Ignite the Light of Innovation by Pushing Boundaries

Executive President’s address for Christmas, New Year, and the Chinese New Year

Dear colleagues, students, alumni and friends,

Time waits for no one, and once again, the year-end is here. Much has been said about the volatility, complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity the world is facing, yet I, more than ever, remain confident and optimistic about the future of XJTLU.

In an unusual year such as the last one, we have been challenged by seemingly insurmountable difficulties, but as always, we stayed together as one and came out of it stronger. We witnessed how the University overcame challenges and took off against strong headwinds. As we approach the new year, it feels like the right moment to express my deep and sincere gratitude to all the faculty members, staff, students and alumni of XJTLU for your contribution to this community, as well as to all the parents, partners and friends of this university for your company and support. I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted people’s lives and the logic of how a society should operate, impacting the whole of humanity like never before. We all thought 2020 was bad. Little did we know 2021 would be even worse – a tougher test that brought out those with real strength.

The pandemic is like a dark cloud that has been overshadowing an increasingly smaller world, where strategic withdrawal seems to have become people’s go-to instinct. But what choice should we make at XJTLU, since we have bravely taken on the roles of the influencer and re-shaper of future education?

We all understand that retreating to our comfort zone seems to be a safer bet in such an adverse environment. But our commitment to the future and the sacred mission we have taken on have infused in us the bravery and courage needed to turn crises into opportunities and to adopt more proactive strategies so that we can stand out from the fold and maintain our leadership position and sustainable development.

This past year marks the 15th anniversary of XJTLU, a moment we have seized on to both look back and look forward. The experiences and achievements accumulated are paving the way for bolder innovations and intelligent activities aiming at the future, as a series of major programmes have taken shape, and remarkable landmarks have been achieved in teaching, scientific research and industry ecosystem development. The “industry-education-research” syntegration model we have pioneered is making waves in the mainstream media, and despite the all-consuming pandemic, XJTLU has once again prevailed.

First, we have made achievements in all areas. Our students have made their marks on the world stage: the 2021 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition was the third time that XJTLU’s undergraduate student team received the Golden Award; we also have undergraduate, masters and doctorate-level research on advanced technologies such as chips, image recognition and AR/VR frequently published by top journals worldwide.

XJTLU research teams have been an active force in combating the Covid-19 virus and in other academic areas such as biodiversity, environmental protection and sustainability, helping humanity to enhance its ability to survive. We have also seen rapid gains in our strength of scientific research, with three of our academic disciplines – computer science, engineering and social sciences, general– ranked in the top 1% on the ESI Global List. And what’s more, XJTLU has also, for the first time, entered the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, ranking 122 in Asia and 35 amongst universities in the Chinese mainland.

Second, our future-looking and exemplary Syntegrative Education model is progressing well. An exploratory journey of future education and talent cultivation is well underway with the admittance of three batches of students. What’s more exciting is that the main architectural structures of the XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang) was concluded in May this year and will officially launch in September 2022.

Third, we have accelerated the pace of building the future education-supportive XJTLU Learning Mall, with a focus on improving the effects of online-offline hybrid education as well as its quality assurance system. In the meantime, we are actively creating a deep syntegrative education and innovation ecosystem that connects university, industry and society.

Leveraging the momentum of a well-developed XJTLU Wisdom Lake Academy of Pharmacy, we have also built a series of other industry academies, including the XJTLU-JITRI Academy of Industrial Technology, the Academy of Future Education, and the Academy of Film and Creative Technology, that will enhance XJTLU’s roles as catalyst and connector to leverage resources and create a new educational and innovative ecosystem that promotes the pursuit of personalised interest-driven and lifelong learning, innovation and entrepreneurship, business research and development, as well as industry upgrading. In this new ecosystem, comprehensive applied elites and industry leaders will be cultivated to lead technological advancement, industrial development and social transformation.

Fourth, we have designed a new educational system. This new system is more flexible and friendly to personalised learning and teaching innovation and guarantees the continuous upgrading of education at XJTLU. The credit-based education system will be officially implemented in 2022, under which students are given greater freedom to choose their majors and electives based on their interests, and teachers will also be able to enjoy more liberty to explore their passions for teaching.

Fifth, we have formulated a strategic plan for XJTLU’s development in the longer term, as shown in the star-shaped XJTLU Education Blueprint below, which encompasses a full chain of educational exploration and innovation in higher education, new professional education, secondary and elementary, and kindergarten education.

