These days Tsinghua resembles an American university in many other ways as well. Through aggressive poaching of star faculty from around the world, fund raising, infrastructure building and curricular reform, Tsinghua is now transforming itself from a socialist-style polytechnic into what it calls a “first-rate world university.”
The goal of these changes is twofold: to create a great Chinese university to match the country’s global ambitions, and to produce the kind of independent, creative thinkers the country’s increasingly free-market economy demands. While students still must take courses in Marxist philosophy and “Mao Zedong thought,” professors cite Tsinghua’s relatively open atmosphere, which allows them to research and teach on sensitive social problems like AIDS, unemployment and population control, as a big asset.
These days, Tsinghua’s professional schools feature curricula heavy on American-style case-based pedagogy, often employing Westerners as instructors.
John Thornton, a former co-chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs Group, serves as director of global leadership at the management school; Laurie Olin, once chairwoman of the landscape architecture department at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, now heads the same department at Tsinghua’s architecture school. There is even a Princeton-inspired Institute of Advanced Research, now headed by Andrew Chi-chih Yao, a Taiwanese-born computer scientist recruited from Princeton University earlier this year.