China’s first Metaverse major stirs up controversy

China has seen the country’s first Metaverse major set up following the announcement by the School of Artificial Intelligence (School of Future Technology) of Nanjing University of Information Science Technology, renaming its Information Science Engineering Department to Metaverse Engineering Department, according to a notice by the university on 23 September.

The change was confirmed by Pan Zhigeng, dean of the School of Future Technology, making it the first university department at home to be named after the buzzword. “The renamed division is to integrate academic teaching of the Metaverse with research and international collaboration, therefore, facilitating talent development and to aid enterprises in the Metaverse sector,” said Pan in an interview with the Chinese media outlet Global Times.

It was also revealed that the department is to collaborate with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to offer Metaverse courses for master’s students, Ph.D. holders and postdoctoral fellows. Heated discussions soon arrived with queries regarding course structure and teaching methods flooding in from curious netizens.

Despite the mounting interest, the general reaction from the public to this initiative appears to be rational. Questions have been raised as to the motivation behind this change, which was described by Pan as “a viral subject that sees huge market demand”. Concerns have also emerged from parents and students with the uncertainty around the new discipline, showing their skepticism over the idea of associating the current Metaverse hype with career prospects in the future.

“The Metaverse industry is at an experimental stage with a lack of clear development direction and more exploration needs to be done in terms of application scenarios,” read the commentary by the Chinese newspaper Beijing Business Today regarding the renaming.

Education analysts also suggest that caution should be practised by higher education institutions like universities when it comes to incorporating hyped subjects into their curriculum given that regulations on the Metaverse industry remain premature and a systematic syllabus is yet to be established to enable effective delivery.


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