University of new style

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, December 24, 2010
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Will Nanfang University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen herald a new beginning for China's higher education reform? Or is it a Chinese version of Harvard or Yale University taking shape? Or will the higher learning institute that is still in its infancy be an education tsunami for the nation?

It is too early to answer. But its presence is challenging the Ministry of Education. Even without the approval of the ministry it seems that the school is determined to move forward and enroll 50 students, so-called child prodigies, to begin classes on March 1, 2011. On graduating in 2015, these students will receive a diploma unauthorized by the Ministry of Education - unlike their peers from the State-run universities.

The school is committed to modeling itself on Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, but if the government will not ratify the school, the situation could cause a lot of trouble for those 50 students if they want to do graduate studies at other higher learning institutions. Other schools could turn their applications down for their unauthorized credentials.

The difficulties, however, have not frightened students and their parents away. On Dec 18 more than 1,000 students and their parents visited the Nanfang University of Science and Technology for interviews.

Private investment marks the school out from other higher learning institutions in the nation. Not a penny comes from the government's coffers. So the government will have no voice in how the school will be run.

The Ministry of Education has published a comprehensive plan for education reform and development between 2010 and 2020, outlining its commitment to releasing central control and giving universities autonomy. It will allow presidents and faculty to run their schools. The ministry should have applauded the independence the school in Shenzhen has shown and encouraged more to do likewise.

China's development plan for education calls for cultivating a group of internationally recognized Chinese universities by the end of 2020. In short, the goal is to make China's higher education internationally competitive.

To accomplish this goal, the government should have the courage to let the educators who have big ideas try them out.

Education reform in China has reached a new and crucial stage. The driving force is the need to produce an increasingly knowledgeable workforce equipped to handle the challenges of an economy that is not only growing extremely rapidly, but also becoming increasingly diversified and sophisticated.

Nanfang University of Science and Technology has a long way to go to prove itself dynamic and competitive rather than a diploma mill.

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