A little over a century ago, Tsinghua University sent its first group of students to pursue higher education in the US. This year, while celebrating its 105th anniversary, Tsinghua will welcome the inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars, consisting of more than 100 outstanding graduates from world-renowned universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge. In August, they will take up residence on the Tsinghua campus in Schwarzman College, a building whose architecture embodies the cross-cultural spirit of both tradition and modernity.
A star team of instructors with rich knowledge of the East and the West has been recruited from around the world – among them Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate in economics, and Wang Hui, the first Chinese recipient of the Luca Pacioli Prize – to teach the incoming Schwarzman Scholars. These young scholars are set to gain an in-depth understanding of modern China and the interdependency of global development in preparation for a leadership role in the world.
To meet the challenges of globalisation and other pressing issues that affect us all, universities strive for international competitiveness. To achieve this, the focus must be on raising the quality of education. At the same time, universities should endeavour to instil in talented young people a spirit of innovation and a desire to contribute to society.
For this, it is essential that universities recruit faculty of world-class calibre to continually innovate their curricula and evolve their international exchange initiatives to enable students to develop a global vision. Tsinghua has attracted world-leading academics in various fields, including Chen Ning Yang, a Nobel laureate in physics; Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, a recipient of the Turing Award; Yigong Shi, a recipient of the Gregori Aminoff Prize; and Shing-Tung Yau, a Fields medallist.
Tsinghua has fully incorporated innovation and entrepreneurship within the traditional curricula. At present, 37 new courses in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship are offered to undergraduate students, and 105 to postgraduate students.
At Tsinghua, more than 40 per cent of undergraduates and 60 per cent of PhD students gain overseas study experience before graduation. Their study-abroad locations range from developed nations to developing ones. Meanwhile, Tsinghua continues to strengthen its education for international students. In 2015, it enrolled 3,380 international students from 119 countries. Tsinghua also experiments with new international exchanges and collaborations. It has established partnerships with 267 institutes of higher education in 48 countries. In June 2015, it was announced that the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) would be opened in the Seattle area as a joint institute run by Tsinghua and the University of Washington, with founding support from Microsoft. It was the first time that a Chinese university had established a physical presence in the US. In 2014, the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI) was created in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley.
Tsinghua is also dedicated to making greater contributions to society. Leveraging its strengths in technology and innovation capacity, Tsinghua strives to offer solutions to our most pressing socio-economic challenges. For example, after continuous research efforts in the past three decades, Tsinghua has developed a new technology for safer nuclear power generation. This is a critical breakthrough that can have a big impact on nuclear power and energy consumption in China and globally.
Tsinghua places great emphasis on cultivating a strong sense of social responsibility among students. Among many examples, Wei Huawei, who graduated in 2008, conducted four years of voluntary work in a remote Aids-hit village in Henan Province and helped to lead this undeveloped village into prosperity. Moreover, as part of efforts to alleviate poverty, Tsinghua allocates people and resources to education across the country. By February 2016, Tsinghua had established 1,156 long-distance education stations covering 551 economically disadvantaged counties, and its online education system connects to 2,520 elementary and middle schools in villages and towns, offering courses to 2.3 million people.
In modern civilisation, a university stands as a temple where cultural legacies are safeguarded and passed on, where the seeds of hope are sown and where dreams are born, nurtured and realised. As president of Tsinghua, I am confident that Tsinghua will be more innovative, more globalised and more humanities-oriented. A globalised stage provides Tsinghua University with greater opportunities to turn dreams into reality – and raising the quality of education will ensure that we can fulfil our ambitions and can help others achieve theirs.
President, Tsinghua University