Professor Yang Fujia, 1936-2022

July 18th, 2022

A former Chancellor and one of the instrumental figures behind the creation of the University of Nottingham Ningbo has died. Professor Yang Fujia passed away on 17 July 2022 at the age of 86.

A renowned nuclear physicist, he became Nottingham’s sixth Chancellor in 2001, the first time that a Chinese academic had held the role in a UK university. In 2004 along with the then Vice-Chancellor Colin Campbell and Madame Xu Yafen he helped to establish UNNC, the first Sino-foreign university in China.

Born in Shanghai in 1936, Yang attended Fudan University where he remained as a teacher after graduating in 1958. From 1963 to 1965, he took up the role of postdoctoral researcher at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, but after returning home to China, he established the state-of-the-art Accelerator-based Atomic and Nuclear Physics Laboratory and began China’s first research into ion beam analysis. In 1993 he became the president of Fudan University where he stayed until 1999. He joined the University of Nottingham in 2001.

These prestigious roles gave him profound insights into the development of higher education and talent cultivation in China. He advocated the idea of liberal arts education, speaking and writing actively on various occasions to promote the reform of higher education in China.

He once said: “I was fortunate enough to be the Chancellor of the University of Nottingham for 12 years. I visited countless universities around the world and gradually understood what liberal arts education is. Naturally, I am also thinking about whether this excellent teaching system can be migrated to China.”

Yang Fujia promoted the establishment of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, which opened a new model of Sino-foreign cooperative education and injected a much-desired vitality into Chinese universities, and served as UNNC’s first President.

He adhered to three principles: first, a focus on teaching quality; second, an insistence that education should ‘ignite the flame in students’ hearts’; and third, the understanding that we are ‘human beings first, professionals second’.

Through a life dedicated to exploring and practicing this educational philosophy it was his wish to provide high-quality international education in China and cultivate high-end innovative and international talent for the country in the future.

Yang Fujia was also Director of the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from 1987 to 2001, Chairman of the Shanghai Science and Technology Association (1992–1996), and he was the first president of the Association of University Presidents of China (1997–1999).

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July 19th, 2022 at 5:04 pm

Prof Jo Darkwa

I am very sad to hear about the death of Prof Yang Fujia. He was extremely supportive of my activities and role as the founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies (CSET) in UNNC. I will forever miss him.

July 19th, 2022 at 8:10 pm

Tom Dening

Wow! What a great man.

July 21st, 2022 at 7:50 pm

Dr Janine Swarbrick

I was lucky enough to be chosen for the annual exchange program during my Physics Msci at the University of Nottingham in 2003, so I studied for 3 months at Fudan University, and it was a fantastic experience. I understand the exchange was established because of Prof Yang Fujia and his link between the universities, so thank you.

August 3rd, 2022 at 2:40 pm

john mills

Yang Fujia was NU’s Chancellor for the majority of my time on Council and the first few years as President and Chair. He was a very bright and shrewd man who with Sir Colin saw opportunity and had ambition in establishing education links between the UK and China. Nottingham’s campus in China was a statement of intent of the University’s international ambition in a way that was innovative and different to other Universities as was Yang Fujia’s appointment as Chancellor which in no small part was key to its success. The Appointment and Campus were never free from challenge but in the many conversations I had with him he strongly believed that young people from China and the UK learning together would create better cultural understanding and a more rounded education experience and new research opportunities for academics would be established. He was as proud of the Ningbo legacy as his distinguished academic career.

August 24th, 2022 at 10:52 am

Joanna Dilks

An impressive read. Interesting also to learn something of the history of relationship with UoN Ningbo – which started after I first graduated. I am also drawn to the Professor’s three principals – inspiring. Thank you for publishing.

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