Higher education rising up the country's ranks

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)


A representive from North University of China (left) distributes brochures with technology transfer information to visitors. [Photo by Ruan Yang for China Daily]

Since Shanxi began to align the development of its top higher-learning institutions to the nation's Double First Class initiative in the mid-2010s, the province has witnessed the steadily improving competitiveness of its universities and colleges, especially in the fields of teaching and research.

The Double First Class initiative is a major program launched in 2016 by the Chinese government to improve China's higher education strength and international competitiveness, through developing first-class universities and first-class disciplines.

In February 2022, the Ministry of Education announced the second round of first-class universities and first-class disciplines. Shanxi has two universities, namely Shanxi University and Taiyuan University of Technology, on the first-class universities list. This number ranked Shanxi 16th among all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China.

Taiyuan University of Technology had its major of chemical engineering and technology included in the list of first-class disciplines and Shanxi University's philosophy and physics majors were on the same list.

While Shanxi University and Taiyuan University of Technology are consolidating their positions on the Double First Class lists, more schools in Shanxi are expected to join the ranks in the future as they are proactively strengthening disciplinary development and improving overall teaching and research capabilities.

North University of China and Shanxi Medical University, both based in the provincial capital of Taiyuan, are the most likely to be added to the list in the future. The two schools have seen their growing strengths in both teaching and research over the recent years.

In North University of China, for instance, the teaching team at the defense technology department, headed by Yin Jianping, won a second prize of the 2022 national teaching awards for higher-learning institutions.

In Shanxi Medical University, the two disciplines of special medicine and forensic science are the mostly likely to be added to the Double First Class list, according to an official at the school, who added that public health and clinical medicine are also developing into the university's advantageous sectors as a dedicated college and research center have been established.

In the field of research, a number of renowned universities in Shanxi have announced new achievements with great significance and huge potential for industrial applications.

In 2021, Taiyuan University of Technology cooperated with related provincial and national industrial institutions to establish a national laboratory on the clean and efficient use of coal and coal-based fuels. This was the first national lab operated by the university and has played a crucial role in supporting Shanxi's energy revolution campaign, according to an official at the university.

In Shanxi University, breakthroughs have also been made in the efficient use of coal. The project for the clean and efficient utilization technology of gangue and coal slime, led by professor Cheng Fangqin, won the second prize at the National Awards for Progress in Science and Technology in 2022. An applied physics project – quantum control based on ultracold Fermi gas – led by professor Zhang Jing, won the second prize of the National Awards for Natural Sciences in the same year.

Leveraging their strengths in research and development, Shanxi's universities and colleges have enhanced collaborations with local enterprises to support economic development in various regions in Shanxi.

For instance, the schools have newly established 42 disciplines dedicated to the service industry. They have also founded 66 joint innovation centers and 37 research academies in collaboration with enterprises.

These programs and entities have not only supplied crucial technologies but also trained qualified professionals for Shanxi's economic development, according to an official at the Shanxi Department of Education.

Li Linxia contributed to this story.