2019 Teachers’ Day Letter from the Executive President

09 Sep 2019

High Aspirations and Ambitions – Scholar, Teacher and Re-shaper

Dear teachers, colleagues and students,

In July, we released balloons to celebrate XJTLU’s graduating class of 2019. In August, we welcomed 4,600 new students at our opening ceremony, held for the first time in a new location at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre. With a record 15,000 people in attendance, we felt a deep sense of both support and expectation from students, parents and society at large. Today, we celebrate our own holiday. I wish everyone in our community a very happy Teachers’ Day!

XJTLU’s reputation and influence have continued to grow over the years. After 13 years, XJTLU has made it into the top 1000 in the QS World University Rankings 2020, and to 39th place in China. XJTLU ranks first in the country in the category of international faculty. Furthermore, the ratio of outbound exchange at XJTLU ranked number one among Asian universities. World universities look favourably upon XJTLU’s students. These achievements are in no small part due to the efforts and contribution of our faculty, and for that I give you my deepest thanks.

Education is a noble profession, with an impact on multiple generations. It contributes to the knowledge and capacity needed for the survival and progress of mankind. It drives society forward, and advances civilization through the spreading of new culture. During this year’s graduation ceremony, I spoke of rising to the future. I hope that our faculty can respond to the trends and needs for future development in society, living a life rich in value and creating a better future through our innovative efforts at XJTLU.

The world seems to be growing increasingly rife with turmoil and uncertainty. At the same, more and more new disruptive technologies are coming out, and people’s lives are continuing to be ‘disrupted’ in one paradigm shift after the other. But the disruption by new technologies of old paradigms creates new platforms and resources for our benefit. Innovations such as the internet, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and robotics offer us unprecedented opportunities for a new lifestyles, new business models and a new social ecosystem.

A university is about truth, knowledge and technology, and about cultivating citizens that are aware of complexity and capable of developing knowledge that can be used in response to instability in the world. In these times of constant deconstruction and rapid recreation, we face a crossroads. Teachers and staff – as universities’ core resources – have huge responsibilities as shapers of the future. How can we be sure we are not swept up in societal trends and keep firm in our conviction? How do we avoid giving into fashionable temptations and hold steadfast to our pursuits and bottom line? How do we see the future clearly and drive the trends of the future? How do we understand ourselves, improve our abilities, keep our eyes set on our goals and aim for the target?

While wishing you a happy Teachers’ Day, I would also like to use this opportunity to discuss these challenges with you. As I see it, teachers have three main roles: as scholar, teacher and ‘re-shaper.’ If we wish to honour the great mission implied in each of these roles, we must set our aspirations high. We must stay down to earth as we seek to create the future together. We must respond to the aforementioned challenges through our research and our words and deeds. But we can take heart from the fact that XJTLU faculty and staff are already deeply engaged in responding to those challenges.

Firstly, we all know that it is not easy to be a scholar.

As scholars, we seek not only to make an impact in our area of study, but also uphold a sense of responsibility to serve as an elite member of society. In doing so, we must maintain a sense of calm and awareness against the pressures from power or emotion, remaining steadfast in our pursuit of truth and never holding back in speaking our minds, thereby inspiring new trends and pushing forward the development of society. In our studies, we must steer our boats through the vast sea of knowledge, moving tirelessly to discover new knowledge. As social elites, we must work hard and persevere, overcome obstacles to express our thoughts and propose recommendations. As scholars, we may often be alone in our battles, but we remain firm in our convictions. This is because we are often expected to be leaders in thought and outstanding in our conduct. Armed with knowledge and mission, we continue to charge forward.

As a research-driven, entrepreneurial university, we must stay true to our scholarly spirit and remain unaffected by utilitarian and worldly standards. We work hard to create an environment in which faculty can pursue their interests, dive deeply into their research and explore new models of education. In addition to pure academic discovery, we are also working to develop a new model of education in the age of internet, digitalisation and artificial intelligence. By studying in XJTLU’s international educational environment and being guided by their teachers, our graduates go on to shine light on the XJTLU ‘brand’ in their post-graduation achievements.

