On 28 April 2017, wide publicity was attracted by a press conference held by Beihang University, on which President Xu Huibin introduced that Beihang was experiencing a sweeping reform in talent cultivation. Since 2017, Beihang University has revolutionized and adjusted its majors to enroll and cultivate students according to their aptitude and interest in general disciplines.
In recent years, the freshmen of Beihang University rank top 3‰ and even 1‰ in some provinces in terms of their scores of the college entrance examination. The quality of Beihang students who major in science or engineering ranks 9th in China. Against this background, the reform is aimed to emphasize the importance of students by giving first priority to the growth and development of them, creating a brand-new cultivation system to meet individual needs, stimulate internal motivation and enhance comprehensive development, and cultivating the first-class students into first-class talents.
A year went by, and what are the results of the reform and innovation? Firstly, let’s take a look at the data of Beihang School in the academic year of 2017-2018: here more than 20 academicians and nearly 200 experts and scholars gave speeches and lectures to the students; more than 657 activities were conducted in 10 general core course clusters; the excellence rate of some core courses increased by 30%; over 400 tutors organized more than 2,200 guiding activities for more than 11,000 students; more than 55,000 students took part in more than 200 Boya activities; about 17,200 students joined in over 1,300 community activities; and 0 student wanted to change or make appeals against their majors. Beihang University, Beihang School, every college and major and all the teachers and students bring these achievements into reality.
Supply-Side Reform in Talent Cultivation: The Establishment of Beihang School
In June 2017, Beihang School was established with the core philosophy of “students-oriented, general-education-based, integrated, innovative, and open”. Here, the university’s educational resources are pooled to manage the talent cultivation in general disciplines and the development of its subordinate colleges as a whole. Also, under a complete credit system, the school helps introduce the innovation of “course supermarket”, which means that teachers and courses offered to students come from all over the world.
The exploration and practice on talent cultivation lasted for more than 10 years from the establishment of ShenYuan Honors College in 2002 and Central Pekin in 2005, to the merger of majors in undergraduate enrollment in 2010, to the cross-school enrollment in 2011, and to the establishment of the School of General Engineering in 2015. Based on the pilot experience, Beihang School was established to support freshmen and sophomores and strengthen the general education in 2017, and more than 80% of the freshmen will study in it for 2 years first.
Corresponding to the general disciplines, there are six subordinate colleges under Beihang School, which are Shie College, Fengru College, Shijia College, Shoue College, Zhizhen College and Zhixing College. Enrolled in one of the colleges at first, students can choose a school according to their interest and understanding at the end of their freshman year and decide on a major provided by the chosen school when their sophomore year ends. Besides, if they lose the interest in their major, they can still change their major to suit their needs in the rest of college years.
Secretary of the Party Committee Cao Shumin and President Xu Huibin welcomed the freshmen enrolled in 2018
In order to promote the development of Beihang School and carry out the reform on talent cultivation, leaders of the university held over 30 university-level meetings about general disciplines.
“Beihang, I am coming!” Shahe campus was full of vim and vigor in September 2018. Not only freshmen but also sophomores were welcomed, for the sophomores have just chosen their majors and also become the new faces of their schools. The scene is the result of the reform.
Masters around the Students
In Beihang School, the students never felt that the masters only exist in others’ words. Since the first day they came to Beihang and in their daily courses, they usually have face-to-face communication with and learn from academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering as well as many other renowned scholars.
More than 20 academicians and nearly 200 experts and scholars gave speeches and lectures to the students this year
This year, the students had access to speeches and lectures given by more than 20 academicians and nearly 200 experts, including Wang Yongzhi, Gao Zhentong, Qi Renfa, Zhang Jun, Fang Jiancheng and so on. For students, leaders of the university are their intimate friends. Secretary of the Party Committee Cao Shumin and President Xu Huibin often talk with students at noon or night, guide students on how to organize their university life, and hear their suggestions carefully. Other leaders and deans also positively take actions to know, support and care for students.
The Curriculum is a Resource
In the past years of reform and practice in talent cultivation, Beihang has followed the “students-oriented” idea and reached a consensus that “The curriculum is a resource”. It means that the curriculum is the core resource for talent cultivation, which can fully mobilize the allocation and interaction of resources such as excellent students, undergraduate courses and teacher positions from a static state to a dynamic state, from solidification to competition.
Students are the major users of the resource. The cultivation of first-class students requires abundant and high-quality curriculum resources, but what are such courses like? The answer given by Beihang is to attach importance to both general knowledge and professional skills to develop students’ comprehensive capabilities.
Beihang employs Wang Qi, Zhang Xiaolin, Li Shangzhi and Long Weiqiu, who are either national teaching masters or Changjiang scholars, as Responsibility Professors in the aspects of aeronautics and astronautics, information engineering, science, and liberal art respectively. Based on the pilot experience, they plan and answer for the formulation and implementation of the program, and give more autonomy and choices to students in the process.
