Recently, Fan Shiming, Associate Dean of Yenching Academy of Peking University, has received an interview from The Korea Times, introducting the Yenching Academy to the Korean readers.
Yenching Academy, a flagship of Peking University's globalization
By Hwang Jae-ho
China is rising. More international students are setting their sights on this old, yet modern, country and have decided to pursue their studies in China, where they can explore China's role in the world ― past, present, and future. Amid this trend, Yenching Academy was established in 2014 and this year marks its five-year anniversary. On the beautiful campus of Peking University, Yenching Academy exemplifies the university's quest for excellence.
This week, I met Professor Fan Shiming, Associate Dean of Yenching Academy of Peking University.
Q: Could you briefly introduce Yenching Academy?
A: The Yenching Academy of Peking University aims to build bridges between China and the rest of the world through an interdisciplinary master's program in China Studies. This initiative brings together young people from around the globe who have demonstrated a talent for leadership and innovation. The academy's goal is to shape new generations of global citizens with a nuanced understanding of China.
The Yenching Academy provides full fellowships to its scholars and offers them a wide array of interdisciplinary courses on China. Working closely with their academic mentors, Yenching scholars create their own study paths by choosing courses from six research areas.
Here at Yenching Academy, we are a residential program aiming to create a community for scholars to take full advantage of this unique opportunity by participating and engaging in campus life.
Q: As an international program, what are the targets for international diversity?
A: The Yenching Academy annually enrolls approximately 120 new scholars from both China and abroad. International scholars comprise roughly 80 percent of the student body, while scholars from China comprise the remaining 20 percent. The academy has already recruited four cohorts in total, with 440 scholars from 73 countries and regions and 222 universities.
Q: With such a diversified student body, language must play an integral part in the study process?
A: The academy offers an English-taught program. Meanwhile, Chinese language study is an important component of the Yenching learning experience. There is no Chinese proficiency requirement for incoming international students, however, Chinese language study is compulsory at the academy and international students will be placed into different levels of Chinese language courses according to their performance in the placement test at the beginning of the academic year.
Q: Besides diversity being a central characteristic of the program, what would you say are some other important characteristics?
A: I would say interdisciplinary learning and hands-on experiences are two important components. We aim to push China Studies beyond the traditional boundaries defined by the humanities and social science disciplines.
On the one hand, we integrate resources from inside and outside the university. Within the program, scholars can choose disciplinary courses from different departments. To supplement these courses and broaden the horizon of our students, we invite professors from renowned universities and distinguished guests from all over the globe to deliver lectures and speeches to our scholars.
On the other hand, students can participate in a variety of extracurricular activities and field studies, i.e. site visits to startup companies, career development guidance, interviews from various media outlets, all of which aim to facilitate personal and professional development.
Through a week-long field study trip to Xi'an, scholars gained a better understanding of the rich history and folk arts of the former dynastic capital. In Zhejiang, the scholars were impressed by the combination of oriental elements, traditional heritage of silk culture passed down by a new generation of Chinese entrepreneurs and China's fast-paced growth in international trade. After their trip to Sichuan, scholars gained a deeper understanding of the picturesque beauty of China's natural scenery.
All these trips help scholars gain exposure to different aspects of China. The field trips and research opportunities that Yenching provides for its scholars show that the classroom expands beyond that at PKU and can take place almost anywhere in China's culturally rich and diverse land.
In essence, Yenching is not just a traditional master's program, we are pioneering the exploration of intercultural exchange.
Q: You mentioned earlier that the scholars choose courses from six research areas. What are those areas?
A: The six research areas are: economics and management; history and archaeology; philosophy and religion; politics and international relations; law and society, as well as literature and culture. Each Yenching scholar selects one of six research areas in the field of China Studies and writes a thesis with guidance from a faculty adviser. A scholar's choice of research area does not affect course selection requirements, but will determine the type of master's diploma issued upon graduation.
Q: Could you elaborate more on the Yenching fellowship?
A: All admitted scholars receive the Yenching fellowship, which covers tuition, accommodation in the Yenching Academy housing, a travel stipend for one round-trip journey to and from Beijing, basic medical insurance, and a living stipend adequate to cover campus living costs and expenses related to field studies.
Q: What applicants are the academy looking for?
A: Successful candidates should have outstanding academic backgrounds and demonstrate strong motivation and potential to become leaders in their chosen fields. Candidates' personal statements should offer specific and persuasive explanations of how they could benefit from studying in our program. Evaluation criteria include academic merit, leadership potential, international experience and long-term aspirations.
Q: Is there any other comment you would like to add?
A: Yenching scholars are driven, passionate and innovative. There is a student-initiated flagship event called the Yenching Global Symposium. It's one of the world's most highly anticipated conferences, with applicants from more than 100 countries that consist of participants from other major fellowships and leading institutions.
Through courses at Yenching Academy, they gain a more holistic understanding of China and its unique stories, of which they can share in the future. These excellent graduates come to China with their own visions and hopes to better understand China; we cannot fail them. I feel obligated to shape them into global leaders with a nuanced understanding of China in the future. The question that is constantly on my mind is: What can the academy do to provide the necessary foundation into shaping them as future global leaders?
Fan Shiming is now Associate Dean of the Yenching Academy of Peking University. His research interest covers image, perception, public opinion and communication in international relations. Dr. Fan got his degrees (BA 1990, MA 1993 and Ph.D. 1999) on International Politics from Peking University. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Studies at Harvard University (1998), a Visiting Professor at Niigata University of Japan (2002-2003) and Visiting Professor at the University of Oslo (2016).