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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Egg-Head Hunting

China is making some progress in attracting quality academics to its universities, but the pace of change is slow:

China hunts abroad for academic talent, by Pallavi Aiyar, Atimes.com: ...[China] has ... turned its attention to transforming its universities into world-class institutions. "Our government realizes the connection between a nation's overall power and the quality of its higher education," said Dr Weiying Zhang, assistant president of Peking University. ... Chinese universities backed by massive injections of governmental funding are spending billions of dollars to attract top foreign-educated and overseas-born Chinese, ... and developing new programs taught in the international lingua franca - English...

Han Bing ... said [Beijing Normal University] hosts 30-40 scholars from leading Western universities annually. ... The positions are open to all nationalities, although cultural affinities and language requirements have meant that so far only ethnic Chinese have been recruited ... as full-time staff. ... At Peking University's Guanghua School of Management, ... full professors with PhDs from prestigious universities abroad can expect ... anywhere from $30,000 to $300,000 and up (depending on the ... prominence and seniority of the individual involved). This year the school recruited its first non-ethnic-Chinese faculty member, a Canadian national ... The ability to offer internationally competitive salaries is key to attracting quality academics, said Zhang. ...

As a result of its improved pay scales, the Guanghua school currently boasts some 50 "returned scholars" ... and more than half of the faculty hold foreign PhDs. ... In fact several ... research institutes at China's better universities have a minimum requirement of a foreign PhD for faculty members. ...[A]t Peking University..., Professor Feng Lu, recalled the Herculean efforts required to persuade quality academics to return to China a decade ago. In contrast, he said, there are now more than 50 applications for every vacancy advertised at the center. Examples of world-renowned academics choosing China as their new home abound. ... "For a world-class university, it's necessary to attract the best students and faculty internationally. ... we don't just want the best Chinese ..., but the best from around the world," said Zhang. ...

For him, one of the most significant reforms pioneered at Peking University ... [is that since] 2003, professors ... are no longer promoted on the basis of seniority but with an eye to their research and publication records. If a new lecturer cannot make it to associate professor within six years, he or she is asked to leave. "This was the only way to change the orientation of our faculty towards academic research," explained Zhang.

The combined results of these efforts are already paying off. Despite the common perception that Indian higher education, with such renowned institutions as the Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management, is superior to its Chinese counterpart, China's universities in fact beat India's in almost every international ranking. ...

However, China still has a considerable distance to go before its aspirations to create truly world-class universities become a reality. According to the SJTU rankings, the United States had more than 50 universities in the top 100, compared with zero for China. ... Thus, despite having the funds available to make the cream of international academia fairly lucrative offers, even China's leading universities have so far only been able to recruit China-born or ethnic-Chinese scholars in any significant numbers. "We have been able to improve our hardware considerably," said BNU's Han. "But as is always the case in China, the software takes longer."

    Posted by on Sunday, February 19, 2006 at 02:03 AM in China, Economics, Universities | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (19)


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