China targets ‘world-class’ status for 42 universities

Long-awaited list of institutions eligible for excellence initiative funding in China is published

October 3, 2017
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China has published the names of 42 universities it will support to achieve "world-class" status.

Under the country’s "Double First Class" project – which has run since 2015 and operates on a five-year cycle – China is seeking to expand significantly the number of highly-ranked universities by 2050.

Only two Chinese universities are in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings – Peking University at 27th and and Tsinghua University in 30th – while seven out of the top 200 are based in mainland China.

On 21 September, the Chinese authorities finally announced which institutions had been chosen for inclusion in the project, the South China Morning Post reported. A total of 42 universities have qualified for support to reach a world-class level and some 95 institutions have been chosen to develop world-class courses.

“Everyone dreams of having China’s own world-class universities as competitive as Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge,” wrote the state news outlet People’s Daily. “The concept of ranking is deeply rooted in Chinese culture,” it added.

Among those selected to receive additional support include Peking and Tsinghua universities. Of the 42 chosen universities, eight are located in Beijing, six in Shanghai, and several others located along China’s relatively affluent east coast.

No details have yet been given about how authorities will evaluate the progress made by these universities or what will constitute “world-class standards”.

At present, the US has 62 universities in the top 200 of the THE's World University Rankings – widely seen as an indicator of a "world-class" university – the UK has 31, Germany has 20, while the Netherlands and Australia have 13 and 8 respectively.

The latest initiative follows the similar "211" and "985" projects launched in the 1990s, which aimed to strengthen about 100 institutions of higher education and key disciplinary areas in order to promote China’s educational competitiveness in the world.

However, according to an analysis on The Diplomat website, these initiatives did little to help universities in poorer areas of China. None of the new universities selected for the Double First programme are located in the relatively poor areas of Ningxia, Guizhou, Guangxi, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Chongqing, Tibet, Qinghai, Hainan, Hebei and Jiangx, it added.

Universities chosen for inclusion in China's Double First Class University Plan (listed according to performance in Times Higher Education's World University Rankings 2018)

Institution THE Ranking 2018 THE Ranking 2017
Peking University 27 30
Tsinghua University 30 35
Fudan University 116 155
University of Science and Technology of China 132 =153
Nanjing University =169 201-250
Zhejiang University =177 201-250
Shanghai Jiao Tong University =188 201-250
Sun Yat-sen University 351–400 401-500
Huazhong University of Science and Technology 401–500 401-500
Tongji University 401–500 501-600
Wuhan University 401–500 401-500
Xiamen University 401–500 401-500
East China Normal University 501–600 501-600
Harbin Institute of Technology 501–600 501-600
Renmin University of China 501–600 401-500
Shandong University 501–600 NR
South China University of Technology 501–600 601-800
Southeast University 501–600 501-600
Tianjin University 501–600 501-600
Xi’an Jiaotong University 501–600 501-600
Beihang University 601–800 NR
Beijing Institute of Technology 601–800 601-800
Central South University 601–800 801+
China Agricultural University 601–800 501-600
Dalian University of Technology 601–800 601-800
Hunan University 601–800 601-800
Northwestern Polytechnical University 601–800 601-800
Sichuan University 601–800 601-800
Chongqing University 801–1000 801+
Northeastern University 801–1000 601-800
NorthWest A&F University 801–1000 NR
Ocean University of China 801–1000 801+
University of Electronic Science and Technology of China 801–1000 801+

Not ranked in Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 but included in the Double First project: Beijing Normal University, Jilin University, Lanzhou University, Minzu University of China, Nankai University, National University of Defense Technology, Xinjiang University, Yunnan University, Zhengzhou University

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Reader's comments (1)

Is it possible to be a ‘world class’ university without permitting and encouraging freedom of speech and academic debate, even if it offends the Party? I think not - indeed, it would be extremely disturbing if it were possible, as this would mean that freedom of thought and speech were no longer part of the definition of scholarship.

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