Research and Social Service
4 Research and Social Service
In the early years of the People's Republic, cultivating talent was the dominant task for most colleges and universities in China. Today, with socio-economic development and the implementation of the strategy of rejuvenating the country through science and education, they are attaching increasing importance to science and technology, and research, teaching, and social service have become their three major functions. Statistics, though incomplete, show that universities are running nearly two-thirds of the key national laboratories in this country; and one-third of academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering work in universities. In 2003, universities won sixteen National Natural Science Awards (84.2% of the national total), eleven National Technical Innovation Awards (78.6%), and ninety-one National Science and Technology Progress Awards (59.1%). Some of the achievements have been transformed into actual productive force, some have pushed forward basic theoretical research, and some have met the needs of economic construction and social development. Higher education institutions have become the main strength in basic and applied research, and in the industrialization of high technology.
Universities largely rely on research to improve teachers' qualifications, update teaching content, reform traditional specialties, add new specialties, and develop new disciplines and inter-disciplinary studies. Following the Education Law and the development of science and technology, they maintain a balance between training highly qualified students, producing high-level research results, and serving society. They attach equal importance to scientific research and technological development, applied as well as basic research, theoretical research and promotion of research results, philosophy and social sciences, as well as natural sciences. The scientific research and social services undertaken by universities are geared towards economic construction, closely connected with industrial practices, and in extensive cooperation with various social sectors.
With much attention from the government, universities have greatly enhanced their research strengths and comprehensive competitiveness over the past few years. They have made outstanding achievements in both basic research and high technology research, in translating research results into industrial practices, in industrialization of high technology, and in contributing towards national economic construction and social development. Universities have thus become an important part of the national innovation system.
Basic policies for university research
Since 1978, the government has made a series of policy decisions to promote scientific research at higher education institutions, such as the Decisions on Institutional Reform of Science and Technology and the Law on Science and Technology Progress. These policies have helped create a favorable environment for universities to engage in scientific research and development.
The Ministry of Education has also decided on a series of specific policies and measures to promote scientific research at universities. These involve guidelines for the development of university research, and a readjustment of the concept and management of science and technology innovation. By strengthening the construction of disciplines, a number of high-level research-based universities will gradually come to the fore. State-level key laboratories and other research bases will be readjusted or regrouped, and more funding for laboratory infrastructure and operation allocated. At the same time, the ministry encourages universities to share resources so as to raise their research conditions to a higher level. The ministry also promotes exchange and cooperation between universities, research institutes, and relevant organizations in society at large. Collaboration between universities and enterprises in science and technology innovation and talent training is also encouraged. The government provides effective protection for intellectual property rights, and supports universities participating in international cooperation.
The general guidelines for university research are to emphasize basic research, strengthen technological development, promote translation of research results into industrial practices, regulate industrial management, improve the mechanism of competition, innovate organizational and management systems, pay attention to institutional characteristics and inter-disciplinary education, bring into full play the universities' talent and comprehensive disciplinary potential, enhance the universities' research and innovation capability, build up a knowledge innovation system among universities, and contribute to the country's science and technology progress, economic construction, social development, and national security.
Basic state of scientific research at universities
The principal players in scientific research are specialized research institutes, universities, enterprises, and other research organizations. Universities constitute a vital force in scientific research. Their research funds come mainly from relevant state-level foundations, and governmental and social endowments. While universities have specialized research faculties, most teachers both teach and research. As their role in national and regional economic construction grows more and more important, universities have formed an initial system for the translation of research results into industrial practices and industrialization of high and new technology. University research is thus closely related to and actively promotes the country's socioeconomic development.
Universities usually have well-established research organizations with distinctive features. Some of them are nationally or internationally advanced key research centers. These organizations are managed at different levels. The university is responsible for the overall planning, inspection, and evaluation of the organizations, and takes care of routine management. The operation of a research organization rests with its director. Each organization is managed differently, in light of its scale and field. The university is directly responsible for state-level key laboratories and engineering research centers, and large research institutes. It consigns the management of cross-school or cross-department research organizations to the relevant schools or departments. Some research organizations are managed by the relevant departments independently or in cooperation with the organizations. State-level key laboratories operate under an open system. They attract outstanding scientists and specialists from both within China and abroad to participate in cooperative research. Most of such laboratories have an academic committee, with the members coming from among authoritative experts in relevant fields across the country. The committee decides the research direction, content, funded projects, and evaluation of results through collective discussion.
Universities actively cooperate with research institutes, industries, local governments and public institutions in setting up sci-tech organizations, or economic alliances involving research, development, production, and business management. Cooperative organizations set up on campus are usually under the administration of the university. The parties concerned are jointly responsible for the direction, progress, and quality of research, while the university takes care of routine management. Some universities also accept personnel and investment for capital construction from their partners. Universities are encouraged to ally and cooperate with each other so as to share their resources, and to improve their overall research conditions. Some similar or related disciplines and key laboratories have been merged or regrouped. Some universities have set up innovation bases and opened up their large collection of research instruments to form large-scale instrument centers at the state level. Universities are gradually digitizing and networking research information by setting up various online cooperative research centers and building up many open basic-research data banks.
Universities have gradually formed new systems and mechanisms to stimulate science and technology innovation. They have improved their evaluation system, for example, by paying more attention to the quality rather than quantity of research papers, placing equal stress on research papers and patents, and attaching greater importance to the transformation of research results into industrial practices. They have gradually established a personnel system and motivation mechanism to promote transformation of research results and industrialization of high technology, with awards based on such factors as intellect, technology, entrepreneurship, and management. The distribution, reward, and personnel systems serve to inspire teachers and researchers to do research, and to make and to promote innovations. Universities encourage their researchers to take part in the industrialization of high technology, state-level key research projects, and other industrial development plans.
