China had 3.65 million graduate students on campus in 2022, ranking second in world

China has become a major power in graduate education with graduate students on campus reaching 3.65 million in 2022, the second largest in the world, China's Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Tuesday, urging for a change in the attitude that prioritizes academic degrees over professional degrees in graduate education in order to build a strong power of education. 

Educational experts called for a reform of the talent evaluation system, which is only based on academic qualifications, saying "blind" expansion of graduate student numbers instead of improving the quality of graduate education will lead to the devaluation of academic qualifications.

At present, the number of academic doctorate programs at Chinese universities has doubled from 10 years ago, while the number of professional doctorate programs has increased three-fold, according to the MOE's Tuesday press briefing, which introduced the ministry's advice on further promoting the differentiated development of graduate education for academic and professional degrees that the ministry previously issued. 

However, Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, emphasized the importance of ensuring the quality of graduate student training. He told the Global Times on Tuesday that the expansion of graduate students should be kept within an appropriate range.

According to Xiong, now that higher education has entered the popularization era, China has to form a reasonable talent training system that doesn't solely focus on educational background but also values talents' core capabilities and performance quality. 

At present, the homogeneous development of academic and professional degrees in graduate education still exists and a further reverse of the attitude that prioritizes academic degrees over professional degrees in graduate education is needed, Ren Youqun, head of the MOE's Department of Teacher Education, noted during the Tuesday briefing. 

According to the MOE, the basic paradigm of differentiated development of graduate education for academic and professional degrees has basically taken shape in China with both academic and professional degrees equally valued. 

The proportion of professional degrees increased from 32.29 percent in 2012 to 56.4 percent in 2022, and the current proportion of graduate students on campus for professional degrees accounted for 61.6 percent, more precisely meeting the economic and social needs for the high-quality development of these industries. 

According to Ren, the number of fresh doctoral graduates reached 75,200 in 2023. Their employment data as of the end of August shows that fewer than 40 percent were recruited by colleges and scientific research institutes. 

Besides this, more than one-fifth of the fresh PhD holders were hired by enterprises, a proportion which has been increasing for three years in a row. Ren said that the proportion is still not as high as those in some advanced countries and the demand for doctoral talents in society will continue to increase in the future, while the requirements on the quality and capabilities of high-level talents will also be more diversified. 

According to Ren, the MOE's advice clarifies that both academic degrees and professional degrees are crucial for the country to cultivate high-level innovative talents, and they should be equally valued by educational institutions. 

The two types of degrees have different goals in cultivating talents, but both emphasize theoretical knowledge, systematic specialized knowledge, and innovative spirit and capabilities. Additionally, professional degrees cannot solely focus on the training of professional skills. 

According to Xiong, dividing graduate education into academic degrees and professional degrees is a fundamental adjustment to the structure of talent cultivation, rather than a simple change in terminology. 

Colliery accident in Jixi of NE China’s Heilongjiang results in 12 deaths, leaves 13 injured

At 3:50 pm on Wednesday, an inclined shaft runaway incident occurred at the Kunyuan Coal Mine in the city of Jixi, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, killing 12 people and injuring 13 others. All the injured have been transported to nearby hospitals for treatment, according to media reports. 

Currently, rescue efforts are underway, and an investigation team has been formed to probe the cause of the accident, reports said.

According to Tianyancha, an online data base of companies, the Jixi Kunyuan Coal Industry Co Ltd was established in April 2010 and its business scope mainly includes coal mining and washing. 

Yet it is worth noting that the Kunyuan Coal Mine has received multiple notifications of administrative penalties imposed by the Jixi City Coal Production Safety Administration Bureau for violations of relevant laws and regulations.

An official from  Jixi City Emergency Management Bureau told that the tragedy occurred  underground. 

When answering the query why the incident was reported one day after it occurred, the official said that rescuers were in the process of responding to the situation on Wednesday and had learned of 13 injuries. The number of fatalities was only confirmed on Thursday, hence the recent update.

An inclined shaft runaway accident refers to an incident where a mine cart loses control and falls along the inclined shaft during the lifting or lowering of vehicles. In such accidents, the out-of-control vehicles pose a threat mine workers. Additionally, if the mine's air contains flammable gases or materials, the collision or damage to electrical equipment caused by the runaway cart could potentially spark an explosion, endangering life safety of the workers.

On May 8, 2016, the Kunyuan Coal Mine experienced a collision accident involving coal cars, resulting in one fatality and a direct economic loss of 702,000 yuan ($98,252). 

According to the official website of the Jixi government, in October 2023, the Hengshan district, where the colliery locates, emphasized coal mine safety production for coal mining enterprises, focusing on "risk prevention and safety assurance." 

It also stressed the importance of strengthening major risk assessment, adhering to the regulatory and supervisory work mechanism of "analyzing and judging, regular consultations, timely warnings, and ensuring implementation" for major risk control in coal mines. The government aims to promptly issue warning information, supervise and guide coal mines in implementing preventive measures and prevent the occurrence of major incidents.

Soaring high

China's domestically developed passenger jets - the C919 and the ARJ21 - get ready to fly to Hong Kong from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport on December 12, 2023. They arrive at the Hong Kong International Airport on the same day. This is the first time for the C919 to leave the Chinese mainland. Photo: VCG

Favorites Beijing get past tough Sichuan test

A tenacious Sichuan women's ice hockey team gave title favorites Beijing a tough test in the women's ice hockey competition at the National Winter Games on Friday, with the game eventually decided in a shootout.

Boasting several China internationals such as Zhang Mengying and Guan Yingying, Beijing dominated the first three periods but were unable to score due to Sichuan's defensive tactics.

"That was beyond our expectations of the opponents' defense," captain Zhang told the Global Times, expressing regret for her team's failure to score in the three 20-minute periods.

