MOE press conference to highlight breakthroughs in higher education during the 13th Five-year Plan period

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MOE press conference to highlight breakthroughs in higher education during the 13th Five-year Plan period

The MOE held a second press conference as part of its 2020 concluding series on December 3, 2020, to present progress achieved in the field of China’ higher education during the 13th Five-year Plan period, for example in educational reform, talent training, political awareness raising and technological innovation. Attendees to the event included Wu Yan, Director-General of the Higher Education Department, Lei Chaozi, Director-General of the Science and Technology Department, Liu Guiqin, Director-General of the Social Sciences Department, Hong Dayong, Director-General of the Degree Management and Postgraduate Education Department, Yu Xianting, Vice Director-General of the Moral Education Department. MOE spokesperson Xu Mei served as moderator at the conference.

Wu Yan said at the conference, that the higher education sector had seen historic breakthroughs and progress during the 13th Five-year Plan period, especially in the area of talent training. Following the mandate of student moral development and the strategy of quality and equity improvement with an emphasis on fostering talent in all fields, continuous efforts had been made to promote revitalization of undergraduate education, which strongly bolstered the process of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects and building China into a modernized socialist superpower.

The largest higher education system in the world

“China has established the world’s largest higher education system,” stated Wu Yan. The gross enrollment rate in tertiary education during the 13th Five-year Plan period, rose from 40% in 2015 to 51.6% in 2019, while the number of students in school reached 40.02 million.

Postgraduate education also expanded over the same period. According to Hong Dayong, all targets for postgraduate education set in the 13th Five-year Plan were met. 3 million students are pursuing postgraduate studies this year at HEIs, over 60% of whom should receive a professional master’s degree. 3.39 million graduates obtained master’s degrees and 333,000 earned doctoral degrees between 2016 and 2020.

Wu emphasized the priority of quality over quantity in higher education. Over the past 5 years, the quality of tertiary education has been improving across the board. In 2018, the first national quality standards for undergraduate education were issued, covering 92 categories of 587 majors in all 12 disciplines and more than 56,000 undergraduate programs across the country. The “Double 10,000 Initiative” to entrench course excellence selected 5,118 state-level first-class undergraduate courses as model examples for the development of undergraduate courses. While the Six Excellence and One Brilliance Plan 2.0 (SEMBP 2.0) has been launched, a Top-notch Undergraduate Training Scheme has been implemented in 17 basic disciplines involving 104 training bases.

Over the last five years, significant progress has been made in emerging engineering, medical, agricultural and liberal arts education, which entails across-the-board innovation in training systems in higher education.

Hong said, “Our work on degree management and postgraduate education in the 13th Five-year Plan period has been based on the principles of promoting moral development, responding to needs, improving education quality and pursuing excellence, and targeted at accelerating provision of high-level talent that is needed urgently by the country and achieving better quality and higher efficiency in educational development.” In recent years, as the reform and development of postgraduate education and its disciplinary system continue to make progress, the “Double First-Class” Initiative has been put into practice in HEIs all over the country and proved a success.

Within the 13th Five-year Plan period, MOE organized the twelfth review of degree-granting institutions, accrediting 28 HEIs that offer doctoral degree programs and 29 that offer master’s degrees. A reform was launched at the same time, to give degree-granting institutions authorization in conducting self-reviews and establishing new degree programs. To date, 32 HEIs’ requests for establishing a new degree program have been approved. A total of 1,663 degree programs have been abolished by 332 HEIs since 2015. MOE also carried out the first large-scale degree program assessment since the introduction of academic degrees in China, resulting in self-assessment of 12,877 degree-granting institutions and random assessment of 2,292 degree-granting institutions among all regular HEIs and research institutions.

MOE issued a series of policy documents to enhance capacity building in graduate student supervisors and endeavored to set up a three-tier training system for graduate student supervisors. The number of graduate student supervisors nationwide reached over 460,000 in 2019, an increase of nearly 100,000 from 2015, of which about 45,000 are at the age of 45 or below.

With the impact of a learning revolution brought by information technology, China has built an extensive MOOC network providing 32,000 courses and serving 490 million users in total, according to statistics. During the COVID-19 lockdown period in the first half of 2020, 1.08 million teachers of all HEIs in China arranged 17.19 million online courses as an alternative to face-to-face teaching, which were viewed 3.5 billion times by college students.

New trends in the reform and innovation of moral and political theory teaching

Yu Xianting, Vice Director-General of MOE’s Moral Education Department, reported at the press conference, “The proportion of university Party secretaries taking on leading roles in both Party committees and in academic research increased from 68% at the end of 2018 to 82% at the end of 2019. And the figure was generally above 95% in HEIs that have presidents and Party secretaries who are directly assigned and managed by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee.”

