East China's Zhejiang Province has recently won approval from the Ministry of Education to establish privately-funded Westlake University in its capital Hangzhou. The university, first proposed by a group of top Chinese academics in 2015, will focus on basic academic research and the transformation and application of technology. It represents a new step in reforming China's higher education system.
A nonprofit research-oriented institution, Westlake University will be funded by a foundation and run by a board of directors. Such a model will enable it to cut its reliance on government finance, guaranteeing the school's autonomy and improving its management efficiency.
Acting President Shi Yigong, a Princeton University-trained molecular biologist, outlined his ambitious plan for Westlake University in a recent public speech, saying in five years, the new university will rival prestigious schools such as Tokyo University, Peking University and Tsinghua University to become first-class in Asia. In 15 years, it will become one of the best universities worldwide, competing with the California Institute of Technology, according to Shi. His idealistic vision may bring greater attention to the school in its inception phase and help to draw necessary resources for its development.
Borne of many innovative features, Westlake University could push forward the formation of a modern university system in China and spearhead the higher education reform to explore a way of building world-class research universities fit for Chinese conditions.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in Guangming Daily on April 4)