"We should have the top scholars around the world 'work for us but not necessarily be owned by us'", said professor Zhong Zhangdui of Beijing Jiaotong University, who's also a CPPCC National Committee member, in an exclusive interview with chinadaily.com.cn on March 3.
This idea is the core of the much talked-about sharing economy, which Zhong believes works well in China's higher education industry in terms of talent employment.
The two sessions -- the annual gatherings of the nation's top legislature and its top political advisory body-- start in early March. The NPC session opens on March 5, 2017, two days after the CPPCC National Committee session gets underway. Some 5,000 participants from the NPC and the CPPCC National Committee will attend the event.
Having been involved in various important rail projects around the country, including the Qinghai-Tibet railway and high-speed railway network, Zhong is known as a leading expert inChina's railway communication industry, but his scope goes well beyond that.
As a college teacher for more than thirty years, Zhong has closely observed the development ofChina's higher education industry, and since he became a CPPCC National Committee member has made several proposals closely related to education at the two sessions, such as calling for greater subsidies forChina's doctoral and postdoctoral students.
Double first-class strategy
"In my eyes, double first-class universities should be built on two dimensions," said professor Zhong.
The term "double first-class university" refers to the terms "world-class university" and "first-class discipline", which were approved byChina's national deepening reform lead group in 2016 as a new drive for the development ofChina's higher education sector.
Over long periods of time or the time dimension, universities must be the custodians of cultural heritage, said Zhong, but the spatial dimension should focus on regional distribution of colleges.
He noted that in theUSmany universities are located in a college community, which offers them enough space to grow and contributes to local growth as well.
Balanced education resources are important to the development of a region, added Zhong.
He also stressed the importance of good management in building top universities and disciplines.
As far as management is concerned, the most important thing is to attract and keep world-class scholars, said Zhong.
Funding for college expansion and development should come from a combined pool of government, enterprises and donations.
Zhong believes that free competition at a certain level rather than mere administrative order works in the building of first-class universities and disciplines.
"There is a kind of internal power that contributes to the competitiveness," said Zhong.
Turnover of college staff
Turnover of college staff has become a hot topic over the past few years inChinaas professors transfer between schools or enterprises.
"Turnover, but not brain drain, is normal and natural," said Zhong, "because universities shouldn't be built as closed circles."
But nowadays, many universities are vying aggressively for academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering, or the Changjiang Scholars.
"Sometimes, universities are competing for those people because of their 'title' instead of their knowledge and capability," said Zhong, who criticized the situation and said the current assessment system of college staff is to be blamed.
Schools should not take talents in a utilitarian way that oversimplifies turnover of college staff, noted Zhong.
More training centers
"I'm not worried about the competitiveness ofChina's academically oriented students, but feel more anxious about the application-oriented graduates," said Zhong.
The education quality ofChina's top universities is rising fast, said Zhong, citing the increasing number of papers published in world-
journals written byChina's research teams.
However, ordinary universities, which should have focused on fostering "craftsmen", a word that became popular after Premier Li Keqiang used it in his 2016 Government Work Report to refer to ordinary workers who strive to offer the best products or services, are lagging behind because they don't provide enough training opportunities.
In many foreign countries, universities choose to cooperate with enterprises, and training centers that bring together social offices, enterprises, and universities give students a great deal of hands-on experience, especially over vacations, according to Zhong.
Beijing Jiaotong University has established a cooperative relationship with ZTE, a leading comprehensive telecommunication solution provider, according to Zhong. ZTE has provided a large volume of equipment for the student to work with.