China's 1st private university inaugurated, borrows fundraising model from Harvard, Yale

By Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/21 23:18:39

China's first private research university was officially inaugurated in Hangzhou on Saturday in a move that Chinese experts said would push forward national higher-education reform.

Five Nobel laureates including physicist Chen-Ning Yang and more than 70 representatives of domestic and overseas universities attended the founding ceremony of Westlake University in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province.

Westlake has 68 research group leaders, 139 students under joint supervision at the top Chinese institutes of Fudan University and Zhejiang University and 159 key researchers, according to the school's website.  

Schools of natural science, engineering and life sciences are located on a campus that can hold 120 independent laboratories and 2,000 research fellows.

Another campus to be completed in 2021 will accommodate 300 labs and 3,000 doctoral students, said the website.

The university aims to be an explorer of China's higher-education reform and a world leader in frontier technology, Westlake University President Shi Yigong, a biologist and former vice president of Tsinghua University in Beijing, said at the ceremony.

Westlake University comes from society, serves society and belongs to society, said Shi.

"We expect that the university will be a new research university that attracts world attention in 10 or 20 years, and advances human progress and world civilization in its own way," he said.

In April Qian Yingyi, school board chairman, suggested the university president be granted maximum freedom in management, and teachers be given "maximum freedom in teaching."

Zhu Qingshi, former president of Shenzhen's South University of Science and Technology of China, told the Global Times that removing bureaucratic obstacles is difficult in practice and he hoped Westlake could succeed.

Donations to the university lack stability and continuity, and "higher-education will be difficult without national expenditure and support," Zhu said.

Westlake University's financial resources are raised by the non-public Westlake Education Foundation from high-profile business executives including Tencent Holdings Chairman Pony Ma Huateng and Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin, according to the university.

Its fundraising model was borrowed from universities such as Harvard and Yale, which are partly supported by social funds and by alumni, Shanghai-based news site reported.

Reduced bureaucracy will aid research, said Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Education Sciences in Beijing, "but how much it can achieve depends on local government.

Chu told the Global Times on Sunday that government, education departments and all of society should cooperate in creating such an environment.

Donations account for less than two percent of university funds in China while at top US universities they form over 30 percent, Chu said.

Unclear ownership and unpublished financial reports of Chinese universities discouraged donors, he noted.

Newspaper headline: 1st private university inaugurated

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