The University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) is the educational arm of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It has quickly risen as a leader among Chinese universities, strengthened by close integration of scientific research and education. Here, Yueliang Wu, a renowned physicist and a CAS member, discusses the unique model for running the university.
What is the unique development strategy of UCAS?
The fusion of scientific research and education sets us apart. As a key component of CAS’s plan to integrate the academy, research institutes, and educational institutions, UCAS bears the responsibility of making CAS a base for cultivating innovative talents, part of CAS’s Pioneer Initiative.
As universities worldwide are striving to become research-oriented to drive innovation, we have an advantage edge by being administered and managed by CAS. Since 2014, we’ve been building integrated colleges, which are led by quality institutes of CAS. Institute directors and CAS members become college deans, and the most capable laboratories become the bedrock of colleges’ teaching sections, with selected principal investigators teaching the core courses. Leveraging CAS’s vast resources, particularly, its strong research teams and platforms, we have built an effective model for integration, becoming a competitive research university.
What are some research innovations brought by this integration?
Our students can actively participate in research projects, including some major ones, bringing innovative ideas and energy. For instance, the recent discovery of a massive stellar black hole in the Milky Way was contributed to by UCAS students. Led by CAS, an international surveying team used China’s Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), and our students did lots of the observation work. The discovery proved the LAMOST observational technique as a promising approach to search for black holes. Students also did experiments for a project modelling autism in monkeys through genetic modification.
In CAS’s development of some key technologies and equipment, such as the world’s first ultraviolet, super-resolution lithography machine, and the in-orbit test of China’s first satellite for testing key technologies on space-based gravitational wave detection, part of the Taiji programme that I’m leading, UCAS students also played a role. As a result, we have quickly risen in international and domestic university rankings.
How does this integration contribute to talent cultivation?
The strong research teams of CAS give us powerful resources for teaching. We have incentive policies to encourage CAS researchers to teach undergraduate and graduate courses. Many of them also have strong incentive to teach, as they want to attract talented students to their labs. Meanwhile, we have a dedicated faculty team on our main campus.
Students get opportunities to select CAS research teams for rotation and to work on projects. They get solid training in basic theories, and can apply what they learned in classrooms to actual research projects, honing their hands-on skills. Importantly, our complete academic systems for natural sciences, along with CAS’s advanced big science facilities provide solid foundation for students to develop capabilities for interdisciplinary research and innovation.
As a result, our students have produced fruitful research output, including publications in top journals like Nature and Science. Some of their results collaborated with their supervisors were selected among China’s top 10 scientific progresses. Many of our undergraduates also have papers published in leading journals, and are recruited by top universities around the world. For three consecutive years, more than 90% of our undergraduates continued graduate studies.
What are UCAS’s advantages in enhancing international collaboration?
In line with the internationalization plan of CAS, we take advantage of our integration model to broaden collaboration. So far, UCAS has established partnerships with nearly 100 leading universities or research institutions globally, and have built joint research and education centres. A good example is the Sino-Danish College we co-founded with the Danish Ministry of Science and Higher Education and eight Danish public universities. The Danes approached us, as they value our research-education integration model, and our potential in technological innovation for the industry. Teaching responsibilities of the joint college are shared. We have also established the International Centre for Theoretical Physics Asia-Pacific (ICTP-AP) with UNESCO, and co-founded the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Sciences to engage in cutting-edge basic science research.
Our unique model has attracted many international students, including more than 1,000 doctoral students, leading among domestic universities. We also have many student exchange programmes.
What are your plans for UCAS?
We will continue enhancing our model of integration between research and education. This may involve fostering our campus culture to associate with CAS institutes; strengthening and founding new colleges on emerging disciplines; improving campuses outside Beijing to better engage CAS institutes across the country; and enhancing ties with other education and research institutions to drive coordinated innovation and better support local economic development. To achieve this, we need to attract more talented researchers, making us a world-class university that’s more open-minded and innovative.
Charting sustainable progress
Founded in 1978 as the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences, UCAS has been driving research and educational success, drawing strength from its close integration with CAS institutes.
UCAS students have access to rich research and teaching resources.
UCAS excels in graduate education and is expanding its undergraduate programmes.
Ranked 67th globally, and 1st in China, according to Essential Science Indicators (ESI) data released in July 2020, with 18 out of the 22 research fields classified by ESI ranking among the global top 1%, among which, 7 are ranked among the global top 1‰. Two fields, chemistry and materials science, are among the top one in ten thousand.
* Data as of December 2019
Editor: GAO Yuan