Knowledge Distillation as Efficient Pre-training: Faster Convergence, Higher Data-efficiency, and Better Transferability

Large-scale pre-training has been proven to be crucial for various computer vision tasks. However, with the increase of pre-training data amount, model architecture amount, and the private/inaccessible data, it is not very efficient or possible to pre-train all the model architectures on large-scale datasets. In this work, we investigate an alternative strategy for pre-training, namely Knowledge Distillation as Efficient Pre-training (KDEP), aiming to efficiently transfer the learned feature representation from existing pre-trained models to new student models for future downstream tasks. We observe that existing Knowledge Distillation (KD) methods are unsuitable towards pre-training since they normally distill the logits that are going to be discarded when transferred to downstream tasks. To resolve this problem, we propose a feature-based KD method with non-parametric feature dimension aligning. Notably, our method performs comparably with supervised pre-training counterparts in 3 downstream tasks and 9 downstream datasets requiring 10x less data and 5x less pre-training time. Code is available at

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