Xu Zhihong: University rankings “misleading“
Peking University, Apr. 10, 2013: “Ranking is just like a sword erected at the neck of university presidents. Young candidates will be easily misled if they made a choice according to popular university rankings in society,” said former PKU President Xu Zhihong at Chongqing University (CQU) on April 8.
Professor Xu, speaking on “ideal, responsibility, and pursuit” at the invitation of CQU in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, noted that the blind pursuit of fame and profit led a university to academic anomie, depriving the institution of its history, characteristics, and tradition. “Such cannot be evaluated by a single index system (in rankings), but the three play the most important role at a university.”
Professor Xu Zhihong speaks at Chongqing University (Photo/CQU)
“When I was PKU president, the university was once listed top 15th at a world university ranking. I told PKUers that actually it was not that good; before long, PKU ranked beyond 50th in another system, but it seemed to me that PKU was not that bad,” Xu said.
During Xu’s presidency, every year saw students who dropped out of school. Professor Xu said: “Maybe Chinese students studied too hard at high school, eventually managing to jostle for an ivory tower membership after high-intensity trainings; parents and students have relaxed at a draught since.”
Xu believed that the first year is the most important for a college student. He advised the parents to help students pass this turning point and come up with career planning and ideal of life as soon as possible. He also reminded the students to make good use of various resources around them, to participate in community activities, and to learn to think rationally and critically, instead of becoming a “learning machine.”
When it comes to employment, Professor Xu Zhihong said: “Not all Harvard graduates became scientists and statesmen.”
“There are three hundred and sixty trades, and every trade has its master. Engaging in trivial works for college students does not affect their having lofty ideals.”
Professor Xu always cares about students' growth, said CQU President Lin Jianhua when introducing Xu to the audience.
"To put it in Xu's own words: A university is a botanical garden and students, plants. The university provides moisture and soil for the growth of the plants, who are able to grow up in their individual manners," added President Lin, a former PKU executive vice president who assumed the current post in December 2010.
Xu Zhihong, born 1942, is a botanist, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and professor with the PKU School of Life Sciences. He served PKU president from 1999 to 2008.