South University of Science and Technology of China (SUSTC), the country's first autonomous university, has issued diplomas to two graduates, marking an achievement in the country's higher education reform.
Wang Jiale, 17, and He Minghao, 22, who were enrolled in March 2011, passed their dissertation defense and graduated from the school one year early on Wednesday, receiving diplomas issued by the university.
In China, diplomas are issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The SUSTC is hailed as a pioneer of the country's higher education reform by building China's first professor-led and bureaucracy-free university and issuing its own diplomas.
It started enrolling students without approval from the MOE in 2011. It got the nod from the MOE in April 2012 as the first autonomous university in the country.
Wang will further his studies at the University of Oxford in October and He will choose to study either at University College London or the University of Bristol in September.
"The two graduates entering world-class universities has proven the success of our educational reform," said Zhu Qingshi, SUSTC president and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"It also means our diploma has received international recognition," he added.
It is typical for the world's top universities to issue their own diplomas, said Zhu.
The university has established a council to oversee the operation of the institution, challenging China's system of having appointed officials run universities, which is often blamed for stifling the academic atmosphere.
Forty-five students were enrolled in March 2011 as the first cohort of students at the university. About 35 students will graduate next year, as four have quit school and several others are expected to delay their graduation, according to Zhu.
The government of Shenzhen, China's pioneering city for opening-up and reform in coastal Guangdong Province, has sponsored the university's founding with the hopes that the institute can fuel the city's economic development with its academic strength.