Best universities in China 2018

Find out all about China's top universities, and explore their world university ranking performance

September 6 2017
Forbidden City, Beijing

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 2018

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 116 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

1. Peking University 

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 UniversityLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceParis School of International AffairsWaseda UniversitySeoul National University and the University of Tokyo to encourage international exchanges for students. 

2. Tsinghua University

Tsinghua University is also located in the Haidian District of northwest Beijing. It was established in 1911. 

Like Peking University, it also 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 


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3. Fudan University

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. 

4. University of Science and Technology of China

The University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) is a national research university in HefeiAnhui 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. 

5. Nanjing University

The final university in the top five universities in China is Nanjing University

It has 21 schools, running courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and research level. The university has one of China’s largest libraries, holding more than 4.5 million volumes. 

These courses are spread across two campuses in Gulou and Xianlin. 

Nanjing University established the first department of Western literature among Chinese universities, in 1921.

The university has a school song which was created in 1916 and recovered in 2002. The lyrics written by Jiang Qian and melody composed by Li Shutong.


Top universities in China 2018

Click on each institution to see its full World University Rankings 2018 results 

China Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 University Province/Area
1 =27 Peking University Beijing
2 30 Tsinghua University Beijing
3 116 Fudan University Shanghai
4 132 University of Science and Technology of China Anhui
5 =169 Nanjing University Jiangsu
6 =177 Zhejiang University Zhejiang
7 =188 Shanghai Jiao Tong University Shanghai
=8 351–400 Sun Yat-sen University Guangdong
=9 401–500 Huazhong University of Science and Technology Hubei
=9 401–500 Tongji University Shanghai
=9 401–500 Wuhan University Hubei
=9 401–500 Xiamen University Fujian
=13 501–600 Central China Normal University Hubei
=13 501–600 East China Normal University Shanghai
=13 501–600 Harbin Institute of Technology Heilongjiang
=13 501–600 Renmin University of China Beijing
=13 501–600 Shandong University Shandong
=13 501–600 Soochow University Jiangsu
=13 501–600 South China University of Technology Guangdong
=13 501–600 Southeast University Jiangsu
=13 501–600 Tianjin University Tianjin
=13 501–600 Xi’an Jiaotong University Shaanxi
=23 601–800 Beihang University Beijing
=23 601–800 Beijing Institute of Technology Beijing
=23 601–800 Capital Medical University Beijing
=23 601–800 Central South University Hunan
=23 601–800 China Agricultural University Beijing
=23 601–800 China University of Geosciences, Beijing Beijing
=23 601–800 China University of Geosciences, Wuhan Hubei
=23 601–800 Dalian University of Technology Liaoning
=23 601–800 East China University of Science and Technology Shanghai
=23 601–800 Fuzhou University Fuzhou
=23 601–800 Huazhong Agricultural University Hubei
=23 601–800 Hunan University Hunan
=23 601–800 Nanjing Agricultural University Jiangsu
=23 601–800 Nanjing Medical University Jiangsu
=23 601–800 Nanjing Normal University Jiangsu
=23 601–800 Nanjing Tech University Jiangsu
=23 601–800 Northeast Normal University Jilin
=23 601–800 Northwestern Polytechnical University Shaanxi
=23 601–800 University of Science and Technology Beijing Beijing
=23 601–800 Shanghai University Jiangsu
=23 601–800 Shantou University Guangdong
=23 601–800 Sichuan University Sichuan
=45 801–1000 Beijing Jiaotong University Beijing
=45 801–1000 China University of Mining and Technology Beijing
=45 801–1000 China University of Petroleum, Beijing Beijing
=45 801–1000 Chongqing University Chongqing
=45 801–1000 University of Electronic Science and Technology of China Sichuan
=45 801–1000 Huaqiao University Fujian
=45 801–1000 Jiangsu University Jiangsu
=45 801–1000 Jinan University Guangdong
=45 801–1000 Northeastern University Liaoning
=45 801–1000 Northwest University Shaanxi
=45 801–1000 NorthWest A&F University Shaanxi
=45 801–1000 Ocean University of China Shangdong
=45 801–1000 Shaanxi Normal University Shaanxi
=45 801–1000 Wuhan University of Technology Hubei
=45 801–1000 Xiangtan University Hunan
=45 801–1000 Xidian University Shaanxi
=61 1001+ Guangxi University Guangxi
=61 1001+ Shanghai Maritime University Shanghai
=61 1001+ Southwest Jiaotong University Sichuan

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