Higher education in China has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with an increasing number of institutes appearing among the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019.
Directives including Project 211 and Project 985 – which aim to improve the standards of the top 100 and 40 Chinese universities respectively – combined with huge national investment has seen China’s reputation in the education sector rocket up the rankings.
And who wouldn’t want to study there? An enormous country, home to more than 20 per cent of the people on Earth, China has one of the fastest developing economies. From cuisine to culture, China offers something completely unique.
The huge country is home to some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes on the planet; from the Rainbow Mountains in Zhangye, to the fishing villages along the coast and even the incomprehensibly vast cities that continue to expand, there’s something in China for everyone.
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With an ever-increasing number of universities, the choice of places to study in China may seem overwhelming.
However, a number of initiatives from the Chinese government have helpfully categorised the top universities, similarly to the UK’s Russell Group system and the Ivy League in the United States.
Established in 1995, Project 211 was designed to raise the research standards of China’s top universities. Institutions that reach a certain standard are rewarded with significantly increased funds. Today there are 112 higher education institutions that are part of Project 211.
Project 985 was established three years later and uses a very similar strategy, although just 39 universities have received sponsorship as a result of this project and in 2011 it was announced that no new universities would be able to gain membership to this exclusive group.
The final and most selective group is the C9 League, a group of the country’s top nine elite universities who between them receive 10 per cent of China’s national research budget.
Top 5 universities in China
Tsinghua University is located in the Haidian District of northwest Beijing. It was established in 1911.
It retains much of its traditional architecture, juxtaposed with many buildings built in the Western-style reflecting the historical American influence on the campus.
Tsinghua University is a comprehensive research university. Its 20 schools and 54 departments cover disciplines in art, economics, education, engineering, history, management, medicine, law, literature, philosophy, and sciences.
In terms of life outside of studying, the university has more than 110 student associations covering science and technology, physical training, humanities, arts and public welfare.
Many successful people in politics, academia and industry have graduated from Tsinghua University including two Nobel Prize winners, Tsung-Dao Lee and Yang Chen Ning.
Peking University is a member of the C9 league which is similar to the Ivy League group in the US and is generally one of the highest-ranked institutions in China.
It was the first modern national university in China, and since its founding in 1898 it has had a reputation as a leading educational institution.
The institution is well-known for its campuses, situated in the Haidian district in northwest Beijing. It is home to some of the capital’s most prominent and recognised gardens and traditional architecture. These include traditional houses, gardens, pagodas, as well as many notable historical buildings and structures. There are several gates that lead into campus, with the West Gate being the most well-known for the painted murals on its ceiling.
The university has established joint degree programmes with Cornell University, Yale University, London School of Economics and Political Science, Paris School of International Affairs, Waseda University, Seoul National University and The University of Tokyo to encourage international exchanges for students.
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The University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) is a national research university in Hefei, Anhui and was founded to boost science and technology education in China.
There are 15 schools, spanning physical sciences, life sciences, software engineering and electro-optical technology, among many other science and technology disciplines.
There are also two national labs – the National Synchrotron Radiation Facility and the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale – the only university in the country to do so.
The university is also home to a large library, a first-class computer network, and a hospital which treats students, employees and their families as well as providing teaching facilities for medical students.
Zhejiang University is one of China's oldest, most selective universities having been founded in 1897.
Research at the university covers 12 academic disciplines: agriculture; art; economics; education; engineering; history; law; literature; management; medicine; natural sciences; and philosophy.
There are a number of research centres located on campus including six national engineering research centres, three national key research centres of humanities and social sciences and 13 academies of independent studies.
The university has strategic partnerships with more than 140 universities in 30 countries worldwide including Imperial College London, Princeton University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Fudan University is composed of four campuses in downtown Shanghai: Handan, Fenglin, Zhangjiang and Jiangwan.
The university takes a liberal arts approach to teaching with a number of its courses taught in English. Internationalisation is also a high priority at the institution with global connections and exchange programmes at almost 200 overseas universities including Columbia University, University of Toronto, University of Sydney, KU Leuven, University of Manchester and Sciences Po.
Students are also encouraged to go on international exchanges, with around 40 per cent electing to do this.
The university is extremely selective, with less than 0.2 per cent of National College Entrance Examination ("Gaokao") takers being accepted.
Top universities in China 2019
Click on each institution to see its full World University Rankings 2019 results
Editor's note: This page was updated on 22 November 2018 to reflect minor changes in the positions of a small number of universities. More information can be found here.
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