Executive President’s Christmas, New Year and Spring Festival Message

23 Dec 2020

Pierce through the veil of uncertainty, emerge stronger and better from the crisis as we continue on our journey

Dear Faculty Members, Colleagues, Students and Friends,

2020 has been unusual in many aspects – a hazy winter, an arduous spring, a busy summer, and a restless autumn. The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a different perspective on what life ought to be – it is inevitable that we should confront the turmoil and challenges the world has brought upon us, and our only course of action would be: To pierce through the veil of uncertainty, emerge stronger and better from the crisis as we continue on our journey.

Looking back at the past year, every obstacle and challenge has been overcome step by step, leading to growth and joy after the struggle.

In January, XJTLU's scientific research teams actively participated in research projects related to the fight against COVID-19, and uncovered breakthrough insights in an area considered a grave challenge to the survival of mankind. At the same time, our faculty staff, and students all contributed to the fight against the pandemic in various ways.

In February, over ten thousand of our students spreading across the globe continued their studies on our proprietary virtual platform. We managed to turn the crisis into an opportunity that allowed us to strengthen our digital infrastructure for online education, and our innovative approach has garnered attention from domestic and international media alike. Guangming Daily commented on our exploration: “Online education is a testament to the essence of higher education – universities are not only platforms for sharing knowledge, but also tools that enable transformation and growth, providing opportunities for life-long learning and continuous innovations that would benefit the academic community and the society at large.”

In March, the ground-breaking ceremony for the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) Affiliated Taicang Experimental School took place. The construction of the new school serves as the foundation of XJTLU’s broader strategy of expanding its academic footprint in the region and accelerating the development of China’s primary and secondary education.

In May, the XJTLU Learning Mall, our online learning platform was launched. We leveraged our global network of resources to create an innovative education ecosystem to endorse the idea of interest-driven, personalized lifelong learning for all.

In June, XJTLU, a relatively young university, debuted on the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, receiving respectable placements in the university and subject categories. Our academic programmes have also received recognition domestically, with two of our majors selected for the national first-class undergraduate development programme.

In July, the 2020 graduation ceremony of XJTLU was held. 2899 undergraduate students, 519 master’s students and 34 doctoral students graduated successfully from XJTLU. Student speaker Shiyu Yi delivered a moving speech at the ceremony: “It is our hope that, having had the opportunity to experience different cultures and better understand the world around us, and with our Chinese sense of compassion and global perspectives, we are now ready to give back to our country and our community.”

In August, we achieved another breakthrough in our pursuit of Syntegrative education: XJTLU, the Jiangdu District Government of Yangzhou, and Enlight Media entered into a strategic partnership framework agreement to jointly develop the XJTLU-Enlight Film School, where students are expected to be nurtured and inspired by cutting-edge technologies and artistic innovations.

Again, in August, the XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang) hosted a career bootcamp that offered a three-week internship for 296 incoming sophomores. The bootcamp proved to be a productive experience for the students, as they got ready for their next challenge.

In September, more than 5,000 new students received their first taste of XJTLU’s unique culture with a special opening ceremony. With 90% of our students having returned to campus, the University officially launched the HyFlex teaching platform that integrates online and onsite teaching, a learning model that will likely become more relevant for life after the pandemic.

In October, the TEDxXJTLU annual conference was held. The event centred around the theme of “Syntegration”, featuring 9 guest speakers with diverse backgrounds in education, humanities, art, and technology joining the stage to share their perspectives on the path forward, and exploring ways to create new possibilities in a world full of uncertainties.

In November, the Academy of Pharmacy was officially established, leading the way for XJTLU’s 3.0 transformation initiative. The Academy will draw from the University its network of resources to create a new integrated ecosystem involving academics, scientific researchers, and entrepreneurs. In addition, our autumn event, entitled “The future of higher education in a post-pandemic world: new challenges and opportunities” captured significant media attention from dozens of domestic news outlets, including Xinhua News Agency, China Daily, China Youth Daily, China Education Daily and China Education TV.

December is a time to bid farewell to the old and welcome the new. We look forward to many new opportunities and pleasant surprises in the year ahead.

Despite the pandemic looming over us, we have managed to stay on course and be productive throughout a year that has been marked by unprecedented turbulence. We owe this achievement to the tremendous resolve and perseverance exhibited by the XJTLU community in the face of adversity. We know the impact of the pandemic will remain for the foreseeable future, and that the world and our way of life will forever be changed. On a more positive note, we are perhaps fortunate in a sense, that testing times are also fertile ground for new opportunities. As I have always emphasised in the past, uncertainties are here to stay, and we must learn to cope with them. Still, there are orders beneath these layers of chaos, and our ability to identify these patterns and manage them to our advantage will enable us to pierce through the ‘veil’ of uncertainty and make superior judgement and decisions amidst all the ambiguities and complexities in the post-pandemic world.

