In mid-February, MOE issued a Circular on Further Promoting the Development of First-Class Universities and First-Class Disciplines jointly with the Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission, followed by the announcement of an updated list of Double First-Class universities and disciplines, marking the official launch of the second phase of the Initiative.
As an important follow-up action after the National Education Congress and the central conference on talent-related work, this Circular further clarifies the directions, basic principles, major tasks and supporting mechanism for the new round of Double First-Class Initiative. It requires universities and disciplines that have been identified as having the potential to become world class to focus on the quality of their development and explore new development models in pursing solutions to China’s issues and serving economic growth and social advancement.
Priorities in the second round of the Initiative include: (1) strengthened overall Party leadership and enhanced responsibility and accountability to improve autonomous governance and create an enabling environment in HEIs; (2) emphasis on the fundamental role of moral education and the building of world centers for talent and innovation; (3) serving the national strategic needs by providing well-trained professionals in urgent need in cutting-edge technologies and critical research fields, optimizing talent training, promoting disciplinary adjustments and increasing collaboration between applied disciplines and industry; (4) building a high-performing teaching force and improving the team building mechanism in support of the cultivation of young talent with innovative potential; (5) deeper integration of science and education, through e.g. the Everest Program for Basic Research in Colleges and Universities, and larger efforts to cultivate high-level innovative talent and promote joint scientific research, as well as to advance the coordination of major scientific research platforms; (6) expanded international cooperation and exchanges to improve competitiveness and fully embrace the global innovation network; (7) optimized management evaluation mechanisms and improved development assessment systems to build a multi-dimensional outcome evaluation system oriented by innovative value, capacity and contribution and a new development model reflecting HEIs’ individual features; and (8) a consolidated supportive mechanism based on diversified and stable investments and innovative management to implement differentiated financial support to universities and disciplines.
The Double First-Class Initiative is a major commitment made by the Chinese government to improve China’s higher education power and international competitiveness. The first round was launched in 2016 and completed in 2020. In this period, reforms were carried out in talent training, performance evaluation, research management and other key areas. A range of achievements had been made by the end of 2020, including a group of major scientific innovations and critical technology breakthroughs, a few HEIs and disciplines such as Materials Science and Engineering that reached world-class ranking, and prominent progress achieved in Quantum Science and other vital research fields.
According to the monitoring data and performance evaluation results from the first round, the second phase of the Initiative listed 147 HEIs for support. The list of disciplines supported under the Initiative includes 59 basic disciplines such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology, as well as 180 engineering disciplines and 92 philosophy and social science disciplines. Meanwhile, some institutions supported in the previous round of the Initiative have been warned to improve standards in their targeted disciplines and will receive reevaluation in 2023.