Universities play an active role in international scientific and technological cooperation. They work with their overseas counterparts, research institutes, and research departments of transnational corporations on important international scientific projects. They plan the development of disciplines and continuously strengthen scientific research under the guidelines of regrouping and refining disciplinary directions, and building up research teams and various research bases. Universities encourage their faculty to do research as well as teach, and to make science and technology innovations. The state encourages universities to train innovative talent, talent with entrepreneurship, and top-level talent; to engage in inter-disciplinary research; and to produce a sufficient amount of innovations with an international competitive edge.
In recent years, universities have made considerable progress in scientific research. Between 1996 and 2000, they have enjoyed an annual growth of more than 20% in research funding, with about half of the funds coming from the government. They also undertook about 25% of the state-level key science and technology projects, over 30% of the Program 863 projects, over 30% of the Program 973 projects, and over 70% of the general and 50% of the key projects sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation. Of the papers included in the Science Citation Index (SCI) and the Engineering Index (EI), universities contributed nearly 70% and more than 75% respectively of the total by authors in the mainland of China. In 2003, universities across the country obtained research funds totaling 25.33 billion yuan from various channels, with thirty-four of them receiving over 200 million yuan each.
By 2002, universities throughout the country had established over 5,035 research and development organizations, and 1,700 humanities and social science research organizations. Of the original fixed assets of these organizations amounting to 27.6 billion yuan, instruments and equipment accounted for 21.8 billion yuan. They had in operation or under construction 103 state-level key laboratories, forty-four state engineering (technology) research centers, and forty-three state-level university sci-tech parks. A number of high-level research-based universities are now taking shape, and are becoming an important part of the national innovation system.
In the process of making science and technology innovations, universities have trained and accumulated a number of academic leaders with both innovation and management abilities. Besides teachers who also shoulder research tasks, universities have 296,000 science and technology specialists, of whom 263,000 are research and development personnel. University researchers who have won funding from the Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars total 640 (65% of the total number of winners). Eleven university teams have been honored as nationally outstanding teams for innovation in basic research (52.9% of the total). During the Tenth Five-Year Plan Period (2001–2005), Program 863 has hired 121 experts from universities (48.4% of the total), Program 973 has forty-five chief scientists from universities (40%), and the Changjiang Scholars Award Program has 444 special and lecturing professors from universities. They play an important role in various fields of China's science and technology work. The number of papers published in international journals, the number of people taking part in international symposiums, and the number of experts and students from abroad working or studying in China are all increasing rapidly. Raising international competitiveness has become an important goal for some strong research-based universities.
In China, 94% of basic research is undertaken by universities and state-run research and development organizations. Universities actively take part in state plans for basic research. These include: National Program on Key Basic Research Projects, Program 973, National Natural Science Foundation projects, plan for building state-level key laboratories, state-level key science projects, building of state-level field observation and experiment stations, National Plan for Scaling New Heights in Basic Science, and Pilot Projects of Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The areas of basic research in natural sciences include: national economy, social development, development of science and technology, international frontier research, improvement of national core competitiveness in science and technology, and new ideas, theories, methods, and technologies in understanding nature.
General situation of basic research in natural sciences
Universities pay great attention to the training of basic researchers, with strong support from the government. In 1993, the Ministry of Education initiated the Cross-the-Century Plan for Training Outstanding Talent, with the goal of discovering and training academic leaders in various disciplines. Candidates came mainly from participants in state-level key science, technology, and engineering projects, and young experts at state-level key research bases. By the end of 2002, a total of 922 young teachers from more than 100 universities had been selected through eleven sessions of evaluation. The government has started or implemented several other plans to attract, select, and train young talent. These plans have promoted the building of research teams in universities.
Through optimized arrangement, distribution, and regrouping, universities have established key bases to support the development of basic disciplines. At present, there are 162 state-level key laboratories in operation, 103 of which are run by universities. In addition, there are 157 university laboratories under the administration of the Ministry of Education. These laboratories are important platforms, ensuring the intensive restructuring of science and technology organizations, the promotion of inter-disciplinary education and research, and the cultivation of innovative talent and teams.
Universities play an active part in the building of the national innovation system. They also make a great effort to contribute to the overall planning, distribution, and readjustment of the nation's science and technology work. They have established state-level basic and applied research bases, which are “shared among different universities, open, mobile and highly efficient.” Universities set great store by training outstanding, innovative talent and teams. They advocate freedom in basic research and strategic high-tech development, in line with the relevant national goals. They also provide sci-tech products and services to the public, and have formed regional research and development centers to help raise regional innovation capability.
For many years, universities have undertaken large numbers of state-level basic research projects, with increasing funds from the state. Universities received 36.8% of the total national funding for basic research in 1996 and 38.8% in 2000 (Figure 4.1). From 1998 to 2003, Program 973 authorized 157 projects, of which universities undertook eighty-one (51.6% of the total). In 2000, universities undertook 27,732 general projects of the National Natural Science
Foundation (75.23% of the total) (Figure 4.2), with funding of up to 460 million yuan (73.69% of the total). Of the foundation's key projects, universities undertook thirty-four (62.96%), with funding of 37 million yuan (61.19%). Of the twenty-five key basic-research projects authorized by Program 973 in 2003, universities undertook fifteen.
Strategy and results of basic research
In recent years, the Ministry of Education has gradually formed strategies and policies to promote the development of basic research, with emphasis on the building of relevant disciplines, the training of talent, and the establishment of support platforms. Universities have made rapid progress in basic research, which they take as the core of science and technology development.
The ministry has adopted three strategies on science and technology development: first, integration of specialists, projects, and bases; second, diversification of science and technology innovation; and third, internationalization of scientific and technological development.
