Private higher learning institute aims for world-class status as top educator
Shan Bao and Lu Hongyan
Xi'an Fanyi University has ushered in China's private institutions of higher learning for its pioneering and innovative educational style, large number of boarding school students and high graduate employment rate.
Since the college opened decades ago in 1985, more than 40,000 students have graduated, 98 per cent of whom have gone into full employment. Many of them go on to work in Fortune 500 companies.
In June 2002, representative from 41 Fortune 500 companies visited the university and enrolled 210 students in its campus job fair. The highest annual wage for a student was 500,000 yuan (US$60,386).
Each year between 1998 and 2004, the university filled its enrolment capacity of 10,000 students.
The university has won many accolades from the society - such as one of the country's best private universities and the university with the best image.
In January, the Ministry of Education named it "Private University with which the People are Satisfied."
In recent years, the presidents of 23 famous universities and colleges in the United States and the United Kingdom have visited the university and signed various agreements with it.
One president of a famous American university was so impressed with the university's potential that he offered three scholarships for $44,000 each to students there.
More than 100 foreign diplomats after visiting the university have commented on its potential.
During one recent visit, Darrell Jenks, director of the American Centre for Educational Exchange of the US Embassy in China, said he had been involved in education exchanges for many years, and that he was attracted to the Xi'an university because it was a very good private institution.
He said famous institutions of higher learning in the United States were mainly private - accounting for 60 per cent of the total.
His parents are educators in private universities, and he felt comfortable being in a private institution as this Xi'an Fanyi University, he said.
He said he had heard of the university and its president Ding Zuyi many times in both Beijing and the United States, and had been impressed with its achievements over the past 18 years - more than 40,000 students have graduated from it and more than 1,000 of them are working overseas. Any institution of higher learning in the world would be proud of its achievements, he said.
Catalina Nicolae, the first secretary and cultural counsellor of the Romanian Embassy in China, said Xi'an Fanyi University was one of the best private higher learning institutions in China she had ever seen, and that she would help build a bridge for the college to establish ties with any school in Romania.
While talking with students in the college, the diplomats were amazed at their command of the English language.
Nicolae said their English was even better than that of students in Europe.
From the name of the university, one could be forgiven for thinking it only specializes in foreign language teaching. In fact, the college is a multi-disciplinary higher learning institute.
As well as foreign language studies, the university offers courses on tourism, secretarial training, international economics and trade, law, journalism, business administration, home decoration, computer-aided information management, computer net-working technology, e-business, telecommunications and electronics.
Ding's dream is to turn the university into the "Harvard University of the East."
"Some say that I am arrogant to say so. Harvard is one of the top universities in the world, and Chinese universities have very far to go to be on a par with it," he said.
"What I mean about creating the 'Harvard University of the East' is that Xi'an Fanyi University, as well as other private higher learning institutions in China, should be confident enough to try to reach world-class standards," he said.
Ding said his confidence stems from the 3,000-year-old history of Chinese private education.
With Confucius as the inspiration, private education in China had a track record among the most advanced in the world.
"Harvard University's reputation has accumulated over more than 300 years," Ding said. "Xi'an Fanyi University is only 20 years old, and the history of the newly developed private education sector in New China is less than 30 years. That is the difference.
"But I believe that, through the efforts of several generations, the dream of becoming a world-class institution is likely to come true."
In July 2002, Ding visited Harvard University to learn first-hand from the world-class university he dreamed of emulating.
Since 1996, he has actively advocated his ideas about education on various occasions. He has attended numerous domestic and international academic forums to share his methods with educators and experts. His articles and papers have been published in dozens of academic journals and the public media.
Ding believes that as the State's policy towards private education becomes more favourable, the sector will witness more rapid development. His university and others like it should grasp the golden opportunity to become stronger and high achievers, he said.
(China Daily 06/21/2005 page1)
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