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Have Chinese universities lost their own features?|
By Chen PIngyuan (China Youth Daily)14:01, May 17, 2012
Edited and translated by People's Daily Online
It is easy for domestic colleges and universities to draw on foreign experience, but they can hardly maintain their own characteristics during the process. More than 30 years after the Reform and Opening-up, Chinese academic circles are regressing in terms of independence and confidence, instead of progressing. Five misleading school-running ideas need to be corrected.
The first misleading idea is that domestic colleges and universities must be "geared to international standards." Higher learning institutions in China are imitating their U.S. counterparts slavishly. Science educators have blind faith in Science Citation Index (SCI), and liberal arts educators accord great importance to Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) and Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI). Furthermore, they also prefer to recruit professors who have studied at a prestigious university in the United States or Europe.
The second misleading idea is that good colleges and universities should merge with each other. College and university mergers have both advantages and disadvantages. It is generally hard for two "strong" colleges or universities to merge, and a forced merger can cause many avoidable problems. Too much internal friction can cost the merged college or university 10 years or even 20 years in adjusting itself. The merger between "strong" and "weak" higher learning institutions is more practical because a good university must have a dominant style. There will be too much internal friction if the merger occurs between two "strong" colleges and universities.
The third misleading idea is that colleges and universities should "learn from others' strengths and overcome their own weaknesses." Admittedly, a college or university cannot make true progress behind closed doors, and must learn from both domestic and foreign famous universities. However, due to various assessment criteria and rankings, domestic colleges and universities have constantly added new majors in the process of "learning from others' strengths and overcoming one's own weaknesses," leading to the disappearance of their own characteristics.
The fourth misleading idea is that colleges and universities must "meet market needs." Every year, China sends state-funded students to foreign business or law schools that offer good career prospects. However, governments and universities should use scholarships to adjust social needs, instead of rewarding students for choosing hot majors. It may be hard for a student of ancient Greek philosophy or literature to land a good job, but he or she should be rewarded since that part of knowledge is essential to human civilization. By the same logic, state-funded international students should be required to study particular majors.
The fifth misleading idea is that colleges and universities should sign as many cooperation agreements with foreign prestigious universities as possible. Frankly speaking, many of these agreements are just empty promises, and are often shelved shortly after they were signed.
Literary scholars have good reason to reject unsuitable foreign standards. Chinese colleges and universities do not have to do exactly what U.S. counterparts do, or to adopt their language or evaluation criteria.
Read the Chinese version: 如何建立中国大学的独立与自信