The Five-star Education Blueprint is built around the mission, vision and education philosophy of XJTLU and is supported by three unique education models that have fully utilised XJTLU’s network of resources and partnerships. The XJTLU 1.0 model has innovated and upgraded the traditional education of professional elites; the XJTLU 2.0 model explores Syntegrative Education for cultivating elites and leaders in new industries; and the XJTLU 3.0 model is focused on creating an ecosystem of innovation that promotes the further integration of university, industry and society, and extends to explore primary education and new professional education in the age of digital intelligence so that XJTLU can better fulfill its mission of reshaping and influencing education and servicing society.

We have also established the XJTLU Learning Mall to ensure the efficient running of our education system, especially to deal with the many challenges international education would face in a post-pandemic world. The Learning Mall provides world-class educational resources and supports the XJTLU education system with an ecosystem that promotes interest-driven lifelong learning and innovation by combining school education and industry experience and conducting online and on-site learning activities for all users, no matter their country, region, or age.

The past year has been very productive for XJTLU. It is true that it’s difficult to paddle against the current, as pressure and challenges are inevitable. But as long as we stick together and maintain our resilience and wisdom, we can break the status quo and stand higher and walk farther, to transcend and lead.

Looking ahead to 2022, we have the responsibility to build a solid foundation to successfully execute our strategies.

First, we have to make sure that our newly upgraded innovative education system can be implemented successfully; second, we should continuously improve and optimise the University’s operational supporting system; third, we will ensure the successful move and operation of the XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang); fourth, postgraduate-level education at XJTLU will be greatly enhanced and improved; fifth, we will improve the research environment at XJTLU and strengthen our support for scientific research; sixth, we will further invest in building a highly qualified team of faculty and staff and ensure the quality of our services; and lastly, despite the many challenges ahead, we are still going to forge on for the successful operation and international development of XJTLU.

The future of XJTLU, especially the fulfilment of our mission of impacting education and servicing society, cannot be done without the commitment and wisdom of our faculty and staff members, as well as the genuine care and support from our students, parents, and the greater XJTLU community.

We are looking forward to 2022, when we can make more successes and write new chapters together at XJTLU and share the happiness and joy of development with all of you.

As an ancient Chinese poet once said, “It is hard to wash sand and dirt out of gold, but the gold only shows after you repeat the washing thousands of times.” Life is not always filled with sunshine and roses, and challenges present themselves from time to time. We need to innovate, break boundaries and learn to deal with unpredictable circumstances.

The darkest hours will pass when we build resilience and strength from this experience. Those boundary-pushing challenges are exactly the torches that shine upon the path of innovation. No matter where you are, who you are, successes won’t come easily without passing hurdles after hurdles. But when it all settles down, you will find out how far you have traversed.

This year has not been easy for anyone. There are times of distress and confusion, but also times of surprises and brilliance, as well as unforgettable life-altering experiences. For me personally, while marching ahead vigorously with XJTLU, I have also sometimes felt tinges of anxiety when it comes to educational dilemmas and the so-called social phenomenon of “involution”.

We are determined to find effective approaches that can bring education back to its roots, but we have also been baffled by the many educational policies that suppress education providers. Those policies cannot root out problems from the core because they have failed to see from the eyes of those on the demand side what kind of talents society really needs for a future of uncertainties, how to develop such talents, and true values education can deliver.

Only by addressing these problems directly can we find the root cause of involution and eliminate education that is worthless and even potentially harmful to students. For this, I have personally made efforts to raise funds for the campaign of Finding Outstanding Chinese Educators in the New Era, in the hope that it can facilitate a wide discussion of education in society and promote the understanding of how to better help our children grow and how to advance the development of our students and society through future-proof education.

The path ahead is still dotted with the pandemic, challenges, and bumpy rides. But 15 years of navigating hurdles and the strenuous test of the Covid-19 pandemic have made us more resilient than ever and courageous enough to wade into uncharted waters.

We have an ambitious strategic plan, a flexible organisation, and highly effective teams lined up to help us maintain the position of pioneer and leadership, which I am confident is a goal very much attainable.

And I hope that coming the next year, we can remain stronger together to weather the storms and challenges together and to welcome a future where a more remarkable 15 years of XJTLU history is waiting for us.

Dear colleagues, students, alumni, parents and all our friends, thanks again for your company along this journey. As we join hands to welcome the year 2022, I wish all of you better health and many successes, and more importantly, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Professor Youmin Xi
Executive President, XJTLU
Pro-vice-chancellor, University of Liverpool

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