XJTLU’s Institute of Leadership and Education Advanced Development (ILEAD) has drawn on international experiences and education exploration to set off a chain of influence. The XJTLU National University Teaching Innovation Award has attracted millions of online and offline participants. The National League of Teacher’s Development Centres supported by XJTLU has continued to grow and expand. The student-centred educational model advanced by XJTLU has made a splash in top university rankings. And the nearly 100 training sessions held by ILEAD for teachers and educational professionals have made a major impact in changing China’s educational ecosystem.

Our teachers inspire one another with constant breakthroughs in research. For example, the team led by Dr Meng Jia in the Department of Biological Sciences has completed a prediction of human m6A RNA modification mapping with the highest accuracy rate thus far. The international research group led by Dr Zhu Shaohe completed the first ever sequencing of the pangolin genome. Dr Andrew Abel of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering designed, with his team, a new system for incorporating visual capacity into hearing aids. Professor Zhao Cezhou of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering has conducted high impact research and won support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China. I could go on.

XJTLU gets its soul from our high-achieving, thought-leading scholars.

Second, as teachers, we seek to impart knowledge, resolve doubts and cultivate talent. I congratulate XJTLU teachers for their bold innovation and leadership.

With international experience, impressive scholarly works and extensive teaching experience, XJTLU faculty are a high-achieving bunch. However, with the rapid development of internet and technology, the pursuit of knowledge has become more efficient and convenient. It is changing the approach to study and teaching. The rise of big data and artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on business, society and people’s livelihoods. It is also reshaping education and the university. Under this context, future students’ needs, educational philosophy, teaching methodology and the shape of the university itself are undergoing fundamental changes. As teachers focussed on cultivating talent for the future, we must not only support our students, but also consider how we can innovate and shape education to respond to the changes of our times and meet the changing needs of our future workforce. As an education institution focussed on educational exploration and reform, we must work together to respond to these challenges.

From its inception, XJTLU has been committed to a mission of exploring new models of education. We have sought to transform the traditional ‘teacher-led’ education to a ‘student-centred’ one. We have sought to realise a ‘student development oriented, interested guided and learning centred’ form of research-led education. In doing so, we have sought to integrate Eastern and Western cultures, as well as knowledge and best practices in cultivating global citizens with cross-cultural leadership skills, entrepreneurial spirit and international perspective.

It is due to the efforts and contribution of the entire XJTLU faculty that we have been able to realise our mission. Our talent has been showcased on the world stage. Examples include Qin Sujie from the Department of Health and Environmental Sciences, who won first prize at the XJTLU National University Teaching Innovation Awards in 2019. Dr Wang Xiao of International Business School Suzhou and Dr Martin Rischbach of the Department of Architecture, who won the award for Outstanding Teacher. Diego Vilela Monteiro, PhD student in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, and Meng Sijing and Huang Zhongkai in the Department of Biological Sciences, who won the award for Outstanding Teaching Assistant or Laboratory Teaching Technician, as well as Dr Juan Carlos Dall’Asta from the Department of Architecture, Dr Cheng Zhang from the Department of Civil Engineering and Dr Zhao Yan from the Department of English, who won the award for Most Innovative Teaching Practice.

It is worth mentioning that scholars from other well-known universities in China joined XJTLU in the early years and started another journey of innovation, including professors Guo Jingming and Han Yunrui of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, who have continued to challenge their own mature educational experiences to explore a new approach to education befitting of XJTLU’s model. As the Chinese saying goes ‘peaches and plums do not speak’; talented people need not boast. XJTLU students have ranked in the top ten in the RoboMaster 2019, won ‘Outstanding Winners’ award in an international mathematics modelling contest, among many other achievements.

Finally, XJTLUers have lofty ambitions. XJTLU is just the beginning – we hope to impact China and the world as re-shapers of education.

The imparting of knowledge has been universities’ tradition for millennia. The roles and responsibilities of teachers have effectively been engraved in stone. However, in the face of disruptive technologies, education faces a crossroads. Either be disrupted or improve education through disruptive innovation, paving the way for future growth and development. At this important juncture in reshaping global education, every teacher has the opportunity to become a re-shaper.

