There are lots of institutions of higher learning in Shenzhen but only one Shenzhen University. That’s quite strange for a city of the size of Shenzhen. But in its short history of twenty-five years Shenzhen University has built up a formidable intellectual reputation.

The circumstances of its foundation in 1983 say a lot about the importance of Shenzhen to developing policy in China at that time and since. From the beginning Shenzhen University was closely associated with Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Shenzhen University’s first President, Zhang Wei, was, at the time of the foundation of Shenzhen University, first Vice-President of Tsinghua. Tsinghua, originally a missionary foundation, has always been one of the intellectual powerhouses of China, particularly in science and technology. The Tsinghua connection gave instant respectability to SZU and signalled that the city was serious about science and technology.

The Vice-President, Fang Shen, indicated a different orientation. He was an associate professor of economics at People’s University. People’s University is the Communist Party’s University in Beijing and Fang’s appointment was a sign to academics of the direction that the Party saw intellectual development going in. He also said in interviews at the time that his Shenzhen appointment was exciting because the new university would be free from the shackles of old thought. Fang also had Taiwan associations. He had been president of the student union at Taiwan University in the late 1940s. His appointment was a signal to non-communist elements that they were included in the political process once again. Much of the economic thinking, which powered Shenzhen’s, and China’s, dynamism in the 1980s and 1990s came from these beginnings.

From the beginning Shenzhen University was different. It recruited its first students from outside the examination system with glossy pamphlets and personal appeals to school principals. It was the first University in China not to be involved in job assignment for graduates. There was no iron rice bowl here. If you wanted a job after graduation you had to go and look for it. But its students had a reputation around China for skipping classes and lax morals. Cohabitation amongst students was the norm.

Since then Shenzhen University has become one of China’s leading universities. It has 20,000 students on campus with a further 18,000 enrolled in further education courses. It has one academician in the Chinese Academy of Engineering and six academicians in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Its architecture school has a nationwide reputation, as does its school of fine arts. It even has a school of golf management.

Go and have a look at Shenzhen University. It’s a very pleasant campus set amidst lakes and parkland and is good for a peaceful stroll.

Address: 3688, Nanhai Road, Nanshan


Buses 113, 329

Website: http: //www.shenzhenparty. com/education/shenzhen-university


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