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Universities set up AI courses

Zou Shuo
Updated: Aug 27,2018 7:32 AM     China Daily

Children take coding classes at the Beijing Codemao camp.[Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

China’s booming artificial intelligence industry has resulted in a growing demand for talent.

To build a strong AI talent pool, the country is fostering AI education in universities by improving the curriculum and promoting interdisciplinary research.

The Ministry of Education says universities across the country have applied to establish 2,542 new majors this year, with more than 220 applying to set up data science and big data technology courses, far more than any other major.

Last year, 250 universities won approval to set up such courses.

In April, the ministry issued an action plan to promote AI education in universities. According to the plan, universities in China will improve the AI discipline and make breakthroughs in basic theory and key technology research by 2020 as well as become core forces for major global AI innovation by 2030.

The plan also said China will nurture more than 5,000 students and 500 teachers in AI at top universities within five years and aims to build the world’s largest AI talent training program.

It calls for the integration of AI with mathematics, statistics, physics, biology, psychology, and sociology, among other disciplines, promoting an “AI plus X” interdisciplinary approach with the aim of setting up 100 majors that combine AI and other college subjects by 2020.

Following the release of the plan, many Chinese universities have set their sights on improving AI education and nurturing more AI talent.

Tsinghua University established its Institute of Artificial Intelligence in June as part of efforts to advance AI research and education.

Aiming to become a globally influential AI research base, the institute will focus on the basic theory of AI and actively promote cross-disciplinary AI research as well as the integration of academia and industry.

Li Zhuangxi, a second-year high school student in Wuhan, Hubei province, wants to study AI-related majors when he enters university next year.

He said it will be a must-have skill in the near future, just like computer skills and good English proficiency 20 years ago.

“Financially speaking, majoring in AI will help me get jobs paying a high salary, as nearly all big tech companies have an AI project, and they are willing to pay experts lots of money to help get them done,” Li said.