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60 years of USTC brilliance

The University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) is unique. Governed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), this top research university in China combines its education and research capabilities with the vast resources of CAS. Because of this, USTC can focus on developing cutting-edge science and technology while educating the world’s future leaders, gaining a worldwide reputation for its academic excellence.

Credit: University of Science and Technology of China

USTC was established by CAS in 1958 as part of a government strategy to respond to increasing science and technology needs. Since then USTC has set up creative programmes that integrate pioneering research with innovative technologies. It has also been the originator of bold moves forward in higher education reform, including: establishing China’s first graduate school; initiating a programme for gifted young students; building facilities for major science projects, such as the National Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory; and pioneering international collaboration. Already part of Project 211 and Project 985, USTC has now been chosen to become part of the national ‘Double First Class’ initiative, which is designed to support institutions as they become world-class universities.

USTC has already made remarkable progress, including a series of breakthroughs in quantum information, high-temperature superconductivity, nanotechnology, as well as in interdisciplinary areas, including artificial intelligence (AI), Earth and environmental sciences, and life sciences and health. Its researchers led the world’s first satellite mission designed for quantum science experiments and developed the prototype quantum computer, eclipsing classical earlier generation examples. Works on iron-based superconductors and on manipulating multi-photon entanglement for secure quantum communication have won first prizes of the National Natural Science Awards. The university also participated in the development of China’s first dark matter particle explorer, the Wukong satellite.

Concerted effort at USTC has pushed 12 research fields into the ranks of the global top 1%, according to Essential Science Indicators data. Among these, physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering are all listed in the top 0.1% globally.

The latest Times Higher Education Ranking listed USTC as 23rd among Asia Pacific’s universities, and the third in mainland China.

Placing talent at the core, USTC’s unique educational model and its partnership with CAS have also encouraged the growth of interdisciplinary research. Novel engineering programmes featuring quantum information technology, AI and big data, and health science are currently in development.

The university is also a magnet for bright young researchers, who complement its many well-established researchers, with the former accounting for 50% of its faculty team. Its reservoir of high-level talent includes 49 CAS or Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) members.

USTC is also committed to meeting regional and national development needs. Since relocating in the early 1970s from Beijing to Hefei, the capital of central China’s Anhui province, it has boosted science and technology development in the city and the region by attracting global innovators and resources. With established national laboratories, engineering centres and big science research platforms, the university is helping to drive Hefei’s push to become one of China’s three national science centres, along with Shanghai and Beijing.

Among its endeavours is a newly established Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, which is a partnership with provincial government, the National Health Commission and CAS to explore a novel model that integrates basic science and engineering with medicine. USTC is also mobilizing resources from CAS research institutes, universities and the industry to build a national laboratory on quantum information.

After 60 years of remarkable development, USTC looks forward to a new chapter of fantastic growth.