The purposes are to expand the scale and raise the level of science and technology development, increase innovative capability, cultivate inter-disciplinary and cooperative research teams, and produce a number of basic-research results with national and international influence. Implementation of these strategies has ensured and strengthened the core status of basic research and its function to produce original results. Basic research has also improved the level and capacity of “strategic, frontier, and future-oriented” research. It has raised the universities' sustainable capability in science and technology development.
The implementation of patent strategy plays a vital role in the protection of intellectual property rights and development of core national competitiveness. Universities have strengthened policy support for the protection of intellectual property rights and organization of patent applications. Publicity has raised the scientific and technological personnel's awareness of intellectual property rights. Through relevant management methods, the government has stimulated the initiative of university teachers to do basic and frontier-discipline research, raised the universities' ability to bid for state-level key research projects, and provided effective protection of their intellectual property rights.
Universities pay close attention to the development of a science and technology innovation system, and the creation of a good and relaxed academic environment. They encourage free exploration and creative thinking in research. Through institutionalization of interdisciplinary research and cooperation on key projects, universities have created a good policy environment for cultivating, retaining, and attracting talent. They also lay great stress on the training of high-level basic researchers and innovation teams.
Universities are active in building up high-level key research bases. Through careful planning and construction of new platforms for basic research, they are able to constantly improve on original innovation in basic research. Universities are also increasing funding for the construction of state, provincial, and ministerial-level key research and development bases. They support frontier and inter-disciplinary research, and are keen on setting up inter-school (department) and
inter-disciplinary research and engineering technology centers that can best represent their respective academic advantages. They actively promote the comprehensiveness and scale of key research bases through planned, stage-by-stage redistribution and regrouping. Universities put in much effort in the reform of the management system and operation mechanism of these bases. They provide classified guidance and standard management for these bases on the principle of making them “open, mobile, cooperative and competitive.” After many years of hard work, university basic research has produced a large number of significant results, brought about some new disciplines, and trained many specialists.
Universities have achieved many original basic-research results at advanced national and international levels. These results have brought about outstanding economic and social effects. For example, Tsinghua University was the first to succeed in directly synthesizing 20-cm single-walled carbon nano-tube strands, which has promoted the development of one-dimensional nano-technology and its applied areas. In 2003, the research led by Professor Shu Degan of Northwest University on “animal groups in Chengjiang and the big explosion of life during the Cambrian Period” won the National Natural Science Award's first prize. Important progress in basic research has promoted the emergence of some new frontier disciplines and expanded the intension and extension of disciplines in general. Some interdisciplinary studies have developed, such as biomedical macromolecular science, nano-biomedical science, medical structural biology, and nano-science and technology. Development in basic research has also prepared a large reserve of high-level basic researchers. As their science and technology strength grows, universities have been able to improve their capability to undertake state-level basic research, and to increase the number and improve the ability of their researchers.
The government vigorously promotes research in philosophy and social sciences, taking it as an urgent strategic task. Satisfactory achievements have been made in many areas. Researchers focus their work on the needs of national development and carry out in-depth study of important theories and practical issues in the construction of modernization. Their work constitutes an important contribution to the advancement of Chinese culture. In the process, the contingent of researchers has enlarged, their research strength has improved, and so have the disciplines in philosophy and social sciences.
Progress of research in philosophy and social sciences
After many years of effort, the number of universities with research capability in philosophy and social sciences increased from 513 in 1991 to 739 in 2001, a growth of 44% (Figures 4.5 and 4.6). The number of relevant teachers reached 252,000, of whom 162,000 were under forty years old and who made up 64% of all liberal arts teachers. There were also 1,700 university research institutes and centers, with 17,000 full-time or part-time researchers. In 2001 also, we saw the graduation of 28,000 graduate students in philosophy and social sciences.
In 2001, universities undertook 41,000 research projects in philosophy and social sciences, about four times the 1991 figure of 11,000 projects and nearly double the 1996 figure of 21,000 projects. From 1991 to 1993, universities undertook 68.81% of the total National Social Science Foundation projects, with the percentage rising to 76.9% in 2004. In 2002, universities received 1.07 billion yuan of government funding for research in philosophy and social sciences. Publications included 9,107 books and 176,000 papers. More than 10,000 research
results were submitted to the relevant departments for evaluation or applied to practice. During 1991-2001, universities held more than 3,000 international symposiums on philosophy and social sciences and submitted 42,000 papers. Some 9,000 teachers were invited to give lectures abroad, 19,000 went abroad to do further study, 23,000 overseas scholars came to teach in China, and international exchange of researchers reached 9,000. From 1996 to 2000, universities undertook 3,126 research projects through international cooperation. Theoretical and applied research has led to a more complete setup of disciplines in philosophy and social sciences. Specialties have also developed in greater depth. Inter-disciplinary research has increased, leading to the rise of new disciplines.
Measures to strengthen research in philosophy and social sciences
The government has taken many practical measures to promote research in philosophy and social sciences, and to motivate universities and researchers. In 1995, the Ministry of Education established a reward system for research in these fields on a three-year basis. By 2002, rewards had been given out at three-year intervals for a total of 1,316 achievements. Starting from 1997, the ministry implemented the Cross-the-Century Plan for Training Outstanding Talent (humanities and social sciences). It focuses on retaining and training middle-aged and young teachers in these fields. Up to 2001, a total of 154 middle-aged and young teachers were selected for the training plan. By now they have become famous experts and academic leaders in their respective disciplines. Since 1999, the ministry has established 106 key research bases in philosophy and social sciences. They involve twenty-three disciplines and have made important achievements in research, training, academic exchange and data buildup, consultancy and services, and institutional reform of research.