The match was the Beijing team's debut at the National Winter Games. Players from Beijing had 61 shots on goal while Sichuan had only a dozen.

"Their tenacity deserves credit, I have to admit," Zhang said. "Our goal is to win the remaining five matches. But we need to improve our accuracy in shooting."

Sichuan's goalkeeper Wei Xueqin, who transferred to ice hockey from field hockey just over four years ago, was applauded for Sichuan's clean sheet.

"I am satisfied with my performance," Wei told the Global Times. "We met Beijing before but were defeated in a shootout. It's unlucky this time it was in a shootout again."

The Sichuan team, whose players are mostly in their early 20s, are considered underdogs at the National Winter Games.

Most of the Sichuan players moved from other sports into ice hockey, unlike the Beijing players who grew up playing ice hockey.

Only seven teams - Guangdong, Sichuan, Hebei, Beijing, Heilongjiang, Shaanxi and Shanghai - are competing in the women's event. The tournament is played in a round-robin format that will last until July 22.

Friday also saw title favorites Guangdong beat Hebei with a late surge, while 2020 national champions Shanghai defeated Shaanxi 2-0.

It is rare for the adult ice hockey competition of the National Winter Games to be held in the summer.

The Games were originally scheduled to be held in 2020 in Hulun Buir but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be held from February 17 to 27 in 2024.

Ice hockey talent pool expanded in southern China

The ice hockey competitions at the National Winter Games, though rarely held in the summer, concluded in early August in Hulun Buir, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, as the spotlight surprisingly fell on teams from southern China.

Debutants Guangdong Province, whose women's ice hockey lineup included several players affiliated with international teams such as national team captain Yu Baiwei, claimed their maiden national championship title as they won the seven-team competition.

"It allows more people to witness the charm of ice and snow in the summer. It's our first experience participating in such an event during [the summer] season," Yu told the Global Times. "I hope more people will watch our games, fall in love with ice hockey and even engage in the sport."

Yu, who joined Shenzhen-based club Shenzhen Red Star in South China's Guangdong Province in 2017, said Guangdong has been very supportive in developing winter sports, though the province is known for its warm climate.

"Guangdong has provided strong support for ice and snow sports, and these efforts have shown results in recent years," Yu said. "I believe winning the National Winter Games will inspire more cities in southern China to develop ice and snow sports."

In the men's tournament, debutants Chongqing Municipality rounded off their ­maiden National Winter Games foray with a fourth-place finish in a nine-team race.

"They have demonstrated tenacity as the team even without winning a medal for Chongqing," said Zhang Ge, deputy director of the Chongqing Winter Sports Administration. "The emergence of several outstanding young players is the greatest positive from our participation in this event." 

Zhang mentioned that the team still requires more competitions to gain match fitness, saying, "We believe that with an increase in tournament participation, the team will see greater improvement."

Olympic legacy

For many people from northern China, ice sports like skating are ­familiar, with locals having ­participated in them since childhood. Artificial ice technology spread in China thanks to Beijing winning the 2022 Winter Olympic bid, and has helped introduce children and teenagers winter sports in southern China.

The aforementioned two teams are just examples of ice hockey's spread in southern China, as teams representing Sichuan and Anhui provinces, as well as Shanghai Municipality, areas in southern China where ice and snow is rarely seen, also qualified for the National Winter Games.

The southwestern province of Sichuan founded its ice hockey team in 2019, as the province aims to establish a squad that might widen the talent pool of the national team, said Duan Yuchuan, chief of Sichuan's winter sports authority.

"Our short-term goal when establishing the team in 2019 was to participate in the National Winter Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. This goal has since been achieved," Duan told the Global Times. 

"The mid-term goal is to win medals at national multi-sport events, contributing more talent to the national teams. Now we have seen several talent being summoned to the national team training camp," Duan said, before noting that their long-term goal is to have Sichuan-born athletes win gold medals for China at the Winter Olympics in the future.

"Athletes from Sichuan often possess advantages in flexibility, skill, endurance, and performance. These strengths can be fully harnessed in specialized development across segments such as ice and snow sports skills," he added.

Sichuan's hopes of being summoned to the national team are firmly pinned to Sichuan's women's goalie Wei Xueqin. Wei, now 22, made it to the national team training camp for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics but had to skip the quadrennial tournament due to a squad limit. 

Despite not making it to the national team, Wei continues to relentlessly strive for greatness. 

National team captain Yu, 35, said witnessing many young ice hockey players at the National Games assures her that the sport has a brighter future.

"I have seen emerging forces in ice hockey like the Sichuan team, represented by athletes crossing disciplines and fields. While they might lack some technical skills and experience, I can feel their youthful enthusiasm when competing against them," Yu told the Global Times. 

"As long as they keep pushing forward and maintain the momentum, there's significant potential for the future development of women's ice hockey in China."

The competition for younger ice hockey players will be held in February 2024, when Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region hosts the full-scale National Winter Games. It is considered an event in which China's ice hockey younger squad depth will be tested before the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Preparing for championship

As Shenzhen, a metropolis in South China's Guangdong Province, will host the Division I Group A women's ice hockey world championship tournament from August 20 to 26, China has a chance to further expand ice hockey's influence in the country.

Team China will host Denmark, Norway, Slovakia, Austria, and the Netherlands in the tournament, all aiming for gold and a chance for advancement in the sport's international ranking.

Yu also underlines that actualizing quality performances is also vital to boost the sport's popularity.

"It's not just about achieving results, but also about playing the game well," Yu said. 

"Showing the younger generations what kind of teamwork and technical moves can be displayed in ice hockey is vital for the sport. I hope we can deliver better performances and become an example for young players to learn from."