Visiting the University Town
Mr. Chen: Mr. Johnson, now we have entered the Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center, also known as the Guangzhou University Town. It is positioned as the first-class higher learning institution park in the whole nation, the center for advanced talents cultivation, scientific research and academic exchanges in South China and a new urban area in line with the market economic system in the 21st century as well as Guangzhou's position as an internationalized regional center.
Mr. Chen: Exactly! The Guangzhou University Town locates on Xiaoguwei Island 20 kilometers south to the center of urban Guangzhou. 3 years ago, Xiaoguwei Island nothing more than an island in the Pearl River, unknown to the general public of Guangzhou. In March 2001, this island, together with the 43.3 square kilometers of land on its south bank became the land planned for the Guangzhou University Town.Construction started here in October 2003 and only 10 months later, in August2004, the first stage of the construction project was completed. After the end of August that year, more than 38,000 students and 4000 teachers moved by groups into their respective campuses in the University Town and started the new academic year.
Mr. Chen: The University Town is home to ten major higher learning institutions in Guangdong Province, namely， Sun Yat-Sen University, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, South China Normal University, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Xinghai Conservatory of Music, and Guangdong Pharmaceutical University. Within the University Town, high degrees of teaching and information resource sharing can be achieved.
Mr. Chen: In recent years, it has been a fashion throughout China to build university towns. In the construction of the Guangzhou University Town, we have not only drawn from others' successful experiences,, but also learned from those not so successful examples. The Guangzhou Municipal Government has made huge investment of up to 32 billion yuan. With such a large investment, 18 square kilometers of construction site in the first stage of the project and over 2,300,000 square kilometers of campus and urban facilities under construction, the construction of the University Town is equal to that of a medium size city.
Mr. Chen: That's a good question! The main reason for building such a university town is that higher education in Guangdong Province has achieved great leaps forward in recent years. Since China's reform and opening-up, Guangdong has created many miracles in its economic and social development. However, the province still lags behind in terms of the proportion of university students in the total population. Take 2002 as an example, gross enrolment rate of higher learning institutions was on 15.3% in Guangdong, only 0.3% over the national average and much lower than 25% in Jiangsu Province and 20% in Zhejiang Province. This is certainly not in conformity with Guangdong's position as a major economic power in China.In the past few years, our province has attached great importance to the development of higher education. In 2003, gross enrolment rate of higher learning institutions increased to 17.5%. and in 2004, with the completion of the University Town, this figure was close to 20%, which was set as the goal for Guangdong's higher education development plan for 2005.Higher learning institutions throughout the province admitted 278,000 students, 50,000 more than 2003. To solve the ensuing problems brought about by this sharp increase of higher education scale, we realized that constructing the University Town is our best option.
Mr. Chen: I really appreciate your prediction. However, at present, the University Town still faces some problems. For example, with the second stage of construction underway, libraries and sports facilities are mostly lacking. Some dormitories still has irregular Internet connecting services and even water supplies. The whole University Town seems quite deserted. Since it is 40 minutes' to an hour's bus ride away from downtown Guangzhou, students and teachers find it quite inconvenient to travel into and out of the University Town.
Mr. Chen: I totally agree with you, Mr. Johnson. We are working hard to solve these problems. In terms of transportation, we have already started 12 bus lines within the island and 12 bus lines linking the island with the outside. The second stage of construction, which involves up to 2,800,000 square meters, was started in early July 2004 and is expected to have been completed by the end of 2005. At that time, the University Town will further accommodate 140,000 to 150,000 students. The construction projects of stadiums, gymnasiums and cultural facilities of various higher learning institutions is scheduled to start in early 2005 and complete and the end of the year.