According to the new system, 10 core course clusters include 76% of compulsory courses, and teachers for these clusters account for 92% of those teaching compulsory courses.
More than 657 activities were conducted in 10 general core course clusters, and teachers attended their colleagues’ courses for 1,163 times
In addition, Beihang advances the pilot project by introducing the mechanism giving teachers the access to course clusters. The university also formulated a series of policies to encourage teachers to offer high-quality courses. Besides, a multi-dimensional and procedural teaching quality evaluation system has been formed through the communication and cooperation between the curriculum group and the steering group.
As a result, the average scores and excellence rates of the core courses of the freshmen this year are significantly improved. For instance, the average score and excellence rate of University Chemistry increased 4.4 points and 85% respectively.
Undergraduate Tutorial System is Implemented Comprehensively
For university education, tutorial education is a significant part to help students adapt to their university study, experience the university spirit, set up lofty aspirations and develop noble characters. Undergraduate Tutorial System has been working for over 10 years at Beihang University, and Beihang School also implements Undergraduate Tutorial System comprehensively, improving the contribution rate of tutors step by step.
In September 2017, Beihang School sent a notice of selection of undergraduate tutors to other schools, which laid down detailed and definite requirements for tutors. These requirements are as follows: a tutor should at least communicate online with every student once a week, offer face-to-face guidance to the students every two weeks and couch every one separately for one hour per term. Although the requirements are stringent, the enthusiasm of teachers to sign up is far beyond the expectation of the Beihang School and other schools. After the sign-up stage, a second examination conducted by the tutor committees of the schools ensures that the students have the best tutors.
This year, over 400 tutors organized more than 2,200 guiding activities
In October 2017, students met their tutors, among which are over 300 (78%) teachers with senior titles and more than 50 top talents who are Changjiang Scholars, Distinguished Young Scholars as well as members of the Recruitment Program for Young Professionals of the Thousand Talents Plan. Students and teachers are selected mutually according to their personal needs. One tutor and 7-8 students form a cooperative community.
This year, over 400 tutors organized more than 2,200 guiding activities for more than 11,000 students. The care and guidance of the tutors brought freshmen to the fore. Over 200 students had exchange experiences to universities in foreign countries, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan with the support of the university and the school.
After the implementation of the college system, the college community plays an important part in the communication between students. As a result, the construction of the community is emphasized. In the community, curriculum, culture and environment are part of a joint effort to build up a comprehensive platform for “comprehensive person” education. Varied activities were conducted to enhance students’ all-round development and the sense of responsibility.
This year, more than 60,000 students took part in more than 200 Boya subjects and over 1,300 community activities. This program removed the tension and anxiety of freshmen about university life effectively.
What’s more, the students also receive peer counselling from their Mentors. Mentors are excellent senior students who provide freshmen with help and guidance in their study and life at the beginning of the freshman year to help them adapt themselves to college life quickly. The initiator and one of the main promoters of the program is Professor Wang Huiwen, Dean of Zhizhen College, whose devotion wins her the name “Mother Wang” among her students.
This year, colorful activities for academic support, mentor groups and community have been conducted
Studentsare Wealth: Zero Change of or Appeal against Majors
Schools and colleges organized various lectures and practice for students to understand majors. They set up many communication platforms for students to choose their majors, such as Dean forum, guidance from tutors, consultation with instructors, publicity week for majors, etc. On May 26, 2018, the Major Consultation Day, not only did the secretaries, deans and professors answer the students’ questions, but also the schools introduced their majors by boards, posters and relevant objects.
The Major Consultation Day on May 26,2018
What the deans care most is how to further improve the quality of education and fulfill students’ needs, for there is an agreement that “students are wealth” among them.
On the 1st International Forum on Engineering Education, President Xu Huibin gave a speech entitled “Reform and Innovation: Philosophy, Practice and Reflections on Engineering Education”. Divided into three parts—Challenges in a Time of Rapid Change, Practice and Reform of Beihang University and Forging into the Future, President Xu’s report expounded challenges that era transformation brought to the creative talent cultivation mode, introduced the development, reform and innovation of engineering education at the present stage as well as the exploration and practice of talent training reform of Beihang University in recent years, and put forward a vision for the future development of engineering education.
A new spring of student-centered Beihang undergraduate education is coming
Beihangers always remain true to our original aspiration and keep our mission firmly in mind. As the first institute of higher education of Aeronautics and Astronautics after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Beihang's original aspiration is to cultivate the builders and reliable successors for the cause of socialism. Adhering to the ideology of “nurturing top students into first-class talents”, Beihang University strives to develop top undergraduate education and train first-class talents to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. Beihangers are in action.
Reported by Yu Min, Sun Yecheng and Shi Yue
Edited by Yu Min and Zhao Yue
Translated by Zhao Yue