lulu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/24 23:37:51

When the Times Higher Education (THE) published its World University Rankings for this year recently, its editorial director Phil Baty said, "China has two top-30 representatives for the first time in the 13-year history of the rankings, so China's leading universities are truly now part of the global elite and overtaking prestigious universities in the US, UK, and Europe."

China has made a huge step forward in technology over the past decades, in which its spending on education has been indispensable.

However, only seven Chinese universities are among the top-200, which is still far from desirable. Higher education is a key factor in a country's development, we should not be misled by this ranking and more effort needs to be made to improve China's higher education.

Already, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Increasing Reforms approved a proposal for building a "world-class university" and "world-class discipline" - as a "double first-class" - in 2015. A list of 42 universities and colleges to be developed into world-class educational institutions was announced this year, marking a milestone in "double first-class" construction.

The project has a five-year cycle, with the aim of improving competitiveness of Chinese universities, making the "double first-class" essentially a new competitive mechanism to instill vitality in China's higher education.

At the same time, Chinese educational institutions have been trying to reform their curricula, improve teaching facilities, and provide a friendlier atmosphere to be more appealing to international students, another index for the THE rankings.

Chinese universities' international outlook received a boost with the government's Belt and Road initiative, with statistic suggesting more than 440,000 overseas students studying in China last year, a 35 percent increase over 2012.

One professor at Harvard University, Elizabeth Perry, seemed a bit uneasy about the rise of Chinese universities by alleging that the Chinese were "gaming the [THE] system." In fact, the THE is one of the most prestigious university rankings in the world and assesses university performance via 13 metrics covering teaching, research, international outlook, and other items. 

China should follow a path with Chinese characteristics in applying the "double first-class." Chinese universities should develop a world vision, adopt international standards, and become more open in both academic and method applications, and reforming by opening-up.

At the same time, however, educational institutions need to develop their curricula and teaching of students based on their actual situation and put more effort into addressing the problems of China's reforms and opening up.

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