Starting from 2003, the Ministry of Education initiated the Program for the Prosperity of Philosophy and Social Sciences in Higher Education Institutions. The Program includes six plans and ten measures. These include plans for tackling major projects, for the construction of key research bases, for training and rewarding talent, for rewarding outstanding academic achievements, for the reform of social science education, and for the development of an information network. The measures include tackling major projects in these fields, building key research bases, training academic leaders and new academics in the new century, outstanding academic achievements, reforming liberal arts education, building the infrastructure and an information network, setting up positions for specially-appointed professors, raising the ratio of philosophy and social science teachers for the Award for Outstanding Young University Teachers, including liberal arts teachers in the Core Teachers Training Plan, encouraging universities to set up positions for senior philosophy and social science professors and provide them with appropriate benefits, promoting famous and widely circulated journals in philosophy and social sciences, and establishing a special fund for relevant international academic symposiums.
On July 1, 2003, the Information Network of Humanities and Social Sciences in Chinese Universities (www.sinoss.com) was formally launched. The site provides such services as data search, consultancy on academic trends, academic forums, and online evaluation. It also offers information on relevant research organizations, achievements, academic work, and consultancy services to government departments, various social sectors, and individuals in China and abroad.
The central government has recently issued the Proposals on Further Development and Prosperity of Philosophy and Social Sciences. The Proposals point out that philosophy and social sciences play an irreplaceable role in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and in the historical process of the rejuvenation of the country. The development of philosophy and social sciences is an important task in building socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Proposals require strengthening the development of traditional, new and inter-disciplines, and basic and applied research. They call for greater support for research projects that have a bearing on the overall development of philosophy and social sciences, and those that have a critical influence on the innovation of disciplines, on the progress of national culture and spirit, on socio-economic development, and on national security.
Major achievements in philosophy and social science research
Universities actively develop research in philosophy and social sciences, and provide relevant services to the government in policy-making, and to the country's reform, opening up, and modernization drive. Researchers closely relate their work to the national economic restructuring and have provided important theoretical support and policy suggestions for the establishment of a market economy with Chinese characteristics. They have also made many important suggestions with regard to judicial reform. University teachers have participated in the drafting of and provided legislative consultancy on almost all the major laws, including the Constitution, Criminal Law, General Principles of the Civil Law, Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region.
Bearing in mind the realities in China, researchers provide consultancy services to central and local government decision-makers. For instance, they have submitted a large number of reports on rural issues, international cooperation, regional development, etc. Researchers also provide consultancy services to enterprises and government organizations. From 1991 to 2001, university teachers in philosophy and social sciences undertook 16,600 research projects commissioned by enterprises and public institutions, with funds totaling 416 million yuan. During the same period, they published 1.16 million academic papers and 64,000 books, and won 34,000 awards from governments at various levels. Outstanding works include the twenty-two-volume General History of China, edited by Professor Bai Shouyi of the Beijing Normal University, and the series of books that includes the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature with Professor Ji Xianlin of Peking University as the chief editor. Achievements have also been made in research on the country's economic restructuring, shareholding system, and the economy in transition.
Development of research has led to the development of disciplines in philosophy and social sciences. New and inter-disciplines have emerged to meet the need for talent with comprehensive capabilities. At present, there are 2,896 and 406 schools or departments training graduate and doctoral students respectively. They offer 132 fields of study.
Universities have become disseminators of Chinese culture at home and abroad. For example, some famous experts in philosophy and social sciences now also teach in foreign universities. They have trained large numbers of specialists in international communication through such disciplines as foreign languages, international relations, international trade, and international law. These play an important role in China's opening up.
Higher education research
Research on higher education was haphazard before 1978. Only relevant departments, schools, and individuals would do some specialized research to meet the needs that occurred at the time. Higher education as an independent field of study appeared in the early 1980s. The China Association of Higher Education was established in 1983. Statistics show that, there are more than 800 relevant research organizations (colleges, institutes, offices) in the country. The National Center for Education Development Research is under the administration of the Ministry of Education. Journals on higher education number several dozens. Higher education research has two approaches. One focuses on the practical issues in higher education reform and development, and the other on the building of relevant disciplines.
Research provides important theoretical and strategic guidance for the development of higher education. The issues under research include higher education reform and development, challenges posed by science and technology revolution, the goals of higher education, new concepts of education, talent, and teaching, and the relationship between traditional education concepts and modernization. After the mid-1980s, research focused mainly on the relationship between higher education and a market economy, relationship between higher education and culture, macro-restructuring and localization of higher education, teaching reform, moral education, and development strategy. Such research provided reference for the making of policies on higher education reform at the time. Since the 1990s, applied research in higher education has been paying greater attention to providing basic theoretical guidance. The quality of research results has improved. Many of the results have caught the attention of government departments and some have been adopted in practice. Some have had an important influence on the reform of higher education.
In recent years, higher education research has focused mainly on the following areas: character education, popularization of higher education, the modern university system, university spirit and culture, transformation of concepts, reform of teaching content and curricula, training of innovative talent, the relationship between knowledge economy and higher education, sustainable development of higher education, quality and efficiency, classification and orientation of universities, readjustment of structures and systems, reform of the management system, building of world-class universities, the goals and modes of post-secondary vocational education, development of private higher education, the impact of China's WTO membership, and employment for graduates.
In 1983, the Academic Degree Committee of the State Council listed the study of higher education as a subfield of study, marking its formal establishment as an independent discipline. Since then, theoretical circles have carried out discussions on the subjects, disciplinary nature and system, and methods of higher education research. The Higher Education Study was published in 1984, followed by more than twenty books of the same kind. The China Association of Higher Education was established in 1993. The first three symposiums organized by the association focused on the building of disciplines and exchange of views on basic theories. The first academic unit to train master-degree students in the study of higher education was established in 1984 and the first center to train doctoral students in 1986. The numbers increased to a dozen and four respectively in 1996, with more than seventy and eleven respectively at present, with a total enrollment of more than 650 students.
