Best universities in China 2020

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

September 16 2019
Forbidden City, Beijing

Higher education in China has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with an increasing number of institutes appearing in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Directives including Project 211, Project 985 and the Double First Class University Plan – which aim to improve the standards of the top 100 and 40 Chinese universities respectively – combined with huge national investment has seen China’s educational reputation rocket.

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 for everyone in China. 

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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. There have been 112 higher education institutions associated with Project 211.

Project 985 was established three years later and uses a 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 most selective group is the C9 League, a group of the country’s top nine elite universities which between them receive 10 per cent of China’s national research budget.

The most recent initiative was the Double First Class University Plan, which aims to develop a group of elite Chinese universities and individual university departments into world-class universities and disciplines by the end of 2050. The list includes 42 institutions across the country. 

Top 5 universities in China

1. Tsinghua University

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 a Western style, reflecting the historical American influence on the campus.

Tsinghua 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 studying, the university has more than 110 student associations covering science and technology, sport, arts and public welfare. 

Many successful people in politics, academia and industry have graduated from Tsinghua University, including two Nobel prizewinners, Tsung-Dao Lee and Yang Chen Ning.  

2. 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 renowned for its campuses in the Haidian district of northwest Beijing. It is home to some of the capital’s most prominent gardens and traditional architecture. Several gates lead in to 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 Science, Paris School of International Affairs, Waseda UniversitySeoul National University and The University of Tokyo to encourage international student exchanges. 

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3. University of Science and Technology of China

The University of Science and Technology of China is a national research university in Hefei, Anhui province. It was founded to boost science and technology education in China. 

There are 15 schools, teaching 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 institution is also home to a large library, a first-class computer network, and a hospital that treats students, employees and their families, and provides teaching facilities for medical students. 

4. Zhejiang University

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. 

A number of research centres are 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

5. Fudan University

Fudan University comprises 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 TorontoUniversity of SydneyKU Leuven, University of Manchester and Sciences Po.

Students are also encouraged to go on international exchanges, with about 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 2020

Click on each institution to see its full World University Rankings 2020 results 

China Rank 2020  World University Rank 2020  University Province/Area
1  23  Tsinghua University Beijing
2  24  Peking University Beijing
3  =80  University of Science and Technology of China Anhui
4  =107  Zhejiang University Zhejiang
5  109  Fudan University Shanghai
6  =144  Nanjing University Jiangsu
7  =157  Shanghai Jiao Tong University Shanghai
8  251–300  Sun Yat-sen University Guangdong
=9  301–350  Beijing Normal University Beijing
=9  301–350  Huazhong University of Science and Technology Hubei
=9  301–350  Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) Guangdong
=12  351–400  Nankai University Tianjin
=12  351–400  Wuhan University Hubei
=14  401–500  Central South University Hunan
=14  401–500  Harbin Institute of Technology Heilongjiang
=14  401–500  Hunan University Hunan
=14  401–500  Tongji University Shanghai
=18  501–600  Beihang University Beijing
=18  501–600  East China Normal University Shanghai
=18  501–600  Renmin University of China Beijing
=18  501–600  Shenzhen University Guangdong
=18  501–600  Soochow University Jiangsu
=18  501–600  South China University of Technology Guangdong
=18  501–600  Southeast University Jiangsu
=18  501–600  Tianjin University Tianjin
=18  501–600  Xiamen University Fujian
=18  501–600  Xi’an Jiaotong University Shaanxi
=28  601–800  Beijing Institute of Technology Beijing
=28  601–800  China Agricultural University Beijing
=28  601–800  China University of Petroleum, Beijing Beijing
=28  601–800  Dalian University of Technology Liaoning
=28  601–800  East China University of Science and Technology Shanghai
=28  601–800  University of Electronic Science and Technology of China Sichuan
=28  601–800  Huazhong Agricultural University Hubei
=28  601–800  University of International Business and Economics Beijing
=28  601–800  Jiangsu Normal University Jiangsu
=28  601–800  Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology Jiangsu
=28  601–800  Nanjing Medical University Jiangsu
=28  601–800  Nanjing Normal University Jiangsu
=28  601–800  Northwestern Polytechnical University Shaanxi
=28  601–800  Shandong University Shandong
=28  601–800  Sichuan University Sichuan
=43  801–1000  Beijing Jiaotong University Beijing
=43  801–1000  Capital Medical University Beijing
=43  801–1000  China University of Geosciences, Beijing Beijing
=43  801–1000  China University of Geosciences, Wuhan Hubei
=43  801–1000  China University of Mining and Technology Beijing
=43  801–1000  China Pharmaceutical University Jiangsu
=43  801–1000  Chongqing University Chongqing
=43  801–1000  Fuzhou University Fuzhou
=43  801–1000  Guangdong University of Technology Guangdong
=43  801–1000  Jiangsu University Jiangsu
=43  801–1000  Jilin University Jilin
=43  801–1000  Jinan University Guangdong
=43  801–1000  Nanjing Agricultural University Jiangsu
=43  801–1000  Nanjing Tech University Jiangsu
=43  801–1000  Northeastern University Liaoning
=43  801–1000  Northeast Normal University Jilin
=43  801–1000  Northwest University Shaanxi
=43  801–1000  NorthWest A&F University Shaanxi
=43  801–1000  University of Science and Technology Beijing Beijing
=43  801–1000  Shanghai University Jiangsu
=43  801–1000  Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE) Shanghai
=43  801–1000  Shanghai Maritime University Shanghai
=43  801–1000  Shantou University Guangdong
=43  801–1000  Southwestern University of Finance and Economics Sichuan
=43  801–1000  Wuhan University of Technology Hubei
=43  801–1000  Xiangtan University Hunan
=43  801–1000  Xidian University Shaanxi
=43  801–1000  Yangzhou University Jiangsu
=71  1001+  Guangxi University Guangxi
=71  1001+  Huaqiao University Fujian
=71  1001+  Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics Nanjing
=71  1001+  North China Electric Power University Beijing
=71  1001+  Ocean University of China Shangdong
=71  1001+  University of South China Hunan
=71  1001+  Southern Medical University Baiyun District
=71  1001+  Southwest Jiaotong University Sichuan
=71  1001+  Wenzhou Medical University Wenzhou
=71  1001+  Yanshan University Hebei
=71  1001+  Zhejiang University of Technology Zhejiang

Read more: Best universities in Japan  

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