Universities called to meet social demands



Disciplines encouraged in technology, modern industry and smart agriculture

China will encourage universities in central and western regions to prioritize the development of disciplines including engineering, agriculture and medicine to better serve local development, the Ministry of Education said on Monday.

Wu Yan, director of the ministry's department of higher education, said the ministry will support universities in the regions to establish schools in modern industry, future technology, smart agriculture and public health.

More than 10,000 new undergraduate majors including desertification prevention, border defense management and intangible cultural heritage preservation have been set up by universities in western regions to meet the demand of social and economic development, Wu said. Almost 140,000 massive open online courses have been offered to western universities to bridge the education resource gap between regions, he said.

A total of 725 western universities, or 97.3 percent of all western universities, have used the MOOC platform, and the courses have been taken 163 million times, Wu said.

Moreover, more than 9,700 teachers in eastern regions have been sent to teach or give lectures at universities in western and central regions, he said, adding that Tsinghua University has sent four senior experts to serve as president of Qinghai University.

Mei Yan, deputy director of the Qinghai Provincial Education Department, said since the partner assistance project to universities in western regions was launched in 2001, 14 high-level universities, including Tsinghua University, Beijing Normal University and Tianjin University, have offered all-around and multifaceted assistance in funds, talent, technology and concept to universities in the province.

Thanks to their assistance, higher education in Qinghai has experienced leapfrog development and "a complete change", he said.

For example, the number of postgraduate students has grown from more than 70 in 2001 to more than 7,300 this year, and the number of undergraduate students has increased from 18,000 to 74,000 during the same period, he said, adding that the employment rate of college graduates in the province has exceeded 90 percent in the past five years.

Moreover, the academic background and overall ability of university faculties have also been considerably improved. The number of university teachers with doctorates has grown from 20 to 884 in the past 20 years and 80 percent of faculty have master's degrees or higher, up from only 11 percent in 2001, he said.

Liu Jianguo, president of Zunyi Medical University in Guizhou province, said since 2010 the university started to cultivate general medical practitioners for grassroots hospitals.

The students are exempt from paying tuition and accommodation fees and are provided with subsidies, Liu said. The university has cultivated 2,147 such medical students and all of them are working at grassroots hospitals and 700 are working at township hospitals, he said.

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