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President Dou Xiankang: show firm resolve in implementing the talent strategy
Author:Li Wei  Date:2019-12-17  Clicks:

WHU is hailed as “the most beautiful university in China”. Being one of the first universities selected into the “Double First-Class” initiative, WHU regards talent development as its top priority. Over the last two years, remarkable results have been achieved in talent recruitment and development. More than 200 high-level talents have joined WHU, and the enlarged pool of national-level talents in WHU now ranks top among domestic colleges and universities.

“ Cultivating new talent by utilizing existing talent is the very foundation on which  a world-class university should be built, and WHU will show resolve in implementing the strategy of building a talent-strong university under the “Double First-Class” initiative.” Professor Dou Xiankang, President of WHU and an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences shared his observation in an interview with Outlook Weekly.

Advance the construction of “Double First-class initiative” by adopting a talent strategy

Outlook Weekly: Why do you think WHU is hailed as the most beautiful university in China?

President Dou: WHU is perched high up on Luojia Hill, which is endowed with a wonderful view of the city. WHU’s beauty lies in its picturesque scenery and the elegant architecture which perfectly blends the eastern style with western charm. Moreover, the centennial spirit and cultural deposits of WHU form its inner beauty.

The history of WHU dates back to Ziqiang Institute, which was founded in 1893 by Zhang Zhidong, the then governor of Hubei Province and Hunan Province in the late Qing Dynasty. In the process of development and evolution, the institute became Wuhan National University in 1928, one of the earliest comprehensive national universities in modern China. By 1946, the university had established six colleges--the colleges of liberal art, law, sciences, engineering, agriculture and medicine. It was renamed Wuhan University in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded. ,.

For more than a century, WHU has nurtured its own temperament and profound humanistic values. The motto “Self-improvement, Perseverance, Truth-seeking & Innovation” is the epitome of WHU’s spirit which drives the university to advance with the times.

Outlook Weekly: How does WHU express its desire for talent?

President Dou: On the morning of June 6, a heavy rain witnessed the 2019 Wuhan University Commencement Ceremony. Over 11,000 graduates along with 5,000 parents attended the ceremony on the 912  Playground, sending best wishes to each other.

Through this kind of ceremony, we hope to give our gratitude to these students who have spent many years in WHU.  It also symbolizes our respect for knowledge and scholarship. Since 2017, graduates attend the graduation ceremony in baccalaureate gowns, and mentors will turn the tassel for each graduate in recognition of their academic achievements.

For the same purpose, we also hold inaugurations for newly-introduced talents.

In April, being witnessed by teachers and students, 40 new talents walked  down the red carpet to the academic hall. To show our welcome and respect, the ceremony was held at that historical and meaningful place. This reflects the great importance WHU attaches to talent development. We hope that more outstanding people will join us.

As of now, the total number of nation-level talents has risen from 238 in early 2016 to 454, increasing by 216, or 90.7%, with an annual average growth rate of 22.7%. High-level talents play an important leading role in talent development through whom the overall quality and core competitiveness of teachers are significantly improved.

Outlook Weekly: WHU has achieved a lot in the area of talent introduction. Could you share some experience of  talent retention?

President Dou: Talent is the key to a university’s development . First of all, WHU has created a positive atmosphere of sincerity for them. The university administrators should keep a close connection with those teaching on the front lines. I myself, for example, went to dozens of laboratories last year, in order to offer researchers help in line with their needs.

Last year, a newly introduced distinguished young scholar was confronted with conditional restrictions resulting from limited laboratory space. We quickly settled this problem through on-site work. Only by taking specific measures can we implement the talent strategy. We are trying to create a positive atmosphere where knowledge and talent are respected. Those who work hard deserve recognition and encouragement.

Secondly, a talent strategy cannot succeed without financial support. WHU alumni carry deep emotions toward their alma mater. They set up WHU’s Talents Funds in 2017 and raised RMB 5 billion in less than a year and a half, a goal which had been set for achievement over a 5-year period. The funds provide strong support for attracting high-level professionals both from home and overseas. Prioritizing talent training makes it possible for WHU to cultivate distinguished talent continuously and, as a result, those newly-recruited talents have published papers in international journals such as Cell, Nature, Science etc.

Thirdly, all talents are fairly treated no matter where they come from. We embrace every individual who devotes him- or herself to the construction of the “Double First-class” initiative. WHU will provide support by offering more resources, such as research funds, to excellent and particularly productive teams.

