In the middle of the Pearl River flowing through Guangzhou’s Panyu district lies the Xiaoguwei Island, a 43.2 sqkm parcel of land along with its south bank that is home to 12 universities. Known as “University Town”, the collection of campuses was designed and built in the early 2000s to spur research and innovation throughout the entire province. Today it is one of the “ten cores” of the Science and Technology Innovation Corridor (STIC), the blueprint for “China’s Silicon Valley” within the overall masterplan of the Greater Bay Area.
The tertiary-institution district owes its creation to the far-sighted planning ability of provincial leaders. By the end of the 1990s, they had realized that 20 years of breakneck growth under the Reform and Opening era were running out of steam. A mismatch had developed between the needs of Guangdong’s booming manufacturing industry and the skills of its labor force. The higher-education sector had lagged the pace of change: by 1998, only 81 out of every 1,000 candidates for College Entrance Examination were able to secure places in higher education, according to southcn.com. More university places needed to be created.
The mission to solve this quandary was unveiled in 2001, with a masterplan to build a dedicated area for a cluster of universities. Construction began a year later, with an audacious goal set by the Party Secretary at the time, Zhang Dejiang, to “build the nation’s first university town”.Continue reading University Town: Raising the research bar