The Ministry of Education recently held a meeting to discuss open selections for university president and to sum up the experiences from two universities in this regard.
The meeting demanded that reform be further promoted to realize this goal. The selection should be based on scientific criteria and procedures, and draw lessons from foreign universities.
Chinese university presidents are officials rather than educators. As officials, they are responsible to the higher authorities that appoint them, whereas if they were educators, they would be responsible for education and their universities.
Some educators hold that officially appointing university presidents reduces their credibility.
Such worries could be avoided if an open selection system were adopted. In open selection, the candidates could bring into play their academic achievements, educational concepts, personal features and management skills. It would be a process of building the presidents' credibility.
In the modern university system, the president is the core of university governance and the main symbol of the university's spirit. The personal reputation and credibility of the university president is vital to the development of the institution.
Whether a university can attract more qualified teachers and high quality students, whether it can get donations from society and whether it can earn a place in international communication and competition, these are to some degree related to the personal qualities of the president, though they are not a decisive factor.
Nowadays, with the development of the market economy and society, China has already created some basic conditions to openly select university presidents among some outstanding figures.
Openly selecting university presidents could help demonstrate the candidates' strong points while building their public image and reputations. At the same time, it could enhance the candidates' awareness in terms of serving the university. They will have to realize the promises they made during the campaign for running the university.
China should continue to promote the open selection system.
Every step of the process should be open to university teachers and students, as well as media and the whole of society if necessary.
If famous universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University can also adopt an open selection system and mobilize as many people as possible to engage in the campaign, qualified educators could be chosen as president and advanced education could be promoted across society, creating a favorable environment for all people to participate in education.
China should be applauded for embarking on the road to reform in its university president selection system, which should become an irreversible trend.
Beijing Youth Daily