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New thinking on "double first-class" construction under the pandemic
Author:Dou Xiankang  Date:2020-10-14  Clicks:

Key information: The suffering and baptism of COVID-19 has highlighted the mission and value of universities. It also brought more precious opportunities for their innovation and development. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, Chinese colleges and universities have always been on the same side with the country. They have not only carried out high-level online education, successfully resolving the crisis of the suspension of school and teaching caused by the pandemic, but also vigorously carried out researches on drugs, vaccines, and testing reagents, providing strong scientific and technological support for winning the battle against the pandemic, and fully fulfilling the era mission of the "four services".

Facing the sudden virus, Chinese colleges and universities have not stopped using academic innovation and knowledge inheritance to promote human welfare and social development, while making effort to strictly prevent and control the pandemic. At present, coping with the pandemic has entered the stage of normalized prevention and control. We must think deeply about how universities can accurately grasp the trend of the times, cultivate new opportunities in the midst of crises, open up new opportunities amid changes, and accelerate the construction of "double first-class" initiative.

A new look at the core elements of world-class universities under the COVID-19

From the perspective of the origin and development of universities, the academic attribute is always the essence. Only when a university adheres to its original aspiration and mission of giving priority to scholars, academics and students can it be regarded as a first-class university shining in human history. Although world authoritative university rankings such as QS, US News, TIMES, etc. have different evaluation criteria and emphases, all of them regard strong scientific research capability, outstanding faculty, and high quality of student training as the core elements and common standards of world-class universities without exception.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reexamine the core elements of world-class universities and it is easy to find that preeminent talents, high-level scientific and technological achievements are the key to victory in disease prevention and control. A university can be praised as a truly outstanding university only if it shoulders the important responsibility at the critical moment of the nation and the country, and contributes greatly to national rejuvenation and progress. Apparently, the role and contribution of universities in national public health incidents and major emergencies will largely determine their social status, international reputation and subsequent sustainable development. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Chinese colleges and universities have always been on the same side with the country. They have not only carried out high-level online education, successfully resolving the crisis of the suspension of school and teaching caused by the epidemic, but also vigorously carried out researches on drugs, vaccines, and testing reagents, providing strong scientific and technological support for winning the battle against the pandemic, and fully fulfilling the era mission of the "four services". Wuhan University (WHU) has shared a common destiny with the Chinese nation since its birth. As the "main battlefield" of pandemic prevention and control, WHU played an irreplaceable role in winning the war of protecting Wuhan and other areas of Hubei. Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University and Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University have given full play to the role as "main battlefield". They are major designated hospitals for treating COVID-19 patients, providing more than 10,000 hospital beds. Also, they took over Leishenshan Hospital, Wuchang Mobile Cabin Hospital, Wuhan Lounge Mobile Cabin Hospital, Wuhan No.7 Hospital, and Wuhan No.9 Hospital, and supported the treatment of critically ill patients in the ICU of Jinyintan Hospital. In terms of discovering and tracing viruses, the team of Professor Lan Ke (Medical Research Institute, Wuhan University), one of the China’s first teams to identify the novel coronavirus,took the lead in completing the virus genome sequence determination, and contributed to the rapid identification of pathogens in the early stage of the epidemic. Professor Zhang Xiaochun (Department of Radiology, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University) combined clinical diagnosis and treatment, and first suggested taking CT images as the clinical diagnosis method of COVID-19, which was written into the fifth edition of the national diagnosis and treatment plan. When it comes to research and development of detection reagent and clinical application, Professor Liu Tiangang, together with Li Yan’s team (Renmin Hospital) innovatively developed a nanopore targeted sequencing method, which remarkably improved detection efficiency and accuracy. Looking back on the anti-pandemic war in the past few months, WHU has always been on the front line and fought at the forefront. With practical actions, we have written an epic of fighting COVID-19 to defend our home and country, which fully demonstrates the university’s responsibility at the critical moment of our country and nation.

New implications that the COVID-19 brings to the construction of world-class universities

Universities, as the highland of human civilization and the cradle of scientific and technological innovation, should not be satisfied with passive and hasty reactions after the disaster has come. It is supposed to rethink the implications the pandemic brings to the building of world-class universities, such as precisely identifying, scientifically dealing with and actively pursuing changes as well as seeking and creating opportunities from current crisis and difficulty.

We should grasp the major strategic needs of the country and plan the strategic development of disciplines from the perspective of the future. At present, China is laying out a number of important scientific research infrastructure and large disease prevention and control projects concerning human life and health. As significant  combinations of the primary productive force of science and technology and talent pool, universities should play an important role in building a strong public health system. Therefore, Wuhan University is speeding up the structural adjustment of medical disciplines, improving the collaborative research mechanism of disciplines like basic medicine, clinical medicine, public health, pharmacy, etc. and strengthening the intercross as well as integration of medical disciplines with biology, physics, chemistry, big data science, artificial intelligence and other non-medical disciplines. The School of Biosafety and Public Health will be established to plan key platforms such as innovative technology and reserve base for diagnosis and prevention of major viral diseases, intelligent emergency response system based on big data in time and space for prevention and control of severe viral diseases and treatment of patients, intelligent innovation base for drugs for serious epidemics, and national basic resources and technology research center for biosafety. At the same time, we will promptly construct a major epidemic prevention and treatment base of Hubei Province, which will be located in Optics Valley Branch of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, and make more contributions to the national epidemic prevention and control and public health emergency response system.

