City universities to offer AI majors

Shanghai Jiao Tong and Tongji approved by the Ministry of Education to set up four-year courses amid the country's drive to build a strong talent pool. 

Two universities in the city will welcome the first batch of undergraduates majoring in artificial intelligence in September.

Shanghai Jiao Tong and Tongji are among 35 universities nationwide approved by the Ministry of Education to set up four-year AI majors amid the country’s drive to build a strong AI talent pool.

Tongji plans to admit about 30 students for the new major this year while Shanghai Jiao Tong has not yet revealed numbers.

“We began to cultivate AI-related talent in 2016 and now AI will officially be the 10th major offered in our school,” Su Yuezeng, dean of Jiao Tong's School of Electronic Information and Electrical Engineering.

“We are confident that with our strength in AI-related disciplines, such as computer science, control science and engineering, information and communication engineering, we will make our contribution to the cultivation of top-notch talent in AI research and cross-border application,” he said.

Su said the AI industry in Shanghai is poised to grow with about a third of related professionals in the country gathering in the city.

“There are more than 1,000 companies with AI being their core business and more than 3,000 others related to AI, while the industrial scale is estimated to be over 70 billion yuan (US$10 billion),” he said. “All these would also facilitate AI education in Shanghai.”

As AI is a major featuring interdisciplinary research, both universities said they would not only teach basic disciplines such as math and computer science, but also biology, medicine, automobiles and the environment, among other courses.

At Shanghai Jiao Tong University, tailed instruction will be provided for students by teachers from home and abroad. It will also invite experts at enterprises to deliver lectures about industrial frontiers for students and cooperate with enterprises to offer internships or training in application.

At Tongji University, all students will learn general courses in the first year and those qualified by certain requirements will be selected for the AI major in the second year, according to Yin Xuefeng, vice dean of its School of Electronics and Information Engineering.

Yin said the university is still improving its AI curriculum.

Last year, the Ministry of Education issued an action plan to promote AI education in universities. Under the plan, universities will improve AI discipline and make breakthroughs in basic theories and key technology research by 2020. Chinese universities will become core forces for building major global AI innovation centers by 2030.

The plan calls for integration of AI with other disciplines, so the “AI + X” interdisciplinary approach is encouraged and it is expected to set up 100 majors that combine AI and other subjects by 2020.

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