Choosing a degree programme? Follow your interests to find the right path

15 Mar 2024

Each March, Year One students at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University have the opportunity to choose their degree programme. Here, Dr Xiaojun Zhang, Chief Education Officer at XJTLU and head of the leadership team at XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang), offers his advice on making that important decision and discusses the many options open to students.

Do you have advice for students when considering what degree programme to choose?

It’s understandable that students have concerns when selecting a programme, as the decision sets a course for their further education, and maybe employment. However, let’s first look at some data and facts.

Among the students in XJTLU’s Class of 2022 who chose to study abroad, 89% entered universities ranked in the world’s top 100 for graduate school or doctoral studies, and there was no significant difference in that percentage across programmes. No matter which programme you choose, there’s a high probability you will be able to enter a world-class graduate school or find a good job upon graduation.

So, we encourage students to follow their interests: You’ll be happier, have better short-term opportunities, and have enhanced long-term development capabilities.

I also want to emphasise that XJTLU not only advocates interest-oriented learning but also provides students with an educational support system that helps them self-actualise and build their dreams.

Some people are still relatively unfamiliar with the educational opportunities at XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang). Can you share some details?

XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang) is the strategic focus of the University’s second decade of development, aiming to empower industry-leading professionals who will use new technologies to reshape the future. To this end, the College provides students with a range of educational and development opportunities.

Seven programmes at the College focus on industries playing a key role in reshaping our society, and in areas hungry for high-end talents: data science and big data technology, microelectronics science and engineering, intelligent manufacturing engineering, Internet of Things engineering, robotics engineering, supply chain management, and art and technology.

Our programmes integrate theory with practice. We are strengthening theoretical research based on practice, cultivating the ability to solve complex real-world problems. Here are some of the ways we do that:

  • We design courses through in-depth collaboration among academic and corporate partners. For example, some of our intelligent manufacturing engineering courses were jointly developed by XJTLU and Haier Group, such as our unique courses on Haier’s corporate philosophy, known as mass customisation; and intelligent manufacturing ecosystems.
  • Our distinguished educators attract outstanding industry talents. For instance, Professor Chen Junsong, Dean of the School of Intelligent Finance and Business says that the Intelligent Supply Chain with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BSc must be taught by at least one business executive in addition to the academic instructor. These business executives need to share insights with students on trends, best practice, the challenges facing companies, and the knowledge and skills needed to address these challenges.
  • Many of our student assessments are based on actual industry cases. In most modules in the supply chain programme, for example, students are given a practical case and asked to complete a short paper based on what they have learned.
  • We provide students with real scenarios for learning through integrated projects that run from Year Two to Year Four, and encourage students to carry out project-based learning and practical exploration using real projects from companies.

We give our students greater personal responsibility, matching them with rich practical project options and a flexible time arrangement. We expect students to complete 200 hours of practical activities every year.

In the past, every student at the Entrepreneur College (Taicang) attended a five-week professional development programme (PDP) in the summer. Starting this year, to give them more autonomy, the PDP will be optimised and become an elective summer project. Students will have the option to apply to companies for project works or to XJTLU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fund Programme.

At any time during the year, students can transform an idea into a project through our innovation factory, which comprises nearly 40 laboratories on campus. If a student has a start-up project and a team, they can also apply to join the X3 Co-Venture startup hub, which will connect them with mentors, funding, and industry resources. We also offer themed short courses, training camps, the XJTLU Global Entrepreneurial Dream-Chasers Competition, and technological innovation and entrepreneurship clubs throughout the year.

Can you tell us more about the innovation and entrepreneurship culture at the College?

At Entrepreneur College (Taicang), we help students in learning to embrace change, break conventions, and pursue innovation. Innovation can be the creation of a new product, a new service, a new business model – the threshold does not have to be that high, as long as it creates value for society. In this age of artificial intelligence, we have developed innovation and entrepreneurship courses to help our students better understand what is needed to transform technology into social value.

We endeavour to help students become elite professionals who can innovative to solve problems and promote industry changes. Students will not necessarily start their own businesses as soon as they graduate, but they will have unique advantages no matter what their chosen path.

Some go on to further studies, as we can see from examples in our first undergraduate cohort, which graduated last year. Three of the graduates from our Data Science and Big Data Technology with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BEng were simultaneously admitted to Harvard University; many students from our Arts, Technology and Entertainment with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BA have been admitted to London’s Royal College of Art, ranked first in the world; in our Intelligent Manufacturing Engineering with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BEng programme, each graduate received, on average, four offers from top 100 universities; and 46% of graduates of the Internet of Things Engineering with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BEng have been admitted to the world’s top 10 universities.

Yifeng Xu, who earned a BEng in Intelligent Manufacturing Engineering with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism, joined Haier Group and received investment to create a prototype for an automated guided vehicle that was included in the International Conference on Intelligent Manufacturing and Robotics.

Dongjun Zhao, who earned the same degree, ventured into e-commerce via Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, in Year Three. His home appliance business has been listed in the top 30 in its sales category many times, even once exceeding the sales of tech giant Huawei’s flagship store. He went on to receive an offer to study at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

Among the graduates who choose to find employment were Guoao Chen, who studied Data Science and Big Data Technology with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BEng and secured a job as a video cloud product manager at Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company; Wenli Liao, who studied the Intelligent Supply Chain with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BSc and received an offer from P&G in Three; and Shiqi Caia student from the Arts, Technology and Entertainment with Contemporary Entrepreneurialism BA, who joined Chinese gaming company miHoYo. None of them limited themselves to classroom studies during university.

What can we expect to see from the students who graduate Entrepreneur College (Taicang)?

Looking to the future, our students will be engaged in key industries that reshape society. They pay attention to reality, dare to innovate, have strong autonomy and learning ability, make good use of resources, lead technology-driven innovation and entrepreneurship, and create value for society. These are the unique advantages for students to continue their studies, find a job, or enter society.

By Bo Kou
Edited by Tamara Kaup

15 Mar 2024


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