Professors share ideas on global engineering education and “Double First-class” initiative

2018-06-14 Global Communications

The “Double First-class” initiative is creating opportunities for Chinese universities, and the ZJU-UIUC Institute is forging ahead with the plan to develop its engineering education with global vision. 

Three members of ZJUI (ZJU-UIUC Institute) International Advisory Board spoke on a seminar last Thursday on the issue of Global Engineering Education and “Double First Class” initiative, offering insights on the future of the Institute.

Marching towards the goal of excellence

Upgrading universities takes much more time than developing technologies, but once the goal is achieved, it will benefit the nation for long, according to Prof. YANG Wei, chair professor and former president of Zhejiang University and director of National Science Foundation of China.

In the past few years, China spent about two percent of its GDP on R&D, with the total amount exceeding Europe, and the annual funding of National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) now is 370 times more than that of 32 years ago. With the increasing support for education and research, Chinese universities are now playing a leading role in some fields.

The institute should strive for excellence in research, faculty, innovation, culture and international impact, Prof. YANG said. ZJU is ranked 68th in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings 2019. Within just four years, the University has jumped 76 places.

Developing the next generation of renaissance engineers

“The engineering undergraduate education should reform for educating future leaders who can address societal grand challenges,” Venkatesh Narayanamurti, professor of Harvard University and member of the National Academy of Engineering, USA, said.

“The renaissance engineers”, as he called them, bridge different disciplines and view engineering as a liberal arts subject. “Technology alone is not enough, it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing,” he quoted Steve Jobs’ words, emphasizing the importance for the engineering education to embrace connection with social sciences and humanities.

Embracing the world with technology and design-driven innovation

While the world constantly needs products, services and systems, the universities are to equip students with basic knowledge of mathematics, science and technology, arts, humanities, and social sciences, as well as hands-on experimental learning and an active learning environment, which is free and open for discussions, according to Thomas Magnanti, institute professor of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and president emeritus of Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

In collaboration with MIT, SUTD is putting his concept of engineering education into practice. The understanding of multi-discipline is highly appreciated at SUTD. Students are encouraged to participate in various design projects, transforming their knowledge of different disciplines into one product or system.

“In the projects, students learn that design could actually influence people and they have to work with the community,” he said.

With its increasing academic influence, ZJU is gradually gaining greater prestige internationally, providing students with world-leading engineering education as well as a platform where students from different fields collaborate with each other and create amazing outcomes.

Writers: XU Weiqin, YIN Fan

Image Creadit: HE Jiawen, XIA Ping