Top Chinese universities open new agricultural schools or institutions
Since last December, six Chinese universities have announced decisions to establish agricultural schools or institutions, marking a renaissance for the traditional discipline.
Peking University, Nanjing University, Zhongshan University, the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hohai University and Zhengzhou University have all established agricultural schools.
Most of China’s comprehensive universities stopped offering programs in agriculture in the 1950s, and the discipline is only taught in specialized universities and colleges. Experts say the recent efforts by universities to reestablish agricultural schools is academia’s response to the government’s plan to vitalize rural areas, and shows China’s emphasis on and investment in modern agriculture.
Amid a nationwide restructuring of China’s higher education institutions in 1952, China closed agricultural colleges and departments in its comprehensive universities to form special agricultural universities.
One example is the Huazhong Agricultural University, which was founded by merging the agricultural colleges of five universities including Wuhan University, Henan University and Zhongshan University.
But as the country moved toward a market economy, agricultural colleges and universities became increasingly marginalized, especially when students vied to study sought-after majors like economics, computer science and biology.
According to a paper on agriculture and forestry universities by Chen Ran, a PhD candidate from Xiamen University, since agriculture is considered a weak industry, agricultural universities are often disadvantaged in market competition. Society has a bias against agricultural and forestry universities, making it difficult for them to attract high-quality students, teachers and funding.
Experts say as China puts rural vitalization on its agenda, China’s agriculture universities, which designed their faculty and majors in the 1950s, can no longer meet today’s needs.
This February, China released the “No. 1 central document” of the year, charting the roadmap for rural vitalization. According to the document, China aims to modernize its rural sector by 2035.
“Issues relating to agriculture, rural areas, and rural people are fundamental to China as they directly concern our country’s stability and our people’s well being,” the document reads.