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Can China build world-class universities?   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2017-2-25 13:59:40 |Display all floors


Tsinghua University's recent reform to its policies on international students' enrollment has aroused widespread criticism on China's social network. According to the latest enrollment regulation, Tsinghua University pledged to "adopt the international practices" and remove the entrance exams for international students, whereas Chinese students are still required to take the country's grueling college entrance exam, known for its extremely difficult questions and the insurmountable pressure placed on students and families. For instance, out of 9.4 million young Chinese students who attended the national college entrance examinations in 2016, only around 3,000 students have the chance to study at Tsinghua University, one of China's top two universities.

No wonder Chinese netizens are outraged over Tsinghua's new regulation. It has become a huge controversy since many people suspect that the new regulation will significantly lower the enrollment criteria for international students. Moreover, after further research by some online users on the "systematically discriminative regulations" such as enrollment criteria, accommodation and scholarships, it was found that international students are favored over Chinese students to study at Tsinghua.

The netizens accused the university of allocating much more funding resources to international students. While the Chinese students have to go through fierce competition to earn their scholarships, it seems that international students are all eligible to apply for scholarships by simply "being foreign." Also, some complained that international students live in en-suite single rooms while Chinese students are squeezed into four-people dorms with shared toilets.

In the netizens' eyes, it is far easier to study and live at Tsinghua as a foreign national than a local Chinese student. Questions about fairness and equity in China's educational system were raised in the online community.

Further explanation was given by the university to the press that the enrollment of international students is completely separate from that of the Chinese students, which is under a different quota system. And the university defended its regulations and argued that it is an important step for Chinese universities to be "internationalized."

Tsinghua isn't the only one mired in controversy. Along with the rapid development in China's economy and technical capability, Beijing is called upon to build a batch of world-class universities in China.

However, before mapping out our ambitious plan to be the new education center of the world, we need to understand what are the international standards and practices of world-class universities, and more importantly, how they have upheld their reputation over time.

The internationalization of China's higher educational system is potentially facing a dilemma of "quantity over quality," similar to the early days of China's industrial development. We might be, unfortunately, repeating the same mistake, which resulted in unsustainable development and a low-quality growth model, i.e. the extensive growth model led to environmental degradation, income discrepancy and low-added value human capital.

Although China's State Council has not set a numerical target on developing world-class universities, most Chinese universities still adopt quantitative indicators to map out and evaluate their strategic plans.

They will focus on how many international students are enrolled, how many international scholars are hired, how many articles are published in international publications, and how many elite programs are established, etc.

In the process, quantity is valued over quality. Some complain that the barrier to entry for international students at top Chinese universities is way lower than for Chinese students. When I interviewed in a few leading Chinese universities, some international students even complained that they felt their classmates are not qualified and they urged the universities to raise the standards when enrolling international students next year.

Looking at numbers, Chinese universities generously offer international students and scholars unprecedented privileges with enormous funding support. For example, international students often live in one or two-bedroom suites with air conditioning, 24-hour hot water, heating and sanitation, while Chinese students still live in outdated dormitories shared by four to eight students.

Compared with major world-class universities that China wanted to emulate, it is lagging far behind. Most universities in the US or Europe allow all students, without any requirement for nationality, to apply for on-campus residence. They do not categorize domestic and international students into different groups when making accommodation plans. International and local students often live in the same residential buildings.

Most Chinese universities separate the administration and management of Chinese and international students, from registration, course management, accommodation, funding to social life. This is dramatically different from most of the universities in developed countries where all students are under the same management and treated equally.

These man-made psychological segregations may actually impede Beijing's ambition to build its own educational brands. In my interviews, both international and Chinese students expressed concerns that it is hard to make friends with another group as they are in separate systems. When students are administered differently and treated differently, it will potentially reduce their interactions and erode educational ethics of fairness and social equity.

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Post time 2017-2-25 15:06:54 |Display all floors
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Post time 2017-2-25 19:58:19 |Display all floors
I don't know if what i'm going to suggest makes sense. Humor me.

There are three groupings: one, the present fully local universities are constrained by legacy issues - methods, lecturers, students and courses;  two, the twinning program universities are constrained by course integration issues; and three, the students going overseas may not come back or if they do may not be able to integrate their expertise into the local environment.

The present method to internationalize is just trying to get foreign students to come in and mix around so that local students can change their mindsets. The foreign students will have problems because they are seen different from local students by the way they are treated and so may feel marginalized. The local students will avoid them and thus the original objective to change them will also not work. The lecturers will have problems managing two sets of students when they already have problems trying to modernize one set before, including themselves. And the administrators may find that while the global ranking goes up because of more foreign composition, it goes down because standards have dropped.

So - bypass all three groupings by setting up an experimental model for a worldclass university. If it succeeds, it can then be a blueprint to re-orientate the local universities to be worldclass in due course.  