The mainstream of China's higher education study is distinctively Chinese, although some concepts and experience have been borrowed from advanced countries. Scholars have developed a series of theories, on such issues as the law of internal and external relations of higher education and research methodology. Various branch disciplines of higher education began to appear in the 1980s, and their numbers have since increased. A system of theories has come into being, too. The branch disciplines can be divided into three categories. The first includes disciplines branching out of the study of higher education itself, such as theories on university teaching, history of higher education, and comparative study of higher education. The second refers to inter-disciplines such as higher education economics and higher education management. The third category refers to studies of higher education of different types and at different levels, such as higher engineering education, higher normal education, post-secondary vocational education, academic degrees, and graduate education.
In 1982, the government made it a strategic policy that economic construction must rely on science and technology, and that the latter must serve the former. In 1985, the government made the Decisions on Institutional Reform of Science and Technology. In line with the government policy, universities attached equal importance to both basic research and national economic construction in science and technology work. They also stressed technological innovation, and the transformation and industrialization of research results. In the past two decades, universities have played a major role in promoting science and technology progress and social development.
Universities emphasize cooperation with research institutes and enterprises in scientific research, innovation, and training. The government encourages alliances between universities and research institutes or enterprises by providing them with preferential support when they jointly apply for state-planned projects. In the comprehensive evaluation of universities, the transformation of research results and industrialization of high technologies is an important criterion. It has become a trend for universities and enterprises, either Chinese or overseas, to co-build laboratories, and research and development centers. The state encourages universities to set up high-tech enterprises. It supports science and technology personnel to take part in the transformation of research results into industrial practices. They can also leave their posts to set up high-tech enterprises or intermediate agencies. Undergraduate and graduate students can retain their student status if they want to postpone their studies to set up high-tech enterprises.
Brief history of the development of high technology
University research on high technology started in the early years of New China. To meet the needs of national economic recovery, universities cooperated with research institutes and production units to solve theoretical and technical problems in actual production. In 1956, China implemented the Twelve-Year Plan for Science and Technology Education. Research on the composition of polypeptide and beef insulin with the participation of Peking University was an example under the Plan. In 1962, research and development of high technology became an important task for universities. The lack of funding, research personnel, and materials was gradually being solved. In 1963, the Ministry of Education approved the establishment of eighteen research organizations in eleven universities to engage in research and development of some frontier and high technologies urgently needed for the country's development. A number of internationally advanced results were achieved. Tsinghua University, for example, successfully studied and experimented with a nuclear reactor. In 1977, the ministry mapped out fourteen plans on applied disciplines and new technologies. In 1985, the ratio between basic research and applied research and technological development in universities was 13 : 60 : 27. Funding for research increased to 600 million yuan from less than 100 million yuan in the late 1970s. In 1986, universities actively took part in the state-organized High Technology Development Plan, or Program 863 for short, and have since become an important force in the country's high-tech research and development. In 1992, universities established several engineering research (technology) centers during the institutional reform of science and technology. These centers have proven to be new channels for translating research results into actual productive force, and strengthened the universities' research and development capabilities.
Policies for research on high technology
In recent years, universities have been playing a more prominent role in the research and development of high technology. In 1993, the government published the Outline for Educational Reform and Development in China. It required that universities be responsible for developing science and technology, and promoting the country's modernization drive, besides training high-level specialists. It was the first time that the importance of scientific research at universities was raised to the national level. The Outline required universities to vigorously carry out technological development and application, and to offer consultancy services. They were also required to set up enterprises to speed up the translation of research results into actual productive force. In 1995, the government issued the Decisions on Accelerating Progress of Science and Technology. It emphasized that large and medium-sized enterprises should cooperate closely with research institutes and universities to jointly develop high-tech products with big market potential. The Decisions encouraged research institutes and universities to set up high-tech enterprises. In 1996, the government published the Decisions on Deepening Institutional Reform of Science and Technology during the Ninth Five-Year Plan. It required the establishment of a technological development system, with enterprises as the main components, combining education, research, and industry. A scientific research system and a relevant social scientific service system should also be set up, with research institutes and universities as the main components. The Decisions made it clear that universities were a major force in the country's scientific research system and technological development system. The implementation of these policies has promoted the universities' high-tech research and development.
The Ministry of Education has strengthened its guidelines for the building and management of key disciplines at universities. It requires that academic units teaching key disciplines should improve the quality of talent training. They are also required to continuously enhance their capabilities in high-tech research and development, and actively take part in the industrialization of such technology. They should optimize the structure of science and technology personnel, improve the operational mechanism of relevant organizations, and emphasize scientific management. In line with the construction of Project 211, universities should renovate or expand laboratories, and renew equipment so as to provide better
conditions for high-tech research. They should also promote cooperation between academic units teaching key disciplines. Implementation of these policies has stimulated the initiative of key-discipline teaching units to undertake state-level high technology projects. These units have subsequently made many achievements and speeded up the growth of technology-based university enterprises.
Major progress in high-tech research
Universities constitute a major force in China's high-tech research and development. Nearly 160 universities undertook 40% of the country's high-tech research and development projects, with the same percentage of funding, in the first two years of the Tenth Five-Year Plan Period. In the past two decades, universities have made important progress and achievements in high-tech research. For example, the first 10MW high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactor in China, built with Tsinghua University as the main participant, is internationally recognized as the type of reactor that is most likely to meet the requirements of the fourth-generation nuclear energy system.
Universities actively cooperate with enterprises in developing new products with original intellectual property rights and high added value, leading to the technological progress of the enterprises. From 1991 to 1997, universities joined enterprises in achieving 56,816 research results that were approved by authorities at different levels, signed 31,749 contracts for technology transfer involving 2.835 billion yuan, and sold 2,626 patents for 284 million yuan. In 2002, they had 6,674 joint research results approved by relevant departments at different levels, applied for and obtained 6,778 and 2,251 patents respectively, and signed 5,683 contracts for technology transfer with a contractual value of 3.79 billion yuan.
