AI Now Most Favored Major at Universities

ByZou Shuo March 3, 2021
A robot is seen welcoming the freshmen in the campus of the Fudan University in Shanghai, Sept 12, 2020. [Xinhua]


Artificial intelligence has become the most popular new major at Chinese universities for the second year in a row amid the country's drive to build a strong AI talent pool. The subject's popularity is far above that of any other new major.

A list issued by the Ministry of Education on Monday said universities across the country applied to establish 2,046 new majors last year, with 130 universities receiving approval to establish four-year undergraduate AI-related majors. In 2019, 180 universities set up AI majors, making it the No 1 new major in that year, too.

Many prestigious universities — including Tsinghua University in Beijing, Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, and Central South University in Changsha, Hunan Province — are offering the new major.

Other popular majors include intelligent manufacturing and engineering, offered by 84 universities as a major, and data science and big data technology, at 62 universities.

According to a plan issued by the ministry to promote AI education, universities will improve the AI discipline, make breakthroughs in basic theory and key technology research and become core forces for major global AI innovation by 2030.

Public affairs management was the least preferred major last year, having been dropped by 21 universities, followed by information management, dropped by 16 universities, and electronic information science and technology, with 15 cancellations.

The main reason for universities to open or remove certain majors has to do with the ability of graduates to find employment, said Chen Zhiwen, editor-in-chief of online education portal EOL.

An oversupply of undergraduate management majors with no work experience appears to have affected the field's attractiveness, Chen said. Also, those students may not understand that it can take years of working through the ranks to reach a good-paying management position even with an undergraduate degree.

Meanwhile, many Chinese universities have set their sights on improving AI education and nurturing more AI talent by establishing new AI majors, departments and research institutes, he said.

However, the threshold for teaching AI is high as the major is complicated and interdisciplinary, so universities without adequate resources and competent faculty should refrain from establishing the major, Chen said.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy head of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, said universities should not just chase the latest trend in new majors, as many majors now being canceled used to be popular.

Graduates from popular majors might also find it hard to land good jobs if they do not pay enough attention to a university's strength in the major, he said.


(Source: China Daily)


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