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Professor Yonghua Song: oration

Read Professor Furong Li's oration on Professor Yonghua Song for the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in December 2014.


Professor Yonghua Song started his academic career in 1989 at Tsinghua University (China) as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. In 1991, he was among the earliest Chinese talents invited by the Royal Society to establish research links with UK universities. Professor Song joined the University of Bath in 1992. This was the time when artificial intelligence was opening up many new possibilities for difficult engineering problems and the University was leading the country’s effort in exploring its use in electrical power engineering. Professor Song quickly became a major force behind this exciting development. In 4 years he produced 30 journal papers and three books, one of which, “Intelligent System Applications in Electric Power Systems”, received the National Book Prize by the Institute of Electrical Engineering.

At the University of Bath, Professor Song established a reputation for having the drive, vision and determination to make things happen. In 1997, at the age of 32, he joined Brunel University as the Research Professor of Power Systems, making him the youngest engineering professor in the UK at the time.

The UK had just privatised its electricity supply industry, creating a competitive environment that would apply downward pressure on its supply costs. There were, however, significant inefficiencies in the electricity market. At Brunel, Professor Song made major advances in understanding market behaviour and developed key innovations to underpin efficient market design and operation. He explored a wide range of innovative network technologies to enable a ‘range extension’ to wires already on the ground. Recognizing his significant and internationally acknowledged contributions to power systems, in 2002 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science by Brunel University. In 2004, at the age of 39, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. In the same year, he was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Graduate Studies at Brunel and in 2007 he was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

Professor Song’s career continued to develop rapidly and by 2007 he was a Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Liverpool and the Executive President of Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, the first Sino-UK campus, in China. Professor Song was the inaugural president responsible for its development and expansion and it has grown into a highly dynamic international university with over 5000 high calibre students. He was then recruited by Tsinghua University as the Assistant President for International Affairs. In this role Professor Song’s talent was spotted by the central Chinese government. He was appointed Director of the Chinese National Office of the Recruitment Program of Global Experts (the 1000 Talents Program). In 2012 Professor Song became Executive Vice-President of Zhejiang University.

In a recent Times interview, Professor Song commented on Chinese universities, “…to become a world class university, to educate leaders of tomorrow, we need an international perspective”. To bring Zhejiang University to the centre of the international stage, Professor Song spearheaded two bold initiatives. He led China’s first joint science and research venture outside the country, co-investing with Imperial College in research facilities at the new Imperial West venue, the former BBC Centre, firmly putting China in the heart of research excellence in science, technology, engineering, and medicine. Professor Song’s second major initiative was to set up a 200-acre International Campus between Hangzhou and Shanghai, collaborating with the very best academic institutions from across the world.

Throughout his extensive career, Professor Song has maintained very close research links with Bath. He is a pioneer in engaging the Chinese government with universities from across the world. He has strengthened the Sino-UK educational ties that have significantly benefitted both countries’ capacity in teaching and research, and cultivating world citizens who are better equipped to tackle global challenges in food, energy, health, environment and climate change.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Professor Yonghua Song, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.

Professor Furong Li

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