We should deepen online teaching and promote the in-depth development of “quality revolution” with "learning revolution". During the pandemic, classes suspended but learning continues, colleges and universities have conducted online teaching to a more stereo, vivid, efficient and high-quality level. The philosophy of "learning-centered" has been gradually set up, the student’s ability of independent learning has improved step by step, and the function of teachers has also changed from professors to instructors, motivators and organizers. Universities should comprehensively summarize the vivid practice of online education during the pandemic, transform it into an important measure for education and teaching reform, and promote teaching reform in the aspects of ideology, philosophy, content, methods, techniques, standards, evaluation and paradigms, so as to continuously improve the quality of talent training .

Reflecting on the unprecedented test brought by the pandemic, we should focus on modernizing the governance system and governance capacity. The pandemic is a major test for national governance system and capacity, as well as that of universities. During the pandemic, universities earnestly shouldered the responsibility for prevention and control, made every effort to build a solid prevention front, achieve scientific decision-making, accurate management, and efficient services in pandemic prevention and control to ensure the safety and health of teachers, students, and staff. University has won the battle of epidemic prevention and control on campus with all its strength, and honed its governance capacity and management level during the pandemic test. Universities should conscientiously sum up experience, profoundly reflect on the enlightenment brought by pandemic prevention and control to university governance system, and constantly promote the modernization of school governance system and governance capacity.

Accelerating the construction of a world-class university in the normalized pandemic prevention and control

As the main battlefield for pandemic prevention and control, Wuhan has achieved decisive results in the fight against COVID-19. At present, it comes to a new stage of coordinated promotion of epidemic prevention and control as well as economic and social development. As a national key university located in Wuhan, Wuhan University is also coordinating the normalized prevention and control of the pandemic with the reform and development of the university. On the one hand, we will continue to ensure pandemic prevention and control with a high sense of responsibility by adopting scientific and rigorous measures to gradually promote the resumption of work and class; on the other hand, we will meticulously plan for development, constantly enhance our “first-class” consciousness, and strive to promote the “Double First-Class” construction with the spirit of pursuing excellence.

In the next stage, while comprehensively deepening the reform in an all-round way, Wuhan University will focus on the following work in the “Double First-Class” construction. First, we will give full play to talents to promote the core competitiveness of WHU. The quality of talents determines the quality of a university. The top priorities in the construction of a world-class university are to bring in talents, respect talents, serve talents and help them to succeed. We will continue to bring in high-level talents worldwide, send outstanding young teachers to study in the world’s first-class universities and scientific research institutions, create a good environment for talents to start their own businesses, vigorously create a campus culture of respecting scholars and advocating academics, and improve the talent assessment and evaluation mechanism to encourage talents to take on their responsibilities. Second, we will attach great importance to the fundamental task of talent cultivation and deepen the education and teaching reform. We will focus on the cultivation of top-notch and innovative undergraduate talents, deepen the enrollment and training of the specialty-free mode, promote the deep integration of information technology and education, optimize the curriculum system of general education, introduce high-level talents to teach for undergraduates, let “the most outstanding talents cultivate excellent talents", so as to create a first-class undergraduate education. Meanwhile, we will focus on improving the innovation ability and training quality of postgraduates, optimize the enrollment and selection mechanism of doctoral students, improve the responsibility and power mechanism of mentors, and constantly improve the standards of postgraduate degree awarding, so as to build an excellent postgraduate education. Third, we will take major platforms and key projects as a guide to enhance the independent innovation ability of WHU. We will enhance the organization, planning and top-level design of scientific research by focusing on the key fields of national construction and promote the construction of major scientific and technological infrastructure such as “Wuhan Photo Source(WHPS)”, “Wuhan Supercomputer Center”, and the construction of innovation platforms such as “Frontier Science Center for Immunology and Metabolism” and the “Aerospace Information Intelligent Service Integration Platform”. We will actively cultivate major strategic projects and further enhance the ability of original innovation and the level of serving economic and social development. Fourth, we will focus on the core issue of improving our governance capacity to accelerate the construction of a modern university system with Chinese characteristics. We have successively designated 2019 and 2020 as the “Year of Capacity Building” and “Year of Governance Improvement”, aiming to promote the school-running efficiency through the improvement of governance capacity and governance level. We will work hard to optimize institutional mechanisms, strengthen the capacity building and evaluation reform, continuously improve the principal accountability system under the leadership of the Party committee, further optimize the academic governance system with academic committee as the core, deepen the reform of the management system at both levels of university and department, focus on the performance appraisal of cadres, and transform the governance efficiency into the “Double First-Class” construction achievement.

The year 2020 marks the end year of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) and the start of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025). It will be a crucial year for achieving the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and a crucial year for winning the battle against COVID-19. The suffering and baptism of the pandemic have highlighted the mission and value of universities and brought more valuable opportunities for the innovative development of the university. Looking into the future, we should take great strides and forge ahead in our quest to build a world-class university with Chinese characteristics with a broad vision, a grand picture, a big mind and a great spirit.

Rewritten by: Dong Xiaoqian;Chen Muying

Edited by: Qin Zichang;Wu Buer, Sylvia and Hu Sijia


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