This needs will and money. The will has to come from the top to nip all bureaucracy down the line otherwise the project will fail.  It is to be a national project but without concern for face that it must be national because the objective is to make it international right from the beginning and then blueprint it across the country to internationalize the other local universities. And the money may be more than usually made available for a new local university but since it will be experimental with great benefits to reap if it succeeds, say capital for ten years.

one, the unversity will be brand new and a mixture of modern efficiency and ancient coziness; it will be strategically located at a beautiful and clean place with lakes and landscape somewhere five minutes to a highway, fifteen minutes to a railway station and one hour from an international or regional airport and within the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster.

two, the intake of students will be special - only the best student scholars in the whole world and a limited number for each course; before they enter, they must sit and pass with high scores in a special examination that will test their thinking powers, evaluate their mental makeup and identify if they have thought and already learned anything about the course they are enrolling; it could be like the scholarship exam for admission to Cambridge tripos etc; they must also pass an interview, and present an original essay on any topic of their choice;

three, the courses will only be conducted in English; all students must know or learn two languages to high proficiency while taking their courses;

four, the courses will be conducted by internationally qualified lecturers who are experts in teaching the courses and motivating students to excel, setting difficult exam papers, picking great topics for research, writing highly cited academic papers, and mentoring undergraduates into postgraduate studies; they will  have no personal bad habits that will sully reputations and no other preoccupations except to make the university great in rapid time;

five, each course will be the mirror-image of the best course from the best university in the world where it is taught; everything in it will contain all the elements, topics and resources of that course taught overseas in that no.1 worldclass university for that course. Example of such courses are:

https://www.topuniversities.com/ ... ty-subject-rankings

So, this new university may teach the MIT course for computer science, the Harvard course for business, the Wharton course for finance, the Stanford course for electronic engineering course, the Yale course for law, the Tel Aviv course for mathematics, the Cambridge course for medicine, the Oxford course for molecular biology, the Georgetown course for government, and so on... In other words, the courses conducted at the new university will be the collection of all the best individual courses from the best universities in the world; the new university will be on the way to worldclass of worldclasses because it contains all the worldclass courses.

six, the lecturers and administrators will be paid worldclass rates; the students will be completely supported by scholarship and accommodation, transport, overseas study trips and fully paid equipment, books and allowances; all the books will be in English except when they are superior textbooks in other languages which can be as supplementary references only;

seventh, no matter what the course, every student must go on a fully paid internship-practical attachment for at least three months overseas with an internationally renowned organization, eg. chemical engineering student with Shell, computer science student with IBM, biochemistry student with Merck or Roche, medical student with London School of Tropical Medicine, and so on; they will have to maintain a diary, write a report and defend a presentation when they complete the internship;

eighth; the faculties will have the best laboratory and presentation equipment in the world; these will be perfectly maintained at all times; an inhouse technical department must be created whose staff can learn how to repair these equipment, eg. magnetic resonance imager, spectrophotometer, electron microscope, laser interferometer etc.

ninth, the university will have all sorts of clubs in which students can discuss and debate any subject or participate in hobbies or tinker with ideas and inventions;

tenth, the world experts eg nobel laureates and business tycoons will be invited to give talks; students and lecturers may also present TED-type talks or show experiments to the public;

eleventh, the university will start a postgraduate design and management program for all fields and is to be attended by selected research lecturers from the local universities;

twelfth, every engineering, architecture and building technology student must additionally have one month practical training using the equipment in the local vocational training colleges and schools so that they can make friends with the other students there who may become factory supervisors and site contractors later;

The new university will have a board of directors made of the top academicians and industry, business leaders from the world; they will visit and decide four times a year. The administrators will be recruited from the most experienced and successful university administrations of the world and would have shown great record of outstanding performance plus an enthusiastic understanding of the objective of the university besides the interaction dynamics of the best whether teacher or student. They will also monitor the performance and success points of the university.

If this new university succeeds, its blueprint will be programmed to internationalize other local universities on a national stage-by-stage basis - in Mandarin. In other words, the courses will be converted into Mandarin.

All the lecture notes of the new university will be open-wared, eg:

http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/tong/em/electro.pdf

What do you think?

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Post time 2017-2-26 00:34:28 |Display all floors
Perhaps then the outrage should be directed at the Chinese system of university entrance requirements and the gaokao?
English teacher and education adviser. China needs a teaching profession with less fear and more trust and honesty.

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Post time 2017-2-26 02:04:51 |Display all floors
It seems to me that the article is more about favoritism shown to foreign students than about the theme expressed in the title.  Building world-class universities is a distinct subject from the subject of favoritism to foreigners.  

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Post time 2017-2-26 03:24:05 |Display all floors
What do you think?


Having read your post, markwu, I think your ideas are excellent!

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Post time 2017-2-26 05:16:29 |Display all floors
TedM Post time: 2017-2-26 00:34
Perhaps then the outrage should be directed at the Chinese system of university entrance requirement ...

Chinese universities are murky waters in how they do business

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