Below is a translation of this recent article from China Youth Online. The article discusses a recent survey on the topic China’s university education system. The survey was conducted in response to Quacquarelli Symonds’ recent 2010 ranking of Asia’s top 200 universities.
The World News Report reported on May 18 that Britain’s Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a company specializing in education and study abroad, had just released its ranking of Asia’s top 200 universities. Of the top 200, both BeiDa and Qinghua failed to get into the top 10. At the same time, these two universities have been crowned by some media outlets as “second-class universities”.
Since 1998, when BeiDa celebrated its 100th anniversary, there has been no lack of discussion domestically regarding [this issue]. Not long after [the QS ranking was published], Xu Zhihong, scholar at BeiDa’s Chinese Academy of Sciences was quoted saying, “Presently, China has no world-class universities”.
How far apart do Chinese universities stand from world-class ones? Over the past few days, China Youth Online’s Survey Center polling of 4,488 China Public Opinion Network and Tencent [netizens] reveals that 58.8% believe that China lacks a world-class university, 18.8% believe China does have world-class universities, and 21.6% were unable to make a fair judgment. Of the respondents, 25.9% were enrolled at a key university, 45.4% enrolled under a regular Bachelors Degree program, and 18.4% enrolled in a top-level university.
At a Henan province teacher’s college […] most first-year students begin with a good first impression of their school. “The campus environment is very clean, and the facilities are excellent. The classroom buildings and dormitories are all brand new,” says Zhao Jie, a local student. However, since she started her classes, Zhao Jie has only become more and more depressed as time has gone on. “Many teachers [do their jobs] half-heartedly, they rarely interact with us. They don’t have any personal charm or charisma […] My classmates are drowsy in class, and often fall asleep en masse. We’ve gradually stopped going to class as we feel it’s a waste of our time. We’re better off finding an internship.”
“Some teachers are too occupied with finding money-making opportunities [outside of school]. [As a result], they don’t seriously pursue [continuing education in] their field of expertise […] Many students get together and compare the salaries of their internships. They’re too concerned with how much money they’ll make in the future, and very few put any heart at all into their studies,” said Renmin University of China student Tu Lingbo. “The impetuous and rash spirit of the whole of society and utilitarianism has long spread into [the university system].”
75.0% Believe utilitarianism is domestic universities’ most serious problem.
Yang Deguang, former headmaster at Shanghai Teacher’s College, and current Vice President of China’s Committee on Higher Education, was recently interviewed by China Youth Online. During the interview, Yang explained the government’s absolute administrative rule over the university system. [According to Yang,] the Communist Party has absolute authority over the management, economics and evaluation of schools, nominating school administrators, assigning budgets and expenditures, opening classes, and conferring degrees [….]
The survey also revealed that 72.2% of respondents believe that higher education’s [bias to Party political lines] is obvious. These respondents believed this to be the university education system’s second biggest problem.
Other problems university students feel exist are: ignoring the implementation of well-rounded education focused on building character (70.9%), plagiarism and other acts of academic dishonesty (61.0%), lacking creative genius (55.8%), lack of academic standards (53.2%), shortage of top-quality educators (50.2%), and management transparency (48.6%).
In the eyes of the public, what are the standards for a world-class university? The survey revealed the following: 71.4% of respondents say a cultural environment of independent thinking, 70.2% say a [system which] fosters a fondness of looking forward to [improving] one’s society, 61.5% chose teachers with a high level of character, and 53.8% say producing prominent intellectuals.
Yang Deguang believes that the current plan for education reform and development [can be affective]. [He says it] embodies the government’s attempt to encourage institutions of higher education to develop an approach to running schools where independent thinking is promoted. The key to this is continuing to oversee the reforms implementation [….]
How can the university education system be improved? Survey respondents: 69.9% believe that universities should concentrate on providing well-rounded education that builds character, 61.5% believe a great emphasis should be paid to university culture, 58.8% supported removing current university administrators, 36.2% say that schools should focus on attracting talent from across the world, 36.3% support the establishment of a university council, 32.7% believe an increase in funding, 20.5% say universities should improve their facilities.
[Finally], the survey also asked the public what they believe university students should get out of their education. First is the ability to think independently (78.2%). Second, learning fundamentals (58.1%). Third, knowledge specific to their major (54.6%). Other important traits to be learned include: building strong character (49.2%), the ability to live on one’s own (36.9%), professionalism (37.0%), meet friends (22.1%), earning a degree (14.8%), and prospects for a good future (14.8%).