—An Interview with Prof. Xia Qinghua from the Economics and Management School, Wuhan University
Liu Daoyu, former president of Wuhan University, once said that the university’s independence should be restored to overcome the disadvantages confronting Chinese universities. The former president of Peking University Wang Yiqiu shares this opinion, pointing out that a university should be independent from politics and the government.
The increasingly innovative and entrepreneurial activities nowadays mark the transformation of modern universities to entrepreneurial ones. Predictably, the transformation will enable universities to become self-sufficient, which will fundamentally change the relationship between the university and the government. Professor Xia Qinghua from the Economics and Management School of Wuhan University has a unique view on how Chinese universities can become more independent.
As universities try to combine teaching, scientific research with knowledge capitalization, a new form of university was born—entrepreneurial university. Chinese University entrepreneurship dates back to the reform of scientific and technological institution in 1985. With the deepening of internationalization and market-oriented reform, universities are changing their role in social and economic development. Besides teaching and scientific research, universities undertake a third mission—contributing to economic development. This brings both challenges and opportunities.
The findings of Professor Xia indicate that the approaches to academic entrepreneurship in the research-oriented universities in China include establishing partnership with corporations in research, providing technological consultancy and service, creating spin-off ventures. However, there are several problems concerning these approaches:
First, Chinese universities, despite their strength in innovation, lack entrepreneurial skills. Second, universities’ potential in scientific research has yet to be fully tapped, mainly due to the low efficiency in utilizing research funding. Third, the university spin-offs are highly dependent on the parent university, leading to their weakness in knowledge operation and undesirable business performance. Fourth, despite their technological contributions, scholars play an insignificant role in business management.
The Higher Education Law of the People's Republic of China stipulates clearly that university is a legal entity capable of independent governance. However, the research-oriented universities in China are now stuck awkwardly between scientific research and the market. On the one hand, their state-owned nature ties them inextricably to the government. On the other hand, the lack of national funding forces them to seek local and industrial support. Therefore, their business participation might not be a long-term strategic decision, but more likely a helpless choice for subsistence.
To achieve self-sufficiency, Prof. Xia offers the following suggestions:
First, revise the patent law and relevant regulations to stimulate the industrial transformation of technologies. Second, improve industry-research collaboration mechanism. Third, improve university policies concerning technological innovation and provide incentives for it. Fourth, improve the governance structure of university, so that its transformation can be promoted at the institutional level.
CV Link to Professor Xia, Qinghua http://ems.whu.edu.cn/en/50/1/8/2015-05-22/149.html
（Edited by Xiang Jiahao, Mark & Hu Sijia）