In the creation of a world-class university in May, 2001, Peking University launched an undergraduate educational reform program, the Yuanpei Program, naming it after one of PKU’s most revered presidents, Mr. Cai Yuanpei. The program aims at exploring a new undergraduate educational approach that will foster a new generation of talented individuals with higher creativity as well as international competence so as to meet the needs of our present age in history. In September, 2007, Yuanpei College was established on the basis of a pilot program that was initially tentative, marking the epoch that the reform in undergraduate education of Peking University has come to a new stage. The college has implemented a package of policies with the principles of “strengthening fundamental studies, weakening inter-major exclusivity, instructing according to talent, and differentiating in line with academic fields”. It incorporates into its idea a multi-valued emphasis on fundamental studies, practical capability and personal character. With such an educational vision, Yuanpei College has been a source of qualified graduates, who impress schoolmates in graduate studies with their creativity and colleagues in corporations with their adaptability and leadership potential.
The Yuanpei Approach
Free selection of major
In order to fully activate and motivate students in their studies, students in Yuanpei College can enjoy a free selection of major in principle. When enrolled, students are not put into specific majors; instead, they are merely divided into two categories: Humanities and Sciences. They receive fundamental education in the first two years. The selection of a major is not done until the end of the second semester, when students are considered to have had a basic understanding of academic as well as administrational affairs at Peking University. However, the dean of Yuanpei College still takes into consideration the condition of educational resources of the colleges that are chosen and the comprehensive adaptability of the students who choose certain majors. In an attempt to make full use of the advantages of joint-majors, as well as to provide Yuanpei students with more choices, the College has, with the support of the university, initiated an experiment on joint-majors, with two currently available: paleontology and politics-philosophy-economics (PPE). The major of “foreign languages and foreign history" is undergoing the process of official declaration.
To enhance the all-around qualities of students, Yuanpei College has established fundamental courses “Critical reading and writing with resources” as a compulsory course and “Writing and critical thinking” as an optional course for all the College. Besides, Yuanpei College has established the English course “Urban and Public Economics and Policy: A Global Perspective” together with PKU-Lincoln Joint Center.
Tutorial system Tutors are recommended by related colleges and hired by the President of Peking University. Students can, throughout their entire undergraduate careers, enjoy instruction from the Tutor Panel formed by experienced professors from all colleges, Humanities and Sciences alike. Tutors are expected to instruct students regarding their course schedules, major selection, academic research, methodology, mental attitude, and the like, giving them and all PKU students a jump on their life paths.
Credit System and Flexibility in graduation Under the instruction of tutors, students take courses freely within the framework set by corresponding colleges. Students graduate when they have finished the required credits (constituted of basic courses, optional courses and other related ones), getting a bachelor’s degree in the major chosen. Students are expected to finish the courses within a period of no less than three years, but no longer than six years, ensuring the students' initiative study and creative learning with institutional support.
The fundamental education for lower division students mainly includes: public courses given by the university, optional courses (including five categories as mathematics and natural sciences; social science; philosophy and psychology; history; linguistics, literature and art), Platform courses given by Yuanpei College, public fundamental courses (for Sciences: high mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology; for Humanities: high mathematics, humanities and social sciences). Upper division students receive an educational plan that is quite open-ended. When the students are studying in specific colleges, they are allowed, while the fundamental courses of that college remain requisite, to take any optional courses in which they are interested in the entire university. Yuanpei College encourages students to set individualized study plans, under the prerequisite of fulfilling the teaching plan, and choose fundamental courses with diverse requirements and levels, according to their own ability and development ideals. They can even, in times of need, adjust their plans freely.
Mixed accommodation and full-length administration Yuanpei college mixes liberal arts students and sciences students together in classes, and together in dormitories, thus facilitating the communication and study among students with different majors. Simultaneously, Yuanpei college administrates the students’ four-year in-college life and study, political theory education and party-league activities.
Basic Overview From year 2001 to 2009, Yuanpei College has enrolled altogether 1445 students. Among the students in these years, 76 of them ranked first in the National College Entrance Exam of their provinces. From the pilot program to Yuanpei College, it has successfully nurtured its 5 classes of 619 graduates, 466 of which went to domestic or overseas graduate institutions furthering their study and the rest of which all found position of employment. At present, 781 students are still studying in this college, the majors chosen covering the entire university. 51 tutors (two of them being full-time tutors) as well as 8 extracurricular tutors are registered, and a full-time staff of 15 people is employed. Offices have been set up for teaching, administration, tutoring, and student affairs.
Yuanpei College has made an effort to expand the channels for international cooperation. In addition to the exchange programs run by the university, students are also encouraged to apply for the programs that Yuanpei College leads or participates in organizing. There include the PKU-Yale Undergraduate Joint Program, Peking University-National University of Singapore Scholars Program, Lee Shao Project of Socio-Economic Study of the University of Hong Kong, Pitzer College Project in China, Miami University Summer Practice Project, Stanford University Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, Peking University- University of California, Los Angeles Summer Research Projects, Peking University-Chinese University of Hong Kong undergraduate exchange program, Peking University-Taiwan Chiao Tung University undergraduate exchange program, Peking University-New York University social thought forum, etc.
In the year of 2009, Yuanpei College has gained the prize offered by the ministry of education, “The national creative talents fostering---the pilot district of reformative plans”, and in the same year, won the “Beijing Outstanding award for teaching excellence” and the national first prize for the excellence of teaching.