Press conference on China's achievements in education reform and development since the 18th CPC National Congress

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Science and Technology Daily:

We have noticed that in recent years, many landmark technologies have been presented by universities. Can you introduce the situation in cultivating talent in basic academic disciplines and top innovative talent at universities, as well as the development of sci-tech innovation and plans? Thanks.

Wu Yan:

I am happy to answer your questions. The CPC Central Committee attaches great importance to cultivating basic academic disciplines and top-notch talent. General Secretary Xi Jinping has made several important instructions, emphasizing the need to cultivate talent in basic academic disciplines in an all-round way. In recent years, the MOE has thoroughly implemented and continuously strengthened the training of basic academic disciplines and top-notch innovative talent and focused on an independent path of talent training to provide key support for building the world's major talent center. We continued our efforts in the following three areas:

First, we bear in mind the need for national development, focus on strengthening the cultivation of talent in basic academic disciplines, and improve the country's strength in the disciplines. In 2018, based on the preliminary work, the MOE, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Finance, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and the China Association for Science and Technology jointly launched a cultivation plan for top students in basic disciplines. The plan established 288 training bases covering basic science, basic medicine and basic liberal arts in 77 high-level universities, attracting more than 10,000 outstanding students. A number of talent with great scientific research potential made their presence known. The 24th meeting of the central commission for deepening overall reform presided over by General Secretary Xi Jinping this February, adopted Opinions on Strengthening Talent Cultivation in Basic Academic Disciplines. Meanwhile, a strategic action of cultivating top-notch talents in basic disciplines is underway by strengthening the four key elements – first-class core courses, first-class core teaching materials, first-class core faculty, and first-class core practice projects. Efforts were also made to reform the "five major mechanisms" –the unconventional selection mechanism of top students, the bachelor's-master's-doctorate combined degree program, collaborative education mechanism of science and education integration, long-term evaluation mechanism and the support mechanism. Our goal was to deploy a multifaceted and comprehensive chain of policies. We aim to continuously cultivate outstanding natural, medical and social scientists who can shoulder great responsibilities in the future.

Second, we have been working hard on China's matters of urgency, such as strengthening the cultivation of outstanding engineers and enhancing the country's strength in engineering. Facing the challenges of a new scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, and based on the previous work, the MOE, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the Chinese Academy of Engineering jointly launched the second version of the Education and Cultivation Plan of Excellent Engineers in 2017. We aimed to cultivate the ability to solve complex engineering problems and comprehensively deepen the building of new engineering disciplines. We have promptly added 71 undergraduate majors in carbon storage science and engineering, artificial intelligence, biological breeding and more. We have also established 11 national industry-education integration innovation platforms in integrated circuits, energy storage, and other fields. Moreover, together with industry departments, we have established 50 modern industrial colleges, 33 software colleges with special features and for demonstration, 28 microelectronics colleges for demonstration, 11 first-class cybersecurity colleges and other professional and characteristic colleges. We have supported more than 1,100 colleges and universities and more than 800 enterprises to implement industry-education cooperation and collaborative education programs. Currently, China's engineering education scale ranks first in the world, tens of millions of engineering and technical professionals have been trained, and many industry leaders have emerged, supporting the construction and development of China as the world's largest manufacturing country.

Third, we have responded to the needs of China's development, focusing on strengthening the cultivation of technological innovation talents and enhancing the country's strength in relevant areas. We have built the first batch of 12 technical colleges for the future at 12 high-level universities aimed at producing cutting-edge, revolutionary and groundbreaking technological development in the next 10-15 years. We are breaking the barriers of traditional disciplines and majors, promoting the innovation with the in-depth cross-integration of disciplines and majors, and pushing forward the building of new disciplines of engineering, medical science, agricultural science, and liberal arts. With such efforts, we will cultivate a large number of technological innovation talents who can adapt to and lead the latest round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation. Thank you.

