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Interview with President Dou Xiankang during China’s Two Sessions on the importance of introducing more overseas talents
Author:Zhao Shi & Zhang Yu from The Paper  Date:2019-03-26  Clicks:

The second session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) was held in Beijing on March 3, 2019. In an interview with The Paper, the president of Wuhan University (WHU), Professor Dou Xiankang, who is a representative to the NPC, shared his thoughts on some of the opportunities and challenges facing WHU as part of the “Double First-Class” initiative, the co-establishment of  public scientific research platforms and the “import” of overseas talent.

President of Wuhan University, Prof. Dou Xiankang

“Double First-Class” plan:  priority given to student education and laboratories

The Paper: Under the Chinese government’s ‘Double First Class’ plan, Wuhan University has made it a short-term goal to build a globally recognized top university with Chinese characteristics by 2020. With less than a year to go, has this goal been realized?

President Dou: Strategy requires long-term commitment. Wuhan University is, of course, endeavouring to meet this important goal. In the past few years, visible progress has been achieved in the areas of talent cultivation and scientific research. Last year saw the implementation of the ‘Strengthen the university through talent’ strategy. Progress is further evidenced by the university’s improvement in global rankings. For example, Times Higher Education lists Wuhan University among the top eight universities in China. In terms of absolute growth of domestic talent employment, WHU ranked 6th for the past two consecutive years. Notwithstanding such proud achievements, I maintain that even more attention should be paid to talent cultivation, scientific research and student education, in line with the law of development of higher education. Any specific goals will be realized as the result of our joint endeavours.

The Paper:  The substantial funds invested by our national government is one reason why this plan has attracted so much attention. So what does WHU do to utilise them to the fullest?

President Dou: The funds have mostly gone towards improving our campus facilities, especially the laboratories. Over the past two years, true to our motto of ‘putting students first’, “we have consistently improved student’ canteens, libraries, dormitories and classrooms, and also introduced better teaching equipment. However, we still have a long way to go before we will catch up with the level of higher education in developed countries. In fact, we have been raising funds from other sources to ease the financial burden. For example, last year, half a billion RMB was donated by our alumni in support of talent cultivation and  infrastructure facilities for scientific research.

The race for talent: “it is pointless for colleges to  poach talent from each other.”

The Paper: Since your appointment as president of WHU, you have made great efforts to attract talent, including a concerted effort to recruit talent from overseas. What’s next?

President Dou: First and foremost, it is crucial that we retain our existing talent. We also aim to attract new talent, both domestically and overseas. In addition to ensuring high satisfaction levels, I believe  an atmosphere of respecting knowledge and talent is equally important. Additionally, we are seeking more funding to support talent cultivation and  infrastructure facilities for scientific research. The Hubei Provincial Government has provided funding of 1 billion RMB which will last for 5 consecutive years. The funds will be used for talent acquisition, equipment purchase and to establish major platforms for scientific research, so that young talents can commence their research projects soon.

The Paper: To enhance the competitiveness of Wuhan, What has Wuhan University done  to retain talents for this city lying in the geographic hub of China? Your university plays an important role in supporting China’s central city of Wuhan in enhancing urban competitiveness. How does it contribute to talent retention in the city?

President Dou: As a matter of fact, despite its geo-advantages, Wuhan faces substantial competition for talent. Nevertheless, our school remains one of the greatest talent growth engines and appears in sixth place among domestic universities for talent growth -that’s not an easy task. Talent retention requires attention to and respect for people,  and universities are supposed to ensure pleasant living and working conditions with a conducive academic atmosphere.

The Paper: What are your thoughts on the intense talent races among universities in recent years? And how does Wuhan University respond to this competition?

President Dou: Firstly, I want to make it clear that the talent recruitment plan of Wuhan University targets overseas experts instead of those from our domestic counterparts, because it is our belief that an overall improvement is far more important than internal competition. This June, I will lead another delegation on a talent recruitment trip to the United States of America. Secondly, I insist that it is pointless for colleges to poach talent from each other with more desirable treatment. Of course, a normal brain flow between universities is necessary as it contributes to the enhancement of university academic culture. This requires all departments to play a role in creating a pleasant academic environment. Therefore, we should take a critical eye towards this phenomenon and ensure a reasonable talent flow among different colleges and universities rather than resorting to blind competition.

Campus development: the university is raising funds to construct buildings for advanced scientific research.

The Paper: In recent years, many universities have expanded their campus area from city centres to other districts or suburbs. Will the future development of Wuhan University be limited by its single campus environment? Are there plans for future expansion?

President Dou: Indeed, it does matter for universities’ further development. Since “Reform and Open-up” in 1978, many colleges have enlarged their campuses. Despite of a total campus area of over 823 acres, Wuhan University remains short of developable land resources. Take, for instance, the historical buildings established during the Republic of China era, which are reserved as cultural relics, and reconstruction is not allowed without permission=. Besides, parts of our campus are located in the East Lake scenic area, thus faced with restrictions on the height of campus buildings, especially those for scientific research. However, for non-restricted areas, we are now raising funds that will allow us to construct comprehensive buildings, purchase cutting edge equipment for scientific research and establish a public platform, supported by corresponding regulations. In this way, more resources can go towards  our newly-employed talents.

Academic supervision: “zero tolerance towards academic misconduct.”

The Paper: Recent years have seen the uncovering of some academic misconduct. So, what has Wuhan University done to safe-guard academic supervision?

President Dou: Academic misconduct is by no means acceptable,. Wuhan University also takes a “zero tolerance” attitude in this regard. Two main measures are applied in support of academic supervision—one is publicity and education, the other is immediate, thorough investigation and just treatment.

(Rewritten by Lu Xinqiang, edited by Zhang Shiqi, Shen Yuxi Shi Weiya and Hu Sijia)


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