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Zhejiang U. showdown(2)

2013-07-01 09:51 Global Times Web Editor: Sun Tian

Lin takes the stage

Under the current system, a university president of this stature is appointed without much public input, by two departments - the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Part of China (CPC) and the Ministry of Education.

Officials from these departments announced Lin's appointment on Wednesday at a meeting of the university's leadership.

"I will work hard to provide professors and students with the opportunity to realize their potential and compete fairly," Lin said in his first speech as the university president.

Lin admitted to some weaknesses, saying his oratory skills needed work and that he is unsociable, but said he would "shoulder the negative pressure" and carry out his job. Professors and students at the university remained skeptical of his suitability, saying he is not familiar enough with the university.

A professor surnamed Li at the university told the Global Times that they had only heard rumors of the appointment and the protest. "We don't know him and have never met him."

"How a university president is elected reflects the key values of the university, which should be the pursuit of higher academic levels, rather than bureaucracy," Yang Dongping, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Global Times.

University presidents have rotated between positions more frequently in recent years, which makes it more difficult for them to appreciate the unique characteristics of each university, Xiong Bingqi, an education expert from the same institute as Yang, told the Global Times.

Yang added that the appointment system needs reform and autonomy of universities is an important component of education reform.

  A more open process

The Ministry of Education started reforming the university president appointment system in 2011. Since then, five institutions have used an "open" recruitment process to select presidents, where a committee is formed to choose candidates, and the candidates are evaluated using a number of criteria, including interviews and public opinion polls.

Universities that have adopted this process include Northeast Normal University, the Southwest University of Finance and Economics, the Beijing University of Science and Technology, the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and China Pharmaceutical University.

However, none of the top universities in China, such as Zhejiang University, Peking University or Tsinghua University, have opened up their university president selection processes.

Reforms allowing open recruitment for selecting presidents would be good for the sector, Xiong suggested, because administrative authorities tend to choose candidates according to administration considerations rather than academic standards and this has hampered teaching quality at universities across the country.

These reforms are likely to take some time. The Shenzhen-based South University of Science and Technology (SUST) was among the first universities to achieve a high level of autonomy after its establishment in 2011. SUST president Zhu Qingshi said that it will take a long time to change operating procedures, as it is difficult to change from a system where a high-level official always has the final say, the Nanfang Daily reported.

Xinhua contributed to this story

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