Nanjing launches chip university in bid to fill China’s semiconductor talent gap

Business & Technology

China has opened what may be the world’s first “integrated circuit university” as it seeks to attain silicon chip independence in the face of U.S. efforts to decouple.

The newly opened campus of Nanjing Integrated Circuit University. Image source:

On October 22, Nanjing launched China’s first integrated circuit university as the country attempts to address a talent shortage in the semiconductor industry, Xinhua reported (in Chinese). Amid pressure from U.S. decoupling, China has established Nanjing Integrated Circuit University (NICU) in a bid to boost domestic chip manufacturing and technology innovation capability.

NICU is not a traditional “university,” but a “talent training organization.”

  • NICU does not recruit high school graduates from the national college entrance examination, but will select college and university graduates who already have relevant knowledge, or those who have an interest in working on integrated circuits. NICU will also train junior staff for integrated circuit companies.
  • People who attend NICU will be called “learners” (学员 xuéyuán) instead of “students” (学生 xuéshēng), and will receive a certification of completion upon graduation but not a degree diploma.

NICU is not under the Ministry of Education or provincial and municipal education authorities like nearly all Chinese higher-education institutions. It was founded by the management committee of Nanjing Jiangbei New District, a national-level special economic zone where NICU is located.

  • Rather, the integrated circuit university will focus on boosting China’s chip manufacturing capability, according to Shí Lóngxīng 时龙兴 (in Chinese), president of NICU and dean of the Electrical Science and Technology School of Southeast University.
  • Courses are based on chip companies’ job descriptions and learners’ knowledge gaps, designed to teach practical and specialized skills. Veteran chip engineers, industry experts, and university professors are expected to teach at NICU.

Nanjing has big semiconductor ambitions. The Nanjing Linjiang New District has already attracted:

  • TSMC, Taiwan’s top chipmaking company and the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, which established a chip factory in Linjiang New District in 2016 (in Chinese).
  • Nearly 400 integrated circuit companies, forming a supply chain surrounding chipmaking worth 50 billion yuan ($7.5 billion), according to Xinhua (in Chinese).

But media and industry experts have cast doubt on whether NICU can address China’s talent shortage. Social media users said NICU will likely be training equipment operators instead of top engineers and scientists that China urgently needs.