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The Role of Westlake University in China's Higher Education TechNode

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According to Shi Yigong, a prominent scientist and president of a private Chinese university often dubbed the “China’s California Institute of Technology,” China is still ahead of its competitors in building cutting-edge research capacity at higher education institutions. I am falling behind. As part of his speech at the 2022 BEYOND Expo, Shi added that more must be done to transform the country’s university education system into a truly global hub of top talent.

BEYOND Expo 2022 was held online on Wednesday in the BEYOND Metaverse. The tech event features over 40 talks and panel discussions, with leaders and experts from a wide range of disciplines delving into the topics of consumer tech, health tech, global investment, sustainability and Web3.

Below is a transcript of the opening speech by Shi Yigong, President of Westlake University and Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hi guys. I am Shi Yigu. I am very happy to have the opportunity to share my views on the future development of China’s technology at the International Innovation Expo.

Today, I would like to share my views on the theme of “Exploring China’s Future Innovation-Driven Development Model”. Since we are talking about innovation, it is related to our education, technology and talent. These three elements – technology, education and talent – ​​ultimately constitute the main axis of innovation-driven development.

First, let’s talk about education, especially higher education. China is the world’s leading country in terms of size and it is no exaggeration to say that it is on its way to becoming a world powerhouse in higher education. By the end of 2020, there will be more than 40 million of her students enrolled in all of her 2,000 higher education institutions in China.

The quantity is certainly the largest in the world, and the quality is steadily improving. For example, by 2021, both the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings will have Chinese universities ranked among the top 100, making Chinese universities his 6-7th place and the world’s Ranked in the top.

However, there are some problems with higher education in our country. Although highly educated, there is a shortage of cutting-edge researchers. We usually pursue a general and comprehensive education, which does not have great advantages or characteristics. We value knowledge and practicality, but there is still a gap with other countries when it comes to innovation. We have developed much more common talent than the most outstanding and innovative talent. There were many academic achievements, but relatively few breakthroughs.

Next, let me briefly talk about the current state of technology in China. Over the past two decades, thanks to long-term and stable investments in technology, China is now among the top three countries in the world in terms of technology indicators. All of our technology metrics, such as number of articles, number of citations, and number of patents filed/approved/granted, are consistently among the top three in the world.

Third, let’s talk briefly about Chinese talent. In 1978, the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China ushered in the era of China’s reform and opening up and opened the door for Chinese students to study abroad. On December 26 of the same year, 52 of his scholars from mainland China left for the United States. It was the first group of students to study abroad since the reform and opening up began, and the average age was over 42 years old.

By the end of 2019, more than 6 million Chinese students have traveled abroad to study in other countries of the world, and more than 4 million of them have completed their studies and returned home, greatly impacting all aspects of Chinese society. It is no exaggeration to say that China has the largest talent team in the world. Talent is plentiful, of course, but the talent team still has issues when it comes to being number one in the world. That is, the cream of the crop. Talented people are relatively scarce.

In summary, in terms of higher education, technology, and technical talent, China is one of the leading countries in the world and is becoming a world powerhouse. However, there is an innovation index that reflects the country’s innovation capacity, and so far, China still ranks within the top 10 in the global innovation index.

In other words, China has become a technology powerhouse, a higher education powerhouse, and a talent development powerhouse, and is on the way to becoming a world power. of innovation capacity. We still have a long way to go.

Therefore, judging from such an analysis, China’s future development can only rely on high-end leadership and innovation-driven development strategies. And the core of this strategy is top talent. The top talent here refers not only to core talents in basic research, applied research, core technology, and advanced research, but also to top talent in all fields, from legal affairs to finance. , social governance, up to state management. I believe that the best talent will be the most important factor in the country’s high-end leadership and innovation-driven development strategy.

I would like to give the example of Westlake University. The establishment of Westlake University was designed with the premise and goal of a high-end leadership and innovation-driven development strategy. As early as 11 years ago, a group of returnees from the Western Returnees Association was discussing the future of China’s technology and education.

They reached a consensus to create a new type of small, elaborate, research-oriented university that would gather first-class teachers, create first-class curricula, educate first-class talent, and produce first-class results. . They will adopt a new model to create a new type of world-class university. Such a university was established in Hangzhou and is called West Lake University. It was officially approved by the Ministry of Education in February 2018 and officially established in Hangzhou in October of the same year.

Westlake University is a new type of university. What is new is that it received a great deal of support from the state and was founded by social forces. Westlake University was founded to support the growth of technology, the implementation of innovation-led development, the development of talent, and the exploratory reform of science education. This position of the university was strongly supported not only by the government, but also by individuals, companies, and local governments.

After four years of hard work, Westlake University now has 201 PhD supervisors. Most of them are world-leading scientists in their respective fields of research. The purpose of having first-class faculty is to develop first-class students. With the active support of the Ministry of Education, Westlake University has actively reformed and innovated in all aspects of admissions and competence training.

After years of hard work, Westlake University now has over 1,200 PhD students.

With the support of their doctoral supervisors, these students carry out innovative scientific research on key research themes and core technologies for breakthroughs.

Today, the new research university, as an entirely new concept, is gradually being incorporated into the country’s top design and is increasingly accepted and recognized by society at large. In the future, Westlake University will undoubtedly become a world-renowned first-class university that reflects Chinese wisdom.

The university has the world’s most outstanding scientists, cultivates the best young talents to carry out cutting-edge basic and applied research, explores the mechanism and system of scientific research and education that suits China’s national conditions, I can provide the model. It can be used for the sustainable development of China’s high-tech and contribute to the human civilization that the Chinese nation is proud of.

Perhaps in 10 to 15 years, Westlake University will fully embody the wisdom and ability of the Chinese people, and will be ranked among the best universities in the world.

Thank you very much.