The Ministry of Education's long-awaited approval of full accreditation for the South University of Science and Technology (SUSTC) in Shenzhen has been hailed as a milestone by university authorities, but analysts say it will leave it with less room to be a beacon for educational reform.
A directive issued by the ministry late on Tuesday gave the university full accreditation five years after Shenzhen's city government approved a plan to build the institution, touted as a modern university that would break ranks with the mainland's bureaucracy-plagued tertiary education system.
'SUSTC can now go ahead with the reforms we've hoped for,' Zhu Qingshi, the university's founding president, said yesterday. 'But in the long-run, the decree is only the first step in a long march and the future road will be longer and more difficult.'
The directive accredits SUSTC as an undergraduate college, which will be regulated in accordance with the country's Education Law and the law governing higher-learning institutions on the mainland.
Professor Chu Zhaohui, from the National Institute of Education Sciences, said the long approval process was understandable because the university needed to meet requirements related to its infrastructure, the quality of its teaching staff and its faculty design.
'But full status means less freedom for the university to push ahead with what it wants to do,' he said.
For one thing, Chu said the university was now unlikely to bypass the gaokao, the national college entrance exams, as it did in its first recruitment exercise last year, because it was bound by the legal framework.
It had hoped to recruit prodigies who lacked the all-round skills to perform well in the rigid gaokao regime but showed particular promise in one specialised field of study.
Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said full accreditation left SUSTC with no more freedom than any other mainland university because it would even have to seek administrative approval for the number of faculties it intended to set up.