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Sias President Interview with Xinhua News
Thursday, December 10 - On the 3rd of December, Sias President Dr. Chen Sikun was interviewed by Xinhua News. The following is the video and full English translation of the interview.
Host: First of all, please introduce Sias International University to us.
Chen Sikun: Sias International University was founded in 1998 in Henan Province by the American Sias Group in association with Zhengzhou University and Fort Hays State University from Kansas, USA. It was founded as a Sino-foreign cooperative university. We continue to uphold this Chinese and Western diversity in unity through local economic development, and the talents, knowledge, skill and English language proficiency of the staff and students.
Host: Dr. Chen, as an international school with a unique model, what are the features and characteristics of Sias International University?
Chen Sikun: At Sias we focus on talent cultivation and management models, as well as the campus culture and environmental education. All these are carried out with internationalization in mind.
First, the campus culture and the internationalization of the architecture of the school include a two-sided adminstration building with one side Chinese in design, and the other Western. There are several European-styled buildings, a Spanish Plaza, German Street, and a Chinese Garden. This fusion of Chinese and Western environments promotes a sense of compatibility between the Chinese and Western and facilitates dialogue.
Second, in the area of culture and education, Sias is advanced in a Western educational mode and culture, through events like the International Culture Week festival, Graduation Day, Candlelight welcoming ceremony, and women’s forums. The Western traditions on campus, combined with the traditional Chinese educational model and professional training, reflect an international perspective with regard to the view and atmosphere. The students are also familiar with international norms and rules, so as to better prepare for international exchanges and cooperation.
Third, there is a focus on an English-medium education with original English textbooks, about 150 foreign teachers , and oral English classes for all students in the university.
Host: Do students with this model of international cooperative education know how to use it to their advantage in a job market that is increasingly problematic for college graduates?
Chen Sikun: This is a very good question, and is a serious problem faced by many parents and students. In recent years, universities have focused on competitive expansion, including the acquisition of international talent, and employment after school based on the quality of talent cultivation and consistent improvement in teaching quality.
Employment for a good student or graduate of a Sino-foreign cooperative university reflects on each university's reputation and ability to train and educate. At present our main objective is to enhance students' entrepreneurial spirit, their technical abilities, and their innovative consciousness. This effective entrepreneurship guidance, through education, is based on the recommendations of employers and workplaces. We strive to enhance the quality of talent and innovation, based on our level of education, and guide the students' employment rate to above 95%. We also offer our students a very good business environment.
Our university is like a business park in Henan province. The university's "European Street" offers entrepreneurial practice for students. With over 50 stores across the campus, students are able to realize their abilities and potential, as they are provided with counseling and guidance for incubator projects. We have an "Incubator Fund" to provide specialist counseling for incubation projects to teach students the awareness and abilities required to compete. Some students are entrepreneurial successes, leading groups and setting up small-scale businesses. Sias has a good atmosphere to enhance innovation and entrepreneurship.
Cooperation with companies for training and employment has increased because of the growing economy brought about by the Zhengzhou Airport nearby. It has forced us to adjust and cater to the demand of these organizations. They are Sino-foreign cooperations as well and require efficient management from the start. Students at Sias learn how to involve themselves and deal with competition as our focus is on the development of a well-rounded character through the education process.
In other areas, we plan to double the number of teachers within 5 years. This will help continue the social development and the application-oriented training of students. As we enhance the quality of teachers' training as well, we will increase the employability of the students.
Host: President Chen, you have just answered how graduates will cope with such a competitive environment for employment, but could you elaborate on the issues they face? Also, what future plans and advantages do you believe that students with an international education will have?
Chen Sikun: In the past 10 years, with the growing internationalization, institutions of higher learning and the talent they produce have become a point of focus. A school faculty has to be an international contruct, with students who have different cultural backgrounds learning and studying together, reflecting the degree of internationalization and modernization of the institute.
Statistics show that in the process of internationalization, a selection of Western and European universities in developed countries put 20% of their effort into the internationalization of education. Up until now, the internationalization of our (Chinese) universities has accounted for less than 0.4%, and so there is a lot of improvement that can be made.
As the level of internationalization increases, universities focus more on how to regulate schools and how to enhance the competitiveness of the university, in particular the focus on the special advantages of the university. Each university faces these new tasks and must be resilient during these situations of transition.
We have implemented a new 5-year plan that focuses on 3 aspects of development which will enable us to reinforce our strengths and reflect our own special characteristics that in turn will lead to innovative breakthroughs.
First, the continuation of the process of the internationalization of education through the implementation of good online courses. MOOCs [Massive Open Online Course] have increasingly become a way for students to expand their skills, develop their qualities, and cultivate creative thinking, all through a new method of teaching. Through the internet and other mediums, we must seize the opportunity that this challenge has given us so that we make full use of these foreign high-quality educational resources. Sino-foreign cooperation is not just grafting, but the implementation of these ideas locally to highlight the advanced nature of our educational philosophy. We continuously improve the teaching and supervision to ensure a high quality of education, not only involving Chinese faculty in teaching management, but with the cooperation of American state schools in Kansas, USA, and their special education inspection of the courses, teaching, and day-to-day management of problems. This further highlights the characteristics of cooperation in the running of universities.
Second, the promotion of Sino-foreign cooperation and cultural exchanges, with Sias features. We have 103 partner schools with whom we have cooperation agreements, including American universities such as the University of Missouri, and the University of Hawaii with whom we hope to implement 2+2 and 3+1 educational models for graduates and post-graduates. This allows us to serve not only the local talent demand and development needs, but also allows our grauduates to effectively participate in foreign competitions. We are in negotiations with Hawai'i Pacific University and have plans to develop a satellite campus in Hawai'i. This will deepen the cooperation and exchange and will be a mutually beneficial model to promote educational development.
