Talent password "351": decoding the high-level personnel training at Wuhan University

Newspaper correspondent Zhou Xiaolin

Source: "Chinese organization and personnel newspaper" (2014-01-0303 version: Talent Edition)

Forming a chain in personnel training

"'351 'Is not only a talent program, it is a human pyramid, a personnel training chain," Wuhan University President Li Xiaohong said in his case presentation.

"351" level "3" represents the highest level, containing about 30 Luojiashan distinguished scholars who have been recognized for the significant advancement they made to their disciplines both on national and international levels. The second level consists of the 50 or more Distinguished Luojiashan Professors, also known as "Cheung Kong Scholar" and "National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars" and other national talent programs and projects. The basic level "1" represents the 100 or so Luojiashan young scholars, forming a solid academic foundation, with outstanding innovation and development potential. To their aid, a number of national projects have been created, such as the "National Outstanding Youth Science Fund", the "New Century Excellent Talents" and other special projects for youth.

Academician Li Jiancheng said: "Becoming a professor represented a milestone in my development as a scholar.” In 2011, Prof. Li Jiancheng was elected academician of the Academy of Engineering of China. He is undoubtedly a successful example of this talent support culture: at 31 he was promoted to the position of Professor, at the age of 40 he received a Luojia scholarship, then became specially invited Professor and at 46 year old, was elected fellow of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, becoming the youngest academician in the field of surveying and mapping in China.

From ordinary teacher to young scholar to Professor and distinguished scholar, Prof. Li Jiancheng developed and improved the different stages of the phased implementation of basic training, the cultural and top-notch training, bringing a level of clarity, cohesion to these personnel aspects and supporting staff training. "351" has become a talent brand in Wuhan University, creating a positive output in the implementation of policies put forward by the Central Organization Department, the Ministry of Education and other higher authorities.

People oriented institutional system

"The 351 programs are most important for the growth of talent! This is perhaps given by the flexibility of the support offered by the faculties. You can feel the large scale common effort to bring this talent and fresh vitality to WuDa!" Luojiashan young scholar Wang Hui said. The young scholar shared she has deep feelings for the university and the 351 programs. With her support she was selected among the new century young talents and received access to the National Outstanding Youth Science Foundation. Wuhan University provided her with a competitive allowance, as well as an adequate research funding support. "With these financial means available for us, we will be able to concentrate on our research and as the results appear, they will generate even more funding.” Wang Hui stated.

Although research funding is essential and individual support is certainly necessary, a relaxed research environment, a broad space for development and a user-friendly electronic system are also important factors.

In 2004, the National College of Wuhan University took the lead in the implementation of measures of support towards young academics. Individual talents around the age of 35 were favored. In 1997, 31-year-old Xiao Yongping was promoted to the position of professor, thus becoming the youngest professor of law in China. The following year he became the youngest Ph.D. in matters of jurisprudence. In 2001 he was elected Luojiashan Professor, in 2011he got selected under the Changjiang Scholars program. "I think a large scale policy to encourage, guide and support young teachers that are truly exceptional, allows people to set targets in their career. I am lucky to be among these teachers." Xiao Yongping said.

80 professors and young Luojiashan scholars are also beneficiaries of this system. Shiliang Sheng is a good example. Under the previous policy, one had to wait least after four years to promote from associate professor to full professor. Shiliang Sheng passed the evaluation to become a full professor already at the age of 28, actually being named in the professor position at 30 years of age. This is entirely due to a change in policies, change that facilitates young academics to advance in their careers, quicker.

For the sustainable development of human resources, Wuhan University attaches great importance to supporting innovative institutional mechanisms and strengthening the foundation of "351" training system. Measures such as the introduction of a research funding package for young teachers, the implementation of the "post-70’s" academic programs and a solid post-doctoral system, proved very effective in refreshing the academic staff. For example, around 100 teachers each year are recruited on post-doctoral positions. The policies are especially favorable to international engineering teachers. All teachers willing to promote to senior positions must have at least half a year experience in a foreign academic institution. The number of teachers sent abroad reached a new high. There were only 73 people in 2013 to obtain full funding from the National Scholarship for international exchange programs; these days the number nearly tripled. Young teachers under the age of 35 receive a special allowance of 10,000 yuan per year, for this purporse.

"At Wuhan University, the young teachers account for more than 60% of all teachers. Our staff forms a human pyramid," president Li Xiaohong interpreted this series of initiatives meaning: "The base is composed of the young talent, ambitious and research oriented. The senior teachers occupy higher positions according to their merits. This is a very solid structure, encouraging competition and enabling true talents at the lower levels to move upwards, on higher positions."

Clever Software

One other positive aspect brought by the “351” talent program is facilitating collaborations between teachers. The dialogue between the Civil Engineering Institute and the International School of Software, regarding the assessment of new academic candidates led to an interesting development. Recognizing the need for rigor and objectivity and the time spent assessing each individual candidate, Mr. Zhu Deyou, director of the Department of Human Resources believes a digital solution is more than necessary. "We cannot accept personnel evaluation as a kind of guesswork, I’d colourfully describe as “ magic,” Mr. Zhu said. "We strive to put a number of indicators to assess the quality and suitability of our candidates for each position. This is in our opinion a way to make balanced, objective assessments rather than guesswork. Instead of magic we can have a career booster."

Wuhan University established a high-level talent achievement electronic system. Organizational experts of different disciplines are employed to assess the candidates, producing their report on the medium-term development evaluation and the high achievements evaluation. The focus of this assessment is not to increase bureaucracy, but to evaluate the number of projects and awards, to establish how much research and innovation has been produced and ultimately to show care and promote personnel growth.

"In order to achieve progress, the key is not to compare ourselves with others, but rather with ourselves", Luojia young scholar Shen Yin said. Shen Yin is a renowned researcher, who brought world-first contributions in the lack of congenital stationary night blindness model mechanism of TRPM1 channel, paper presented in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS). Throughout her career she has published several articles in high level journals several articles and received more than 200 citations.

"The '351' is not only about the talent, but the high-level personnel training concept, established at Wuhan University." President Li Xiaogong concludes.

Updated January the 10th 2014