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The Straits Times (Singapore)
February 24, 2011 Thursday
Zhejiang among 'billionaire varsities';
The partner of fourth S'pore varsity ranks third in China for producing rich alumni
Ho Ai Li, China Correspondent
BEIJING: A key partner of Singapore's fourth public-funded university has been ranked third in China in terms of producing billionaires.
Zhejiang University, which is in a tie-up with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), has come in at No. 3 in the league of Chinese varsities with the richest alumni.
It is just behind China's best colleges, Peking University and Tsinghua University, in the billionaire alumni sweepstakes.
Some 66 billionaires came from Zhejiang, compared to 79 and 70 from Peking and Tsinghua, respectively, in the study released last month by the China University Alumni Association and local media partners.
Zhejiang is way ahead of Shanghai's Fudan University, in fourth place with 46 billionaires. It also has the most generous alumni in China, said the same study, which traced the schools of about 2,000 Chinese billionaires, who have a net worth of at least a billion yuan (S $194 million) each.
Universities which did well tend to be comprehensive ones that aim to produce scientists, politicians as well as businessmen, noted the researchers of the report.
'Zhejiang University is a five-star university with a first-class teaching team and scholars of global renown. It is a comprehensive varsity outstanding for grooming talent and contributing to science,' Dr Feng Yongjun, one of the researchers, told The Straits Times.
The area where a college is located also plays a part, he noted. Those in the top 10 tend to be in prosperous cities or regions such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangdong, with more business opportunities.
Zhejiang is based in Hangzhou, capital of coastal Zhejiang province, which is known for entrepreneurship.
'The province has a culture of commerce and many small and medium enterprises,' said Professor Chen Jin, deputy dean of Zhejiang University's undergraduate school.
It is famous for producing computer and textile tycoons alike. The wealthiest of them all is former tailor Zhou Chengjian, 45, the man behind the popular Metersbonwe casual wear brand found in cities across China.
Mr Zhou, who did an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) course at Zhejiang, was No. 15 on the Forbes 2010 list of the 400 richest Chinese, with an estimated net worth of US $3.6 billion (S $4.5 billion). He is from the Class of 2004.
Others on the list include Mr Duan Yongping, 50, an engineering graduate from the Class of 1978 who founded the Bu Bu Gao Electronics Group; and Mr Tian Ning, 34, a zoology graduate from the Class of 1997. Mr Tian is behind Zhejiang Panshi Information Technology Co which sells computers as well as online advertising.
'In our curriculum, we also emphasise innovation and entrepreneurship,' said Prof Chen.
For the past 10 years, the university has been offering a 'mini MBA' course to 60 talented undergraduates each year. Through classes, internships and networking sessions, students get to hone their business skills, he added.
It also offers seed money to students who aspire to start their own ventures. Right now, less than 3 per cent of Zhejiang graduates become bosses and the university wants to bump it up to 5 per cent, he added.
In its partnership with the SUTD, lecturers from Zhejiang University will fly to Singapore to teach classes in areas such as design, entrepreneurship and urban planning.
'We'd have special lessons on how to set up businesses in China. We hope to transmit the Chinese elements in our lessons,' Prof Chen said.
Students will be able to apply for internships of eight weeks with companies in Zhejiang.
The SUTD is slated to open its doors next year.
Wealthy alumni = good varsity? Rankings rankle
IS IT right to rank universities by the number of rich graduates they have?
Some in China have criticised a recent ranking of universities for promoting the wrong values, Xinhua reported.
The emergence of the wealthy has come about due to China's reforms and opening up in the past 30 years and is not a direct result of brand-name schools or knowledge, Renmin University academic Zhou Xiaozheng told the state news agency.
There were about 2,000 individuals with a net worth of at least a billion yuan (S $190 million) each as of the end of 2009, according to the Hurun Report.
How many of these billionaires owe their riches to the universities they attended, or was it a case of billionaires going to the universities to get their academic laurels, asked Beijing's Jinghua News in an editorial.
Professor Chen Jin, deputy dean of Zhejiang University's undergraduate school, thinks there is nothing wrong in ranking universities according to the number of billionaire alumni they produce. 'Creating wealth is not a bad thing. Universities should also contribute to the creation of wealth.'
Dr Feng Yongjun, one of the researchers behind the ranking, told The Straits Times the ranking of rich alumni was just one of several indicators to assess universities. Other indicators include the number of scientists or political figures produced.
World-class universities such as Harvard and Yale in the US are also known for their rich and generous alumni, said Dr Feng, who is from Xiamen University.
'World-class universities are also first-class in creating wealth and in terms of alumni giving,' he said.
HO AI LI
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