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'Innovation, reform' set pace at new school

By Huang Yuli in Shenzhen | China Daily | Updated: 2012-09-04 08:07

South University of Science and Technology of China, widely known as a pilot in the reform of higher education, celebrated its establishment and the opening of the fall semester at its Shenzhen campus on Sunday.

The university's president, Zhu Qingshi, welcomed the 188 freshmen from eight provinces, the first class of students after the university received its official approval from the Ministry of Education in April.

"The South University of Science and Technology of China is starting a new history," he said. "Reform and innovation are the essence of the university. In the future we will advance innovations with more boldness, courage and energy and fulfill its significant mission as the pilot of the country's higher education reform."

The university was established in 2009 in Shenzhen with an estimated investment of 2.5 billion yuan ($394 million) by the Shenzhen government.

Unlike other universities in China whose presidents are appointed by the central government or local authorities, the university has a 20-member board consisting of government officials, a university president and a management team, that will examine and approve the university's management, financial reports and development plan.

It has also adopted a different enrollment policy. Unlike most universities that enroll students according to grades in the college entrance exam, the university enrolled 45 students in early 2011 who had taken an exam set by the university itself. After being approved by the Ministry of Education in April, it enrolled more students based on their performances in the national college entrance exam, in the exam set by the university itself and their high school records.

According to Zhu Qingshi, the university has hired more than 70 teachers, with a student-teacher ratio of 3:1. The university expects that to reach 8:1 in the future.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a non-governmental research organization, said the university didn't carry out the core reforms it claimed at the preparation stage, which include autonomous enrollment, awarding degrees itself rather than by the Ministry of Education as well as uprooting the bureaucracy of the university and letting professors rather than government officials manage.

"None of these were reached," he said."

"In the current situation the South University of Science and Technology of China is just a normal university that got approved and not the pilot university entrusted by academics and the public with a mission to set an example in the nation's higher education reform," he said.

"I think it should really concentrate on these reforms now and the Ministry of Education and the Shenzhen government should provide it with more freedom."

Li Yao contributed to this story.

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