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Pioneers in Education

XMUICE    Public:ICE    Datetime:2011/4/17
1: Prof. Pan Maoyuan:
Pioneering founder of Higher Education Studies in China
Building the foundations of Higher Education: seventy-five years in teaching

When Professor Pan Maoyuan received his Honorary Doctorate from the University of Hull in the UK, he was described as "A pioneering founder of higher education theories in China who, through his hard work and wisdom, had contributed extensively to the reform of higher education in the country and played a major role in establishing China´s higher education research system".

Since first setting foot on the podium, in 1935, Prof. Pan has devoted his life to education in China, of which he feels most proud. Now in his 90s, he is still active on the frontline of teaching. "If I was given a second life, I would once again choose to become a teacher".

A ceremony was held on October 9th, 2010 to celebrate his seventy-five years´ of devotion as a teacher at Xiamen University, which was attended by nearly 500 guests from Departments of Education at various levels of government, higher education institutes and universities. Prof. Pan received an "Award for Special Contributions to Higher Education Studies" by the Chinese Association of Higher Education, presented to him by the Director of the Association, Professor Zhou Yuanqing.

Starting Teaching in the Age of Fifteen.

Prof. Pan has been teaching since he was 15 years old, when he gave his first class, standing in for his brother, who taught at a primary school, and who was unwell at the time. He can still recall how it felt to be standing on the podium for the first time: "Every time I turned my back to write on the blackboard, the students started throwing balls of paper at each other and making a racket. I finished everything I´d prepared within the first 15 minutes, and then just stood there with no idea what to do next."

Studying at Xiamen University at the Age of Twenty-One

Having settled on a career in education, Prof. Pan joined a high-school teacher-training course and on graduation became a teacher in a village school. Still a young man, he felt that he could go still further in his career and applied for a place on the education studies programme in Xiamen University. It was the early 1940s, the time of the Anti-Japanese War, when living conditions were extremely difficult, with little transport available, Pan and his classmates had no choice but to walk for seven days from Jieyang to Changting in order to sign-up and sit the entrance exam. During his time as a student in Xiada, owing to the lack of transport, he was only able to go home once, for his mother´s funeral.

At that time, despite the shortages of necessities and difficult living conditions, the people led a more peaceful and tranquil existence. Studying was unquestionably the top priority of every student. As Prof. Pan recalls, they had to rush to the canteen after class every day and have a really quick meal so that they could secure a seat in the reading room where they could study undisturbed. Beside their busy study timetable, the students had their own free-time entertainments, including writing poetry and plays, and wood carving, which were very popular at the time.

Twenty-two years exploring of Higher Education

After the founding of the New China, Prof. Pan was asked by Wang Ya´nan, the then President of Xiamen University, to put on a training course for staff of higher education institutions around the nation. However, educational studies at that time only covered pre-school, primary and secondary education. Prof. Pan realised the vital need to establish Higher Education Studies as a discipline. In 1956, he was the first person in China to propose an academic discipline focussing on studies of various domains within the university curriculum, a discipline which later became "Higher Education Studies". His proposal received a lukewarm response, however, and its importance was only finally acknowledged in 1978. Nowadays, Higher Education Studies has become a mature academic discipline, included on the course lists of most universities across the country. Speaking of those years of unremitting efforts, Prof. Pan Maoyuan likes to quote a well-known line of poetry, roughly translatable as "I spent ten years sitting on a cold bench", meaning being given the cold shoulder.

Lessons from a life of ninety years

Now in his 90s, Prof. Pan considers that line of poetry to be his motto. The key lesson from his life is strong-mindedness: if you want to succeed, you must be sufficiently strong-minded to put up with the cold shoulder from others, to insist on what you believe in, and to accept your failures. Prof. Pan´s life-time pursuit in Higher Education Studies is living evidence of his strong-mindedness and indefatigable willingness to confront failure.

2. Professor Wu Xuangong: a leading figure in MBA education

80-year-old Professor Wu Xuangong was born in Jinjiang, in Quanzhou, and graduated from the Xiamen University College of Foreign Languages and Cultures in 1951. He received his Master´s degree in Political and Economic Studies from Renmin University of China in 1960. Besides his academic work, he held the posts of Head of the Department of Economics, Vice-President of Xiamen University, and University Party Secretary. He is a national expert in the theory of ownership and property ownership and in Marxist Economics.

On November 20th, 2010, the University held a ceremony to honour his 60 years of devotion to education, with 100 of his former students from political, business and academic circles joining the celebration.

Founder of the Xiamen University MBA

In 1982, the International Development Bureau of Canada began funding development of management programmes in China under the "China-Canada Exchange Programme on Management". Outstanding Chinese students were selected to join MBA programmes in Canada, and Chinese teachers were offered opportunities for short-term visits to business schools in Canada. Eight national key universities were selected for the first group to take part in the programme, including Xiamen University. Prof. Wu was adamant that MBA courses must be established in China to foster management experts ourselves. Under the efficient organisation and leadership of Prof. Wu, the first MBA Centre in China was founded at Xiamen University.