With our eyes set on the needs and trends of the future, XJTLU has embarked on new exploration to develop an educational model that fosters international industry elites and leaders who can stand on the shoulders of artificial intelligence and robotics to drive future industries. We have coined this model ‘Syntegrative Education’ (SE). We seek to further develop new concepts for universities and new forms of campuses.

Over the past year, XJTLU’s SE has achieved a major breakthrough with the establishment of the XJTLU Entrepreneurship College in Taicang. Six new colleges have been unveiled – the School of Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Computing, School of Robotics, School of Internet of Things, School of Intelligent Manufacturing Ecosystem, School of Industrial and Financial Integration, School of Cultural Technology. Companies like Sugon and Siasun, along with Eolane, Haier, AMT and China Culture and Media Group have contributed to the establishment of the new colleges.

In addition, six new majors including Data Science and Big Data Technology and Intelligent Robotics Engineering have been approved by the Ministry of Education, certified by the University of Liverpool, and have begun to recruit students. These institutions have also received support and financial commitments from Suzhou Industrial Park. XJTLU has advanced platforms such as the Learning Mall, Innovation Factory, Community of R&DI, Platform of Standard, IP and Accreditation, International Innovation Hub, Alliance of University, Industry and Society, and has received support from Siemens, TÜV Nord, IPwe, Plug and Play, Amazon Cloud (United States) and the Hong Kong Management Association.

SE integrates study, internships, on-the-job learning, research, entrepreneurial activities, providing a platform for students to launch their careers and pursue their dreams.
Only through continued innovation can we stand up to the tide. With Version 2.0 an outstanding success, we are now beginning to consider XJTLU Version 3.0.

In the future, people will have learned basic knowledge prior to enrolling in university. People will go to the university not to merely obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree, but rather to pursue their own dreams and interests with the help of artificial intelligence and robotics. They will embark on lifelong interest-driven studies, innovation and entrepreneurship. If they explore their interests to the fullest, they can create new industries and generate new lifestyles and new work platforms for people. Even if pursuing their own interests doesn’t generate much in the way of wealth, they may still lead a happy life.

The future university therefore becomes a deeper integration into society, a centre of excellence that supports lifelong, interest-driven learning, innovation, and entrepreneurship. This will also lead to the formation of interest-driven social groups, that will drive the development of society. For example, XJTLU has launched the HuiHu International Innovation and Ecological Hub in Xi’an, a practical realisation of the SE model. XJTLU is also planning the launch of a similar innovation hub in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Our understanding of the future university is as follows: First it is a brand; second it is an educational philosophy and ideology that is responsive to the future development of society; third it is a global intellectual and resources network; fourth it is to establish centres of excellence of varying themes in different regions of the world; and fifth it is attracting people who like your brand to formulate groups based on shared interests. For example, as XJTLU’s innovative educational brand becomes more widely known, more people will be inspired by XJTLU’s solutions for the future of higher education. More people will be attracted to XJTLU’s education model, which adopt both Western and Chinese wisdom, and emphasises transformation from the current mindset to a Harmony (HeXie) mindset. XJTLU will have two education bases, with Suzhou Industrial Park cultivating international specialised elites and Taicang campus fostering industry elites and leaders. Themed Centres of Excellence will be developed in Xi’an and the Greater Bay Area. New social groups will be created around XJTLU’s innovation competitions and National League of Teacher’s Development Centres, and through the China Moodle base, more online educational technology groups will be created. Through XJTLU’s affiliated school system, alliances with heads and principals of kindergartens, elementary, middle school and high schools are being created. As cooperation between these groups grows and we share our own knowledge and practices, the wider education system will be re-shaped, and a new educational ecosystem will be created.

As re-shapers of future education, we are drafting the future of XJTLU together.

Dear faculty and staff, let us seize this rare opportunity to reshape and rethink education and redefine the university. We must play each of our roles as scholars, teachers and re-shapers to the fullest. As scholars, we must maintain awareness and independence in our pursuit of knowledge and truth; as teachers, we must uphold our responsibilities toward quality education and teaching; and as re-shapers, we must guide the future through our resolution, mission, achievements, innovation and capacity.

Professor Youmin Xi

Executive President of XJTLU

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of University of Liverpool

09 Sep 2019