Third, our services are based on local economic development, and also highlight how to improve the students' abilities for innovation and entrepreneurship in a bilingual cultural atmosphere. It is because of our Sino-foreign cooperation that students' competence with regard to oral communication directly determines our ability to adhere to the people-focused concept. We explored several ways in which students can self-manage and self-improve, bringing in the inputs of parents through the Parent Committee as a standing body, parent representatives, and inviting parents to participate in the teaching and management of the process. Students and school officials participate in teaching supervision as well.
Based on this we promote dialogue between teachers, students, and school leaders. Contact details are made available for the students should they encounter problems, so that they can engage in dialogue with school leaders in a timely manner so that they can solve their problems, whether they are academic, employment-related, or psychological. This people-oriented and student-oriented concept is reflected in all aspects of our teaching and management across the entire school. The training and self-development involved has helped everyone involved to take part in the development and growth of the university.
In the implementation of our new 5-year plan, we will use traditional characteristics and through the Sino-foreign cooperation in the running of the university, we will adhere to laws and strict management so that we can achieve new breakthroughs in our development and progress. This will lead to more opportunities for us to domestically stand out, become a model for others, and make a difference.
Host: In your university, in courses and professional settings, do you have some prominent considerations with regard to the international characteristics of cooperative education?
Chen Sikun: There are 75 undergraduate majors, including 5 professional courses of Sino-foreign cooperation in our University. Students receive Zhengzhou University diplomas and at the same time get a certification from Fort Hays State University in Kansas, USA. A student can get 2 certifications. These courses specialize mainly in finance, accounting, business administration, etc. These courses truly serve as advanced resources for talent cultivation.
Our curriculum is in accordance with the model of mutual participation. The Chinese side involves the main courses and professional courses, and the other part was formulated by American experts. Student course selection is based on the implementation of strict quality control. Students must also pass basic foreign language grades based on American online courses, for which they receive certifications. All this is based on the sharing of resources and organic cooperation.
With regard to the setting of the course and the overall teaching material, first, we have introduced original American textbooks and material. Second, not only does American education exist directly in classrooms, but through online teaching, students can participate in other courses. Third, in the course of teaching, students have enjoyed a Western-style education with dialogues, round-tables, and heuristic interactive learning, leading to increased participation and improved innovative thinking. Whether it is American open courses and electives, or the strict Chinese system, students' enthusiasm has greatly improved.
We also implement a strict elimination system. If students have a lack of enthusiasm, they will struggle to pass, or may not gain the required credits. We have implemented this strict elimination system to be an incentive and ensure students' active participaton in the full process of education, while nurturing their initiative, enthusiasm, and creativity that reflects the advantages of a Western education. This organic combination makes our graduates widely popular with employers. Feedback from employers has highlighted our graduates' ability, team spirit, and hands-on ability, enhancing the reputation and credibility of our University.
Host: One last question - as you combine the characteristics of Sias with its future development plans, tell us what you think of the next step of development, both home and abroad.
Chen Sikun: Indeed, as you said, Sino-foreign cooperative universities are facing new opportunities, but also new challenges. Since the 2003 Decree of the State Council of the People's Republic of China on Sino-Foreign Cooperation with regard to Universities by the Ministry of Education, less than 20 years of development has taken place. The individual experiments until now have come from private colleges and universities and non-governmental institutions that have tried to keep pace with and promote the development of higher education, and create an environment that effectively meets the demand for diversified talent in the community.
According to statistics, Sino-Foreign cooperative educational institutions and projects number more than 2,000, but their pattern of running and their modes of cooperation are different in many ways. We want to effectively serve to the development of society and be recognized by the community because of the high degree of cooperation between China and foreign universities. However, there are a lot of limitations and restrictions because we operate only with the income from tuition fees as the government does not get directly involved.
The regulations for running Sino-Foreign cooperative universities state that they must contribute towards regional, national, and social development. In order to achieve a greater level, efficiency and quality, there should be a unity in relationship between the three. If there is no fixed standard, the intended rate of growth will not be attained, and social benefits will not be realised. Summing up and carrying forward traditional advantages can help achieve the level, efficiency, and standard desired, but there has to be content building as well if we are to achieve the goals at the core of the 5-year development plan. From a stable base, we hope to improve the quality during this transition, while training the existing talent and encouraging graduates to participate in international competitions, thereby raising their employability. This is the next step of our development plan.
We must make use of extensive resources from a wide range of Western countries, as well as some high quality educational resources, especially through cooperation with their first-class universities. This will help us enhance the development of our personnel training resources.
At the same time, in international cooperative education, we face problems that cannot be ignored. We hope to cooperate with universities in developing countries as well as developed countries, to study their concepts of running their institutions in depth. This will help us learn and improve our program so that more internationals will buy into our educational concepts. If we can publicize our features and showcase our increasingly high quality, we will be able to build up the brand of Sias.
It should be said that in terms of quality and content building, one can strive with the local government to create a good relaxing environment. Our internal management mechanism is very active and autonomous, but because of the limit of enrollment, and the limits placed on admissions, there is a relative shortage of funds in such public welfare undertakings. In this private investment, we have introduced the visions of academic leaders. We should be able to create a very good atmosphere, to create a good base for strengthening our talent, prospering from our unique characteristics, consolidating our strategy, and implementing more development. The university relies on the community and its friends who support it. As long as we remain upright and have unity of purpose, our work and plans for this new educational development, will bear fruit.
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