WHU takes a flexible appraisal mechanism to retain professionals. At regular intramural workshops, newly-introduced talents report to their colleagues on research progress and exchange experience with them at the same time. It offers young talents opportunities to open their minds and promotes interdisciplinary cooperation. This mechanism also brings necessary pressure to both new-comers and existing talents.

We are convinced that young people have career ambitions. Only by keeping in touch with faculty members can we gain a better understanding of young people’s demands, and hence make more targeted and precise decisions.

For one thing, we bring in interdisciplinary talents for multi-discipline science subjects, emerging engineering, emerging liberal art education and the construction of comprehensive medicine. For another, we also devote resources to independent talent cultivation and the furtherance of talent maturity. WHU offers a top-notch personnel training program and, since 2017, the university has subsidized 151 young talents’ further education at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge and other world-renowned universities as well as their collaborative research global leading disciplines. We also give increased support to teaching affairs and to the implementation of the 351 Program. Philosophy and social sciences talent program mechanisms have been improved by appointing senior professors from the humanities and social sciences, and by recruiting faculty-stationed researchers’ and social sciences young scholars.

Giving top priority to talent development

Outlook Weekly: Why does WHU pay more attention to attract international talent?

President Dou: For countries, talent is the primary resource. It is the same for universities. Universities are places where knowledge is created and spread, and they are also the cradle for talent. The quality of talents determines how far-reaching a university’s impact will be., That is why WHU gives priority to talent development.

The reasons for introducing talent Europe and America is as follows:

First, though Chinese scientific research and higher education have enjoyed tremendous growth since the start of Reform and Opening-up some 40 years ago, they still lag behind western countries in certain fields as life sciences and modern technologies. We hope that more outstanding young scholars from overseas will make contributions to the scientific  development of domestic universities and colleges. Alongside the cultivation of young people, WHU intends to introduce more talent from overseas.

Secondly, attracting more international talent embodies the prevailing trend of international talent competition, so we hope to attract more talents to China. In recent years, I have led teams to the US, the UK and other countries, where we held talent fairs for the purpose of widening channels for attracting talents. In mid-June, I headed a delegation to visit Rice University, UCLA and other American top universities, where we met with 90 young talents at specially designed high-end talent fairs.

Over the last two years, the number of nation-level talents in WHU has doubled. The number of WHU’s distinguished young scholars now ranks 5th among Chinese universities. The increase in the number of nation-level talents, the majority of which comprises international talent, has resulted in WHU being ranked 6th for two consecutive years in this category. Those are fairly impressive statistics. The introduced talents thus facilitate our pace towards success.

Outlook Weekly: What do you think about the departure of talents?

President Dou: Regular mobility owing to  family or scientific development reasons is acceptable. However, what is really important for a president is to identify the primary causes of talent flow, especially if they are tied to a less conducive atmosphere or poor working conditions within the university.

In my opinion, it is the university’s attitude towards talents rather than geographical reasons that causes them to leave. School administrators are supposed to have national awareness, which means no restrictions should be imposed upon talent development if there are better opportunities. We should think about whether we could improve and what better conditions we could offer.

All colleges and universities value talent. It is the importance attached to, and the funds invested in, talent development that makes the difference. Resources in universities are limited, so it is important for universities to optimize resource allocation and prioritize tasks according to its own primary objectives.

Talent poaching is meaningless. Scholarly personnel will not switch their jobs for a minor improvement in salary. Admittedly, salary gaps may change people’s mind, however, when it comes to talent outflow, it is the difference in management principles and service consciousness for talents that really matters. The working mechanism, culture and academic atmosphere are crucial elements as well.

An objective rather than a negative view to talent outflow should be adopted. . Tough talents departure restriction, a potential protection in the short-term,, could have negative implications for the long term. Policy making therefore requires broader considerations.

Cultivating talent is the very foundation of a world-class university

Outlook Weekly:  How does WHU utilize talent to cultivate outstanding students?

President Dou: WHU is a first-class university in China which is supported by its first-class students. Being a member of the first batch of universities selected for the Double First-Class Initiative, WHU firms up its resolve and intensifies the sense of mission to cultivate more excellent graduates, to advance knowledge for the nation and society, and to provide top talent for all walks of life.

Last year, WHU launched a special first class delivered by the president to freshmen before the start of their college life. It helps them learn the history of WHU and how to organize their time on campus.  The first and foremost task of a university is to provide students with first-class education and teachers, and everything else is secondary.

Students put forward many suggestions for better dormitories and canteens . As the president, I always put myself in students’ shoes and try to figure out what they really need. In recent years, WHU has given priority to renovating canteens and dormitories as well as to improving sanitary conditions, and so on. We have also optimized the scholarships and student grants systems in order to benefit every student.