When it comes to navigating crises and challenges, there is no better example than Huawei, considering what the company has had to overcome in the past two years. Despite the company being dealt a lethal blow by US sanctions, Ren Zhengfei made the following remark during a farewell speech: “We must fully embrace globalisation, persist in our efforts to learn from the best, and remain relentless in our pursuit of innovations.” Huawei’s display of perseverance and tenacity against such insurmountable challenges is a lesson for all of us – so long we maintain our courage to weather the storm, we will emerge victorious and stronger than ever.

To our beloved XJTLU community – it is my sincere hope that with our collective efforts, continuous support from friends, and leveraging on the imagination, creativity, and cultural wisdom that has always defined the University, we can together achieve even greater accomplishments in the post-pandemic era.

First of all, XJTLU will continue to accelerate its process of globalisation in the post-pandemic era. The pandemic has undeniably dealt a significant blow to our efforts: the shutdown of campuses, disruptions in international travelling, ongoing economic recession, prevalence of domestic-centric policies, racial tensions, and growing sentiments against globalisation are just some of the side effects brought upon us. However, it is clear the rapid development of digital technologies will also help universities overcome the setback in the near term through a growing reliance of online education, while simultaneously reshaping the future of education and international collaboration. While uncertainties are expected to persist in a post-pandemic world, digital technologies will bring the world closer together, and the desire for countries to work together will remain strong and perhaps even strengthen in the long run. Consequently, the overall trend of internationalisation of education will continue to remain on course. As such, our ability to withstand and overcome the challenges will enable us to create even more value and a wider range of possibilities for our stakeholders in the future. With this mission in mind, it is vital that we build a platform where we can draw from our vast network of online education resources and research achievements, combined with the unique features of the XJTLU campus to support these strategic objectives. An important step was taken by launching the XJTLU Learning Mall in May of this year, where we hope to foster a culture of life-long learning, an experience that is tailor-made, innovative, and driven by interest. This initiative underpins our core strategy to building a sustainable future, as opposed to a temporary solution to address present

Second, the University will emerge out of the crisis stronger and more competitive, where each step forward in this evolutionary process will be taken in a more rigorous, accelerated, yet prudent manner. Ten years ago, we began what we referred to as XJTLU version 1.0 – a series of efforts to explore and innovate new education models to cultivate international-minded specialised elites. Our achievements were widely recognised by the public and captured the attention of our domestic and international peers. To meet the new demands of an era dominated by digital technologies, AI and robotics, we launched a brand-new model called Syntegrative Education that focuses on the use of AI and robotic technologies to groom talents equipped with deep industry expertise and technical know-how. This was known as XJTLU version 2.0. Fast forward to November of this year, when we opened the Academy of Pharmacy – marking the launch of our new model, known as XJTLU version 3.0, which emphasizes the importance of integrating the University with resources outside of the campus, creating a new industry ecosystem that combines academics, research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We plan to apply this new model to more areas in other locations when appropriate opportunities arise.

Third, we stand firm on our mission to become a pioneer, innovator, and reformer of education, both in China and abroad. The pandemic has given us many opportunities to reflect and contemplate the meaning and value of life, the orderly functioning of society and technology, ways in which mankind can co-exist with rest of the world, a new world order, or life under the new normal. As educators, we also need to revisit the following questions – what do we want our children to become, what is the purpose and meaning of education, how should we reform the way we teach, how should universities be redefined, and how do we improve governance and management in education? At this critical juncture of education reform, it is imperative that we look far into the future and lay the groundwork ahead of time. XJTLU will gradually complete the deployment of resources in new areas of education as it evolves from version 1.0 to 3.0. For primary and secondary education, we have established the XJTLU Affiliated School, and the XJTLU Affiliated Taicang Experimental School is also under construction. We also have plans to roll out training courses catered toward principals of kindergartens, middle schools and elementary schools, and executives of education bureaus. On the higher education front, the Suzhou Industrial Park campus is looking to upgrade its current version of the “International Specialised Elites” model, and the XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang) is exploring ways to enhance and improve its adoption of the “International Industry Elites” model and engaged in discussions with local governments and businesses to jointly develop a new model of cultivating talents, for professional elites with industry background in the age of digital intelligence. The Academy of Pharmacy is an example of the University’s partnership with local governments and businesses to jointly develop ecosystems that integrate education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship, and such model can be customized to accommodate differences in jurisdictions, partners, and purposes. To help facilitate wider adoption and publication of our models and research achievements, we began this October the preparation for the establishment of the XJTLU Academy of Education.

The current pandemic seems to have brought a sudden halt to our busy lives, but in a world that can be occasionally discouraging yet exciting at times, we are destined to face new challenges as the future unfolds. As we approach the end of the year, we must realise that while it is helpful to reflect on the past and learn from our mistakes, it is critically important to be prepared and plan ahead. We are in a tumultuous and uncertain time, but let us also embrace the new world of opportunities that await us. I am confident that our intellectual rigor, adaptability, vision, and foresight will guide us through our journey to fulfil the mission we set out to achieve.

Thank you again for being part of our community in 2020. I wish our faculty, staff, students and their families as well as XJTLU’s friends from all circles a Happy New Year, and may good health, happiness and prosperity be with you in 2021!

Professor Youmin Xi
Executive President of XJTLU
Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool

23 Dec 2020