To further promote the combination of education, research, and industry, the government approved six state-level technology transfer centers in 2001 at Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Xi'an Jiaotong University, and Sichuan University, East China University of Science and Technology, and Huazhong University of Science and Technology. These centers organize universities and relevant key enterprises to jointly develop and disseminate technology that is commonly and essentially needed by the industries concerned. Their work has helped break key technology bottlenecks in industrial restructuring and formed an efficient mechanism to translate research results into industrial practices. These centers and some key state-owned enterprises have jointly set up research and development organizations. By closely combining research with the technological innovation of the enterprises, they have improved their own research levels and technology reserves, and produced results with good market potential. The centers organize joint efforts to tackle technologies of common or pivotal importance to relevant industries and to eliminate key technical bottlenecks on industrial restructuring, thereby forming effective mechanisms for industrialization of research results. They evaluate and provide protection for universities' intellectual property rights, and help technology innovators seek venture capital and management personnel. Relying on the comprehensive advantages of universities, these centers actively take part in international transfer of technology, and attract Chinese students studying abroad to launch and to do research in China. They also provide enterprises with technology, human resource and information, consultancy, finance, training, legal, and management services.
Through experiments in the past few years, universities have established various uniquely Chinese modes of combining education, research, and industry. The first is to cooperate with local enterprises to contribute to local economic development. The second is to set up science and technology development organizations to manage cooperative projects with enterprises. The third is to introduce venture capital to incubate and develop on universities' research results. The fourth is to promote and disseminate research results through various research centers. The fifth is to develop university high-tech enterprises so as to make full use of research results. The sixth is to build university science and technology networks to encourage cooperation between universities and enterprises.
High-tech research and development has led to the growth of high-tech industries. A large number of high-tech enterprises have come into being, giving birth to China's new industries. Famous high-tech enterprises include Peking University Founder Group and Tsinghua Tongfang. The computerized laser typesetting of Chinese characters and electronic publishing system developed by Peking University represent several high-level research achievements. The university has followed up with a series of high-function products that have produced a revolutionary influence on the printing and publishing industries. With its products accounting for more than 80% of the Chinese-printing market worldwide, the university has set a fine example for China's high-tech research and development. The application of new technologies has accelerated the technological progress of enterprises. Examples include the testing system for containerized goods by Tsinghua University, the embedded software by Northeast University, and the biomedical research of Shanghai Jiaotong University.
Chinese universities have strengthened cooperation and exchanges with overseas counterparts in the process of high-tech research and development. Chinese researchers have established close academic relationships with universities and research institutes abroad. Some important international academic symposiums are now held in China. Many universities have cooperated with foreign counterparts to set up research centers and laboratories.
Engineering research centers
To speed up high-tech research and development, and the translation of relevant results into industrial practices, the government has established eighty-seven engineering (technology) research centers at various universities since 1992. In the past decade, by reorganizing the universities' resources, these centers have acquired advanced equipment for scientific research, technological development, and pilot production. Backed by technology, the centers have set up a market-oriented management mode.
Keeping in mind the needs of the relevant industries and the market, these centers have conducted research on many key technologies and obtained relevant patents. Through patent and technology transfer, and project contracts, they provide much technological and economic analyses, engineering designs, consultancy, and evaluation services. Some centers have cooperated with university sci-tech parks to incubate high-tech enterprises, with good social as well as economic benefits. For example, the National Urban Pollution Control Engineering Research Center at Tongji University has successfully developed a complete set of equipment for treating urban wastewater, in addition to undertaking several important environmental engineering projects. The Computer Networking Technology Engineering Research Center of Tsinghua University provides consultancy and designs for China's large-scale networking projects. It has independently developed many products and offers product-testing services to both domestic and overseas manufacturers.
The engineering research centers have explored various new modes of education that combine learning, research, and industry, with emphasis on technology transfer, engineering support, and international cooperation. With research based on projects, these centers have solved a number of major problems impeding the development of the national economy. The relevant research results have revived many traditional industries. For example, the National Industrial Automation Engineering Research Center at Zhejiang University has contributed a great deal to the automation of chemical, metallurgical, pharmaceutical, transportation, and building material industries. The center also has three automation companies, Zhejiang Supcon Technology Co., Ltd., Zhenjiang Zheda Zhongzi Integrated Control Stock Co., Ltd., and Joinhans Science & Technology Industrial Stock Co., Ltd., which are leaders in their respective industries.
These centers have established an effective mechanism to attract specialists and to allow them to play their full role. They have also trained a large number of engineers, technicians, entrepreneurs, and managers, who are in urgent demand. The centers actively engage in various international academic exchanges and have established effective cooperation with research organizations abroad. For instance, the National Die and Mold CAD Engineering Research Center at Shanghai Jiaotong University has set up twenty-one joint research offices and technology centers with such companies as Ford of the United States, Feintool of Switzerland, and Sodick of Japan.
In recent years, some universities have set up state-level sci-tech parks to attract teachers, scientists, and students who have returned from abroad and those studying in China to start enterprises there.
University sci-tech parks
University sci-tech parks are fine examples of China's development of high-tech industries. In the past few years, they have grown both in number and in strength. They still have great potential for growth as the environment for their development continues to improve. University sci-tech parks play an important role in the development of high technology, the industrialization of relevant research results, and the increase of employment opportunities. They constitute an important part of the national innovation system and are major sources of innovation for the promotion of regional economic development and industrial progress. The parks are important platforms for universities to provide various services to society, in terms of education, research, and industry. They are also incubators of high-tech enterprises and training bases for innovation specialists.
In 1990, the Northeast University Science Park was set up. Two months later it joined the International Association of University Related Research Parks, to become its first Chinese member. That was the start of university sci-tech parks in China. In 2001, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education examined the first batch of pilot national university sci-tech parks and recognized twenty-two as such. In addition, many universities and local governments have also established local-level sci-tech parks.
