College management

Updated: 2012-01-13 08:08

(China Daily)

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That most universities and colleges are run in a similar way to government departments has been highlighted as the root cause of their lack of innovation and inability to cultivate first-class scientists and academic researchers.

Unfortunately, the debureaucratization of our institutions of higher learning is unlikely to make much headway, despite the temporary rules for the making of college constitutions and the rules about faculty congresses that came into effect on Jan 1.

Even though the Ministry of Education insists that the constitution of a university or college must reflect the will of the entire institution, not just the will of its president or other leaders, and that it must provide a president with enough autonomy to run the university, the intrinsic inertia of the leadership in most of our universities and colleges makes it almost impossible to change the present governing mechanism.

In most of our institutions of higher learning, leaders at various levels, rather than professors, have the absolute say over all the major decisions. Often it is an administrative official who has the most say over the running of the university or college. As a result, the pursuit of knowledge has been replaced by the pursuit of instant acclaim and money, which finds expression in the increasing number of professors that have been involved in plagiarism scandals in recent years.

True, a university constitution must clarify principles for academic organizations, such as the way academic committees and academic degree assessment committees are organized and run so they can play their role in promoting academic research. But, if the current university and college managements retain their absolute say over major decisions, it will be impossible for constitutions to be worked out that make a big difference to way that universities and colleges are run.

Likewise though the new rules require a university faculty congress composed of no less than 60 percent of teachers that must convene at least once every academic year, it will be difficult for a faculty congress to play its due role if it does not have the mandate to veto university decisions.

Academia must be independent, and unless outstanding academic researchers and professors get the respect and reward that they deserve for their academic contributions, there is little hope our institutions of higher learning will yield outstanding research results and cultivate first-class scientists and academic researchers.

Hopefully the new rules will prompt professors and researchers to maneuver for the independence they need and for a mechanism that supports academic progress.

(China Daily 01/13/2012 page8)