Compilation of MBA Textbooks

Early MBA programmes under the "China-Canada Project" only used imported English textbooks, which, despite their up-to-the-minute theories, seemed far-removed from the reality of business practice in China. This made Prof. Wu to think about the possibility of compiling and publishing a series of MBA textbooks which are adaptable for Chinese reality. He organised a team consisting of young teachers with overseas educational background in the area, and together they produced top-level textbooks which attracted intense attention from the domestic circle.

Issuing the MBA degree

In 1990, when the first group of MBA students was about to graduate, no official authorising document, defining the qualifications and title of the degree, had yet been received from the Ministry of Education. Two days before the graduation ceremony was due to take place, Prof. Wu spent one-hour on the phone to the Ministry, explaining the entire process of the course, including application procedures and course structure. The following day, Xiada received a telegraphic notification from the Ministry, authorising it to issue the MBA and a Master´s degree in Economics. Xiamen University was the first university in China authorised to grant MBA degrees.

Great love of teaching

Prof. Wu always conveys great affection every time he talks about his 60-year as a university teacher. "Teaching is a process of self-improvement which requires prior learning on the part of the teachers themselves. You should prepare your lectures carefully, making them more detailed, specific and student-oriented, which is a laborious and demanding process. However, when students truly benefit from your lectures and put the knowledge they have acquired into practice, this rewards your hard work and brings you enormous delight. It makes you eternally aware of the real value of teaching. That´s the reason I always have felt a profound affection for my job."

3. Professor Zhang Yichun: a half century of nurturing talents

A ceremony was held on November 13th, 2010, to honour Prof. Zhang, a nationally renowned financial economist, and Director of the National Key Programme in Finance at Xiamen University, for his 50 years of contributions to education. The ceremony was attended by over 200 former students of Prof. Zhang who are now working in the fields of politics, business and academia. At the same time, the ceremony marked the publication of an anthology of his writings, and the launch of the Zhang Yichun Research Foundation.

Production of a Large Number of "Bank Presidents"

In his 50 years at the University, Prof. Zhang has supervised 111 Master´s degree students, 74 doctoral students and countless of undergraduates. Many of his former students have become important figures in the finance industry and academic finance circles in China. They include: Gui Minjie, the Deputy-Secretary of the China Securities Regulatory Commission; Li Lihui, the President of Bank of China; Dong Wenbiao, the Chairman of the Board of China Minsheng Bank; Wan Jianhua, the Chairman of the Board of Guotai Jun´an Securities; Jiang Shuxia, Deputy-Secretary of the Chinese People´s Political Consultative Conference Xiamen Committee and Professor of Finance at Xiamen University; Zheng Zhenlong, a member of the Discipline Appraisal Committee under the State Council and Professor of Finance at Xiamen University. His former students also include political figures such as Member of the Fujian CPC Standing Committee and Secretary of the Fujian Politics and Law Committee, Xu Qian, Deputy Governor of Guangdong Province, Liu Kun, Deputy Governor of Hubei Province, Zhang Tong, and Secretary of the Xiamen Municipal Committee of the CPC, Chen Rongkai.

While Prof. Zhang is a very distinguished teacher, outside class he is extremely friendly and easy-going; his students have even been known to fish around in his pockets for cigarettes during class breaks. Besides giving them academic guidance, Prof. Zhang takes very good care of his students, even to the extent of setting up blind dates for them. To his student, he is both a highly respected teacher and a good friend.

Prof. Zhang and the Stock Exchange

Despite his age, Prof. Zhang is still active on the academic stage, remaining young and passionate at heart. He follows every hot financial and economic issue closely, whether it concerns merchant banking, stock-markets, or even the recent financial tsunami. He is always the one to break the ice at a seminar or symposium, drawing the attention of everyone in the audience. At an advanced age, he got into sending short messages, surfing on the internet and using email to make sure he has access to the latest information. There is a story that, when he was in hospital, he sneaked out to a nearby internet café to search for some information.

Another story popular among his students and colleagues in Xiamen University has it that Prof. Zhang is an expert on the stock-markets with a good eye for the potentially most profitable stocks. He began writing books on stock-markets in the 1980s, using the information as course material for his undergraduate classes. To Xiamen University President Zhu Chongshi, Prof. Zhang´s operations on the stock-market constitute an example of "Putting theoretical studies into practice"; to Prof. Zhang himself, investing in stocks and shares can be a driving-force impelling people to learn about changes in the global economy, in interest rates and exchange rates, and in macro-regulation policies, and therefore constitutes a good source of material for teaching.

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