University sci-tech parks have become the new factors in the promotion of China's economic construction and social development. A study of forty-four parks in October 2002 showed that they had attracted 29.7 billion yuan of investment from various social sectors. There were 1,200-plus research and development organizations, and 5,500 enterprises in these parks. With a total space of 2.27 million square meters, the administrators of these parks had successfully seen the formation of 920 enterprises and were still working on 2,300 new ones. The enterprises in these parks had transferred 1,860 provincial or higher-level research results into industrial practices, obtained 1,923 patents, and developed 4,116 new products. The parks had attracted more than 1,300 Chinese students from abroad to start their own businesses and created about 100,000 jobs.
The combination of education, research, and industry is a salient feature of university sci-tech parks. Universities, with their advantages in talent, technology, and information, play a central role in the construction and development of sci-tech parks. To implement the strategy of rejuvenating China through science and education, governments at different levels support the parks by creating a good policy and market environment. Enterprises are active in using the high technologies developed by the parks to raise the quality of their product.
There are four types of university sci-tech parks. The first type is run by a single university with strong research and innovation capability. Its main job is to translate science and technology achievements produced by the university into industrial productivity. The majority of university sci-tech parks (thirty-three in number) are of this type. They fall into several sub-types in terms of investors. Some were set up with funds invested by the university and the government, such as the sci-tech parks of Peking University and Tsinghua University. Others received investments from the university and a local development zone, or from the university and an enterprise group. The advantages that the different investors bring with them complement each other and have promoted the rapid growth of the parks.
The second type is run by several universities. So far there are nine such sci-tech parks, most of which are closely integrated with local high-tech development zones and have multiple investors. Most of these parks are run jointly by a number of universities, with some cases where a university runs its own business in the same park. This type of sci-tech parks benefits from the universities' teaching and research resources, while enjoying the advantages of the local development zone's system, operational mechanisms, preferential state policies, and social services.
The third type is run through partnership between a university and a research institute that combines the former's strengths in the research of basic science and the latter's advantages in hi-tech development.
The fourth type is what is called the “virtual university sci-tech park.” An example is the Shenzhen Virtual National University Sci-Tech Park, which is based on the Tsinghua University Shenzhen Research Institute. Incorporating the human, technological, information, and other intellectual resources of elite universities at home and abroad, and benefiting from Shenzhen's favorable social resources and fine business and financial environment, as well as assisted by Shenzhen's financing, investment and intermediary organizations, this virtual university sci-tech park is a joint venture of Tsinghua and the city of Shenzhen.
Some university sci-tech parks have set up specialty sections within or without them. In the Tsinghua University Sci-Tech Park, for example, there is an area set aside for Chinese students returning from their overseas studies, a biotechnology incubator, and an international section where investors from Japan and South Korea have set up shop. The park also runs branches in other parts of the country.
University sci-tech parks attach great importance to cooperation with overseas counterparts and actively take part in international exchanges. Since April 2002, for example, they have developed extensive cooperation with the UK Science Parks Association in such areas as exchange of visits, personnel training, investment in new entries into relevant parks, science and technology exhibitions, and seminars. The Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges under China's Ministry of Education has signed a formal memorandum of understanding on such cooperation with the Cultural Section of the British Embassy in China.
University sci-tech enterprises
In the past two decades, universities have set up a number of science and technology enterprises in line with the country's economic development. Most of these enterprises began with the incubation of research results with a high technology content that requires frequent renewal. Some of these enterprises are based on a shareholding system, under which the universities concerned have exchanged their invisible assets for a certain amount of shares, with the rest of the investment coming from social sources. While transferring large amounts of high-tech achievements to society, universities also directly translate selected research results into industrial practices through their own enterprises. A university science and technology industry with Chinese characteristics has taken shape based on these enterprises.
The history of university enterprises can be traced back to the 1950s, but those based on science and technology came into being only in the 1980s. Their development reached the first peak in 1987, when a large number of science and technology development companies were established to offer consultancy, training, and other services. According to statistics, though incomplete, there were 481 enterprises owned by 271 universities in 1989, with their sales totaling 470 million yuan that year. In 1991, there were 725 enterprises owned by 301 universities. Their sales totaled 1.76 billion yuan that year, with a profit of 290 million yuan.
In 1994, the State Council issued the Proposals on the Development of Science and Technology Industry by Higher Education Institutions. The Proposals included guidelines and motivational policies on the establishment of a modern enterprise system, the improvement of relevant finance and personnel systems, and the creation of appropriate conditions. It steered the development of university science and technology enterprises from a self-initiated and scattered manner to an organized and focused one. The rapid growth of both the number of university enterprises and their sales, which was much faster than the average national economic growth rate, marked the second peak of their development.
In 2000, the Ministry of Education convened a national conference on university technology innovation. According to the conference, universities should take technology innovation and the industrialization of high technologies as one of their historical missions, together with teaching and research. During the process, they should gradually establish a modern enterprise system. These policies pushed the growth of university enterprises to a third high.
By the end of 2000, more than one-third of universities across the country had their own science and technology enterprises, which
numbered nearly 2,100. Their assets added up to 57.7 billion yuan, their net assets amounted to 30 billion yuan, and their 2000 annual sales were 36.812 billion yuan (Figure 4.8). With strong profit-making capability and good asset quality, these enterprises were to become the mainstay of the university science and technology industry.
To deal with the risks brought along by the development of university enterprises, the Ministry of Education raised the guidelines for regulating their management and promoting their development in 2001. Towards the end of that year, under the direct leadership of the General Office of the State Council, Peking University and Tsinghua University began to experiment with “regulating the management system of university enterprises” in accordance with a modern enterprise system. One year later, the Peking University Assets Management Company Limited and the Tsinghua Holding Company Limited were set up. These two companies have provided a supportive environment for the healthy and rapid development of the enterprises under the two respective universities. They have also provided positive experience for other university science and technology enterprises to carry out institutional reform.
