Universities should not be subject just to the whims of employment considerations, the president of Nankai University in Tianjin said, dismissing the idea that students of liberal arts are less welcome in the job market than those who graduate in applied sciences.
Gong Ke, president of Tianjin-based Nankai University, said college education and its specialties should further reform and adjust to reflect social and economic trends, especially the transformation of economic structure. They should also reflect the direction of the nation, instead of being influenced by short-term goals, such as the employment rate of the past three or five years.
Gong made the remarks in the wake of a difficult academic year, which has been dubbed "the hardest year to find a job" by some analysts due to a global economic downturn.
Gong said the difficulties of finding a job have been overstated, and college education is driven by social development, not the current job market.
Statistics provided by Nankai showed more than 95 percent of nearly 6,600 graduates of the last academic year are employed or have been admitted to further study. The percentage is similar to previous years, despite job opportunities shrinking by 11 percent from 2012.
"Even those in the philosophy department, who may have found it hard to get work, have an employment rate consistent with previous years."
About 94.4 percent of students who majored in logistics and graduated last year are employed.
The most important skill that a university can offer is the ability to delve and learn deeper, broader and faster. Compared to vocational education, it offers students lifelong competitiveness, providing a comprehensive education, Gong said.
Nankai University in Tianjin was founded in 1919. Its prominent graduates include late Premier Zhou Enlai, mathematician Chern Shing-Shen, physicist Wu Ta-you and playwright Cao Yu.
The university has 21 academic colleges, covering literature, history, philosophy, classics, management, law, science, engineering, agriculture, medicine, teaching and art. The university has 23,925 students.
A doctor of applied science, Gong was also a foreign academic at the Russian Astro Space Center. He returned to China and worked at the Beijing-based Tsinghua University for almost two decades, before he moved to Tianjin in 2006 to head Tianjin University, located next door to Nankai.
As a professor who has worked in both Tianjin and Beijing, Gong said he has a direct knowledge regarding academic resources in the two cities.
"Constantly we find it difficult to compete with universities in Beijing to attract talent. Even some professors who had worked in Nankai for many years moved to the capital once they received an offer."
Gong said Beijing is endowed with many inherent advantages in attracting talent. Besides, Nankai never had the financial capacity to retain its teachers if they had a better salary offer.
"We hope the potential of Tianjin can be seen by more people, especially after the plan to upgrade regional cooperation between Beijing and Tianjin, initiated this year," he said.
"People rushed to Shenzhen in the 1980s for its potential development, although it was far from Guangzhou in terms of social development at that time."