Yu mentioned the MOE’s efforts to improve work on political awareness in HEIs in the 13th Five-year Plan period. Institutional arrangements were made to organize Party leadership at provincial, regional or municipal level to deliver reports in schools since the 19th CPC National Congress. In 2019, 50 Party officials working at state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were tasked with giving 100 lectures and 100 core leaders of central SOEs were selected to serve as off-campus tutors at HEIs, sharing with college students their knowledge and experience.

Over the last five years, considerable progress has been achieved in Party capacity building at HEIs, such as the implementation of the Primary-level Party Capacity-building Initiative, training for Party secretaries of non-public HEIs across the country, and the creation of a campus network new media communication matrix.

As revealed by a general survey, 99.1% of HEI students acknowledge Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era as a long-term guiding strategy in the development of the CPC and China, while 99.3% believe the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics is crucial to the realization of socialist modernization and better lives for all.

Reform and innovation of moral and political theory teaching are key to the work of raising political awareness at HEIs. “During the 13th Five-year Plan period, continuous efforts have been made to innovate moral and political theory teaching at HEIs in terms of teacher qualifications, teaching materials and pedagogical methods. The quality of moral and political theory courses has largely improved, with a stronger sense of gain and higher satisfaction rates from students.” said Liu Guiqin, Director-General of the Social Sciences Department.

Liu stated that the reform and innovation of moral and political theory teaching experienced structural changes during the same period. Following CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping’s talk at the symposium of moral and political theory course teachers in March 2019, the CPC Central Committee and several state agencies, MOE included, released relevant documents and regulations to provide guidance on and set the framework for further reform and innovation in moral and political theory teaching.

Statistics shows that, by November 2020, China has 106,411 full-time and part-time moral and political theory teachers in total, 44,290 more than in 2015, representing an average annual growth rate of 14.4%.

“We have given stronger support to the reform and innovation of moral and political theory teaching during these five years,” added Liu. In addition to the central government’s RMB 470 million direct appropriation for the 13th Five-year Plan period, MOE and the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee funded RMB 110 million to 37 major Schools of Marxism for their development of moral and political theory courses, and MOE allocated an aggregate fund of nearly RMB 150 million for moral and political theory course development at HEIs from 2016 to 2019.

As indicated by the results of a survey of almost 150,000 students from over 200 colleges and universities, students’ satisfaction levels regarding moral and political theory courses exceeded 90% in 2020, 18% higher than in 2015.

Enhanced capability of HEIs to serve socio-economic development

Lei Chaozi, Director-General of the Science and Technology Department, stated that, “In the 13th Five-year Plan period, HEIs have significantly enhanced their capability to serve socio-economic development and key national strategies.” The scientific research outcomes and social services provided by HEIs have hugely supported the industrial upgrade and technological advancement in the high-speed rail system, photovoltaics, numerical control and other fields.

According to statistics, over 60% of key state-level laboratories have been established by HEIs, where over 80% of NSFC (National Natural Science Foundation of China) programs are conducted and over 60% of high-caliber talent from around the country are gathered, while more than 40% of China’s CAS (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and CAE (Chinese Academy of Engineering) academicians are teaching at HEIs.

In 2016-2019, HEIs received research funding of more than RMB 214.7 billion to meet the needs of industries, enterprises and society in scientific and technical services. In 2019, HEIs concluded 13,918 agreements on technology transfer, 45.1% up from 2016, reaching a total contract volume of RMB 6.75 billion, 34.3% up from 2016.

Lei said, “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, HEIs conducted emergency research projects to develop treatment drugs and vaccines, contributing to the fight of coronavirus control and prevention.” They have developed 44 testing reagents, of which 17 have been certified in China and 41 have received international certification. Also, clinical assessment has been under way for a few antibodies and vaccines.

With the MOE’s support, HEI researchers have incorporated their latest research results into teaching materials and classroom instructions. Based on the 2019 Monitoring Report of HEI Innovation Capability, in regular HEIs, 53.9% of undergraduates participated in research projects organized by their lecturers, and 12.8% took part in provincial-, ministerial- and state-level research competitions; 65% of graduate students participated in research projects entrusted by enterprises, and 20.9% delivered reports independently at national or international academic conferences.

To further vitalize the environment for research and innovation, HEIs have continued with reforms in decentralization, streamlining and optimization in institutional governance, HR management, funding allocation and more areas, and at the same time have promoted the reform of research performance evaluation system to create a vibrant academic atmosphere.

Lei concluded that, “In the upcoming 14th Five-year Plan period, HEIs will step up efforts to promote more systematic, well-organized research activities in the new frontiers in global science, aiming to better serve the country’s demands, the national economic development and people’s lives and public health and contribute more to China’s push to be a modern, socialist country.”

Source:MOE of China