For first-class universities, administration at all levels is supposed to serve faculty and students well so that they can focus on their studies, teaching and scientific research. In this way, more knowledge will be spread and there will be more outstanding talents. That is the value of universities.

To ensure that students can get into contact with higher level teachers  from the beginning, we arrange courses given by outstanding teachers for undergraduates, especially for freshmen and sophomores. A typical example is the public lesson series co-delivered by six academicians.

To acknowledge the role played by geomatics and remote sensing in the modernization of China and to inspire passion for knowledge, academician Ning Jinsheng proposed that basic courses be set for freshmen and delivered by academicians. WHU implemented this proposal 20 years ago when the first lesson of Geomatics Introduction was delivered in September 1997, and it has since been taught by a group comprising 6 academicians: Ning Jinsheng, Chen Junyong, Li Deren, Liu Jingnan, Zhang Zuxun and Gong Jianya. They impart knowledge and cultivate people with practical courses loved by students. Also, they make efforts to nourish students in their attractive classes, to guide them with their devotion to family and country, and to inspire them with the personality of a mentor. The class presents deep integration of values, leadership and professional education.

For two consecutive years, graduation ceremonies have been held on rainy days. Members of the mentor team, including academicians over 80 years of age, attended ceremonies without umbrella, and so did the graduates. They thus illustrated the way of being a paragon of virtue and learning in person.

Outlook Weekly: How does WHU uphold the student-oriented principle?

President Dou: Priority has been given to students’ comprehensive development. WHU puts much emphasis on offering students favorable conditions, such as improving public teaching facilities, optimizing course arrangement and enhancing general education. WHU encourages professionals entering class so as to cultivate best talents via quality education. Meanwhile, WHU respects students’ interests. We help students broaden their path to success through feedback on scientific research and inspiring innovation. In addition, we encourage students to participate in clubs in line with their interests, which benefits their all-round development.

Last year, efforts were made to build a highly professional instructor team. We advise schools to recruit doctoral instructors from universities in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. We try to explore talented and skilled people who also cherish ideal faith. Through a multilevel training system, the instructors’ theoretical ability, professional capability and working quality will be continuously improved. This will facilitate professionalization of instructors.

We also suggest the creation of a nation-level construction plan. Accordingly, to maintain the vitality of instructors and assure students of working quality, opportunities of talent flow should be given by administration.

Building a comprehensive curriculum of political and ideological theory is of top priority for fostering good personalities and civic virtues. We have reached a consensus that importance should be attached to ideological and political theory class. Using multiple methods to adapt theory to teaching content and strengthening the pertinence of class subliminally adds attraction and infectivity to theory education. WHU makes efforts to bring all kinds of sources and courses into ideological and political theory education. WHU adheres to a coordinated teaching system and integrates theory education into the whole process of student cultivation.

As for undergraduate education, WHU carries forward an educational concept that recognizes personality education over expertise education. We offer freshmen two general education courses: Humanities and Social Sciences Introduction, and Natural Science Introduction. Through academic reform, we implement “College Pattern” in Hongyi Honor College and introduced a third-term system. Opening entrepreneurial class is an important measure to strengthen innovation education. For postgraduate education, we have created a new talent education pattern and provide communication platforms for students, which boosts quality original outcomes. As a consequence, postgraduates’ research ability and employability have significantly improved.

Moreover, WHU is endowed with a positive academic atmosphere full of role models with great personalities.

At present, WHU’s rank in the QSUS News, and THE, three of the world's most influential university rankings, is going up. The total number of high-level talents shows a significant increase and students’ comprehensive quality and innovation ability earn good social reputation. WHU ranks 6th among mainland universities in QS Graduate Employability Rankings. Last year, the amount of WHU’s major projects supported by National Social Science Fund of China won the second place.

Statistically, in 2018, 60.15% of undergraduates applied for further education. WHU swept five gold, six silver and seven bronze medals at the China College Students’ “Internet Plus” Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition. WHU’s undergraduates won 20 special awards and 280 first prizes over the past three years. Around 60% to 70% of papers published by WHU have a postgraduate first/second author and more than 90% are under postgraduates’ names. In the QS Graduate Employer Survey, WHU ranks 110th among universities worldwide, 21th among Asian universities and 6th among mainland universities. The talent strategy will defiantly enable WHU to walk steady and far.

From: Outlook Weekly

Rewritten by: Zhang Yuting, edited by Shen Yuxi, Hu Sijia and Shi Weiya


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