University-run factories and companies take part in business activities in the market as independent legal entities. They operate under the principle of separation of ownership and management. The directors or managers have autonomy in business, personnel, and financial matters, so that they can make their own decisions according to circumstances and seek survival in market competition. Those established before the publication of the Company Law (enacted in 1993 and revised in 1999) have been required to implement a modern enterprise system through restructuring. Those set up on a shareholding basis are partially owned by mother universities through shares. Shareholding companies are run by managers under the leadership of the board of directors. The board consists of leaders of the university and relevant departments. The university is the direct leader of the board.
Most university enterprises were set up on the basis of universities' research achievements, especially those in advantageous disciplines like information technology, biotechnology, new materials, and software technology. As they started from a high level and possessed advanced technology, these enterprises have been able to produce products to fill market gaps in China or to replace imported ones. Many products have become brand names following the growth of a number of high-tech enterprises. Some university enterprises have been listed to raise more funds. By the end of 2001, there were thirty-three listed university enterprises, with some universities holding controlling shares. The majority, twenty-nine, were listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets.
At present, university enterprises are gradually developing into groups or becoming more closely related to society at large through outsourcing. The rapidly developing sci-tech parks have become incubating bases for university enterprises and new representatives of the university science and technology industry. These enterprises play a role that is becoming more and more important in promoting the country's economic and social development.
University enterprises also provide teachers and students with fieldwork opportunities. By participating in technology innovation and development, they are able to broaden their vision, enrich their knowledge, and improve their research and problem-solving abilities. Statistics indicate that university enterprises can provide internships for over 500,000 students, and take part in the training of nearly 4,000 master's and doctoral students every year. In addition, these enterprises also divert part of their profits to help universities improve
teaching and research conditions.
Clause 31 of the Higher Education Law makes it clear that social service is one of the three main functions of universities, together with teaching and research. In a broad sense, the central task of universities is to serve society. Their school-running and training targets, curricula, and teaching reform are all for the purpose of cultivating high-quality talent for society. The selection of research projects, the promotion and application of research results, the establishment of university sci-tech parks, and the development of university enterprises are all important for pushing socio-economic growth. Social service is mentioned in many parts of this book. The following paragraphs discuss the universities' social service in terms of science and technology development.
The state encourages universities to serve society through scientific research and technological development. Universities should obtain social support by offering services and develop themselves by contributing to society. The Ministry of Education has set the transformation of research results into practice as an important criterion in evaluating the level at which universities are run. This is an important measure to promote closer connections between education and the economy. University teachers have contributed their share to national economic development through coordinated arrangement of teaching, research, and social service. They have also won social recognition by actively taking part in various social services. In the process, they have been able to continually renew their knowledge, and improve their teaching and research abilities.
Major forms of social service
Different universities play different roles in social service. Liberal arts institutions provide mainly soft research results, decision-making consultancy, and intellectual assistance. Science and engineering institutions provide more direct services through scientific research, promotion of research results, and industrial development.
As an important part of the national innovation system, universities pay great attention to the transformation of research results into industrial practices by promoting and applying them in enterprises. This service takes the following forms: providing technology consultancy and support to enterprises; cooperating with enterprises to tackle difficult problems in technology development and renovation; transferring mature technology products to enterprises, or exchanging such products for shares as investment, thus earning a profit through commercializing the products; cooperating with enterprises to set up research organizations or foundations, and to develop new and high technologies; providing scientific support for government decision-making; and providing science and technology training for enterprises and farmers. Through exchanges and cooperation in various forms, universities are closely related to the market, playing an increasingly important role in applied research and industrial development.
Major achievements of social service
Over the years, universities have come a long way in social service. They have directly provided large amounts of research results and advanced technologies to society and to the promotion of the country's science and technology development. They have made outstanding contributions to economic growth by directly taking part in the reform and technological development of enterprises. By energetically promoting science in rural areas, universities have helped farmers to shake off poverty and to improve the ecological environment.
Universities have contributed to the growth of the national economy by connecting teaching, research, and industry. With an eye on the market, universities make a great effort in transforming research results into productive force. Their effort has promoted the development of China's high-tech industries, and the progress and institutional reform of science and technology.
The engineering departments of Tsinghua University, for example, work with many industrial enterprises in research and development by way of technological transfer, consultancy, and services. The long-term cooperation between the Chemical Engineering Department and the Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Co., Ltd. has raised the import substitution rate of large-scale rectifying equipment in the petrochemical field and thus led to higher efficiency of relevant enterprises. Tianjin University undertakes nearly 1,000 projects in technology development, service, transfer, and consultancy on an annual basis. By renovating traditional industries, transferring technological achievements, and setting up high-tech enterprises, the university contributes more than 1 billion yuan annually to society in terms of higher economic efficiency and fund savings. The China Agricultural University has helped farmers in Hebei Province to treat saline-alkali land by providing them with new, practical technology. The Beijing Forestry University has offered new forestation technology to farmers on the arid Loess Plateau and some remote mountainous areas. Such services have enabled many rural areas to change their poor and backward conditions, with marked improvement in both the farmers' livelihood and local ecological environment.
Higher education has achieved greater development through the contributions made by universities to economic construction and social progress. In the process of serving society, universities have built up their specialties, and trained teachers and students in the real world. With a deepened understanding of national conditions, they are prepared to do an even better job in research and social service.
"Research and Social Service." Higher Education in China. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/news-and-education-magazines/research-and-social-service
"Research and Social Service." Higher Education in China. . Retrieved January 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/news-and-education-magazines/research-and-social-service