Translating research strengths into advantages in talent development

Source:Chinese Social Sciences Today 2023-05-25

The report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC stressed that “education, science and technology, and human resources are the foundational and strategic pillars for building a modern socialist country in all respects.” It is incumbent upon research and higher education institutions to contribute to this vision. The growing consensus is that by effectively integrating research and education, we can successfully train high-level talent and maintain a significant and influential role in competition of scientific innovation and comprehensive national power.

In this context, a number of leading Chinese research institutions began to establish “research institution-based universities,” such as the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This is a relatively new phenomenon within China’s higher education sector and raises an important question: how can research institution-based universities translate their research strengths into advantages in talent development?

First, research institution-based universities are a new form of education, distinct from both traditional universities and research universities. It is a common belief that education and research are combined in higher education. Research institutions, despite primarily engaging in scientific studies, also undertake educational activities, which is not rare in China or overseas.

However, it is only in the past decade that Chinese research institutions began to establish universities and enroll undergraduates. Research institution-based universities have emerged as a novel approach for research institutions to undertake talent development.

Second, research institution-based universities should confront their unique challenges. It is widely recognized that research and education operate on different logical principles and modes of work. The education of people is at the center of education. No matter how much emphasis is placed on innovation and critical thinking, the educator imparts known knowledge, methods and experience to the learner, which in the strict sense constitutes a normative act of knowledge transfer. Realistically, there has been little change in the status, mission, organizational structure and operating model of universities in the past nine centuries.

By contrast, the discovery of knowledge and facts is the core of scientific research where innovation is emphasized. Research activities also need to conform to norms, but these norms are directed at the processes and methods, not the outcomes. These differences can make it difficult for research institution-based universities to integrate education with research.

Third, research institution-based universities need to make the most of their dual advantage. Education and research generally follow different logic, but both have their own advantages. They differ significantly in terms of resources, including funding, projects, development platforms and opportunities for exchange. These resources are all crucial to universities in their efforts to perform their functions and fulfill their mission. The success of research institution-based universities hinges on their ability to leverage their dual roles as both a university and a research institution. They must make full use of the resources and advantages from both tracks and translate them into a driving force.

Research institutions and the administrators of research institution-based universities should actively push these universities into the mainstream of high education so that they follow the laws and logic of education. Research institutions should fully understand and respect this type of university and manage them differently than research institutes. The educational authority should treat research institution-based universities as a distinct category of high-quality research university and take into account the features of research institutions in discipline evaluations and other assessments.

The educational authority and research institutions alike must break away from path dependence and remove institutional barriers. They should help research institution-based universities explore their own development path and give them sufficient autonomy with the aim of blazing a new trail for the development of China’s higher education sector, high-level talent development and scientific innovation.


Qi Guanghong is from the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Editor:Yu Hui

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