Chinese Universities Soaring through the Ranks: Oxford Vice-Chancellor

December 17, 2015
By Zhang JianhuaEditor: Mable Wang
According to Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford Andrew Hamilton, Chinese universities are "rising through the ranks" quickly. [File Photo]

Chinese universities are "rising through the ranks" quickly, as top universities in China continue to strive for standards of excellence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford Andrew Hamilton said recently in an interview with Xinhua.

"Universities can never stand still. I think that universities must always be open to new ideas and foster innovation in the way they teach or carry out research," he told Xinhua in the detailed written interview.

Hamilton, 63, has been the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2009. In the interview, he said that Chinese universities still need some time to build up world-class facilities and the ability to attract the best talents, but they are catching up fast.

"We've had 900 years to do this, but these top Chinese universities are starting to catch up, and managing to do it rapidly," he observed.

Oxford-China Ties "Very Pleasing"

Talking about Oxford-China educational ties, the university helmsman stressed that "the exchanges between China and Oxford increase both in number and scale."

"In the mid-90s, fewer than 100 students from China studied in Oxford, now we have nearly 1,000 excellent Chinese students coming here, many funded through an even wider selection of scholarships," he said.

Hamilton revealed that now more than 4,000 Oxford alumni live in China, representing the second largest overseas population of Oxonians in the world, after the United States.

Oxford's Department for Continuing Education has received nearly 5,000 delegates for its training programs for senior Chinese officials over the last 10 years, he said.

Oxford and its Chinese partners, the vice-chancellor noted, also share many research ties, particularly in the area of global health, leading to "scientific and medical breakthroughs that benefit millions of people worldwide."

"This is all very pleasing, but we want to continue building on our links with Chinese students and alumni, as well as working with Chinese institutions and researchers in finding solutions to this century's most urgent challenges like climate change, the environment, and global health," he said.


The University of Oxford, whose earliest teaching activities can be traced back to 1096, is a federation of more than 40 self-governing colleges and halls, with most colleges housing a diverse mix of students and academics who study a wide variety of subjects.

Unlike academic departments, these colleges are small, multidisciplinary communities offering library and internet facilities, accommodation, sports events, social networking and so on.

Now, about one third of its students are international citizens coming from more than 140 countries and regions.

Hamilton emphasized that "it is this diversity that makes Oxford University's collegiate system so special."

Every year, tens of thousands of students apply to Oxford, but only a small proportion of them get accepted.

In academic year 2014-15, Oxford received 18,000 applications for around 3,200 undergraduate places, and 21,000 applications for about 4,500 graduate places, according to statistics provided by the university.

What Oxford Expects

So what is the advice from the vice-chancellor for students who aspire to study at Oxford?

Deciphering "what Oxford expects", Hamilton suggested a number of ways for prospective students to increase their chances.

The most important thing, the university head said, is that students need to "find the right course."

"The right course might be at Oxford or somewhere else, so they should do as much research as they can about what the different courses offer," he explained.

He noted that Oxford is looking for students that possess "a proven outstanding academic record and a passion for a subject."

"Extracurricular activities are not taken into account in Oxford's selection process. Selection is based purely on an applicant's proven ability in the subject they want to study," he clarified.

His other tips include "a very high level of English language proficiency", the ability for academic debate, and the powers of critical and analytical thinking.

"The tutorial education system requires candidates to discuss ideas in English, and explain their thoughts and approaches out loud," he advised.

"In tutorials, they also need to critically appraise ideas and concepts, and may have to engage in an academic debate with their tutor, using evidence to justify their response," added the veteran educator.

Hamilton is scheduled to leave Oxford at the end of this year to become the next president of New York University. Previously, he also served as Provost of Yale University from 2004 to 2008.

(Source: Xinhua)

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