Huai Jinpeng:

I would like to add one more thing. Mr. Wu Yan said basic disciplines are an important part of higher education. This decade has witnessed great changes in the technological aspect of higher education. We all know that colleges and universities are the main force of basic research, and cultivating top-notch innovation and basic-discipline talent is an important reason for the sustainable development of basic research. We often say that cultivating creative talents means accumulating important energy for the main force of basic research. There's another saying that the height of higher education determines the height of our technological innovation. At a central talent-related work conference on Sept. 27 last year, General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed accelerating the efforts to build China into a major world center of professional talent and innovation, which pointed out to us the inevitable logic between talent cultivation and innovation and creation. I would like to add a point here. For the past 10 years, the MOE has implemented a general pattern of promoting both talent training and technological innovation to accelerate development from the perspective of the layout and structure of science and technology in the entire education field. I'd like to brief you on the results.

First, a scientific and technological innovation system with precise levels and a reasonable layout for universities has been basically formed. In the past decade, the MOE has organized universities and colleges to take the initiative to work on the world's scientific and technological frontiers and China's major national needs. Regarding the frontier sciences, which is the basic research that Mr. Wu just mentioned, and critical scientific research platforms such as integrated research platforms for breakthroughs in core technologies, the MOE has established key research laboratories and engineering centers. There are currently more than 1,500 such platforms. In terms of talent team building, colleges and universities have gathered more than 40% of the national academicians of the CAS and the Chinese Academy of Engineering and nearly 70% of the winners of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars. The full-time equivalent of R&D personnel increased to 334,000 person-years, an increase of nearly 60%. In particular, Chinese scientific and technological personnel and scientific research teams of universities have actively participated in international scientific and technological cooperation and led the launch of one of the country's first major international scientific programs, "Deep-time Digital Earth" (DDE). This was what the education system has achieved in terms of research patterns and teams.

Second, a number of landmark major scientific and technological achievements have been made. Over the past decade, the MOE has organized colleges and universities to adhere to the principle that scientific and technological development must target the global sci-tech frontiers, serve the main economic battlefields, strive to fulfill the significant needs of the country and benefit people's lives and health, and to bravely climb the peaks of science and technology. Colleges and universities have won six of the 10 first prizes of the State Natural Science Award in the past decade, a milestone in terms of basic research. They have also won 10 of the 11 first prizes for China's State Technological Invention Award and two special prizes for the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award. In a series of pillar projects such as the Shenzhou space missions, the construction of the BeiDou satellite navigation network, and the completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, colleges and universities have helped to break through many technological bottlenecks and made contributions to basic research and key technologies. At the same time, universities also gave full play to the advantages of profound basic research and interdisciplinary integration, actively supported the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, served rural revitalization, contributed to the science and technology of the Winter Olympics, and made active and effective efforts for national scientific and technological innovations and serving the country by science and technology.

Third, the vitality of scientific and technological innovation in colleges and universities has been continuously stimulated. Over the past decade, the MOE has vigorously promoted the innovation mechanism of the scientific and technological system in colleges and universities, relieved the burden of scientific research personnel, gave colleges and universities greater autonomy in scientific research management, continued to deepen the reform of scientific and technological evaluation, and gradually established an evaluation orientation centered on innovation quality, ability and contribution in colleges and universities. We vigorously promoted the spirit of scientists, and many great teachers have emerged.

The past 10 years of scientific and technological development in colleges and universities were a decade of talent cultivation and technological innovation, a decade of serving the national strategy, and a decade of striving to build China into a country with strong education. Mr. Wu and his colleagues are also promoting the "Internet +" innovation and entrepreneurship education campaign. In recent years, innovation and entrepreneurship education and practical activities have not only affected China, but also attracted college students from all over the world to participate in this important campaign. Going forward, we will continue to promote high-level and high-quality free exploration in colleges and universities while strengthening organized scientific research and breakthroughs, focusing on the country's critical needs, building the national science and technology platform, and promoting the further development of China's science and technology.

Thank you.

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