China announces new push for elite university status

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • China has selected 42 universities for a new project that seeks to have all participating ranked as “world class” by 2050
  • The “Double World Class Project” follows similar initiatives dating back to the 1990s, all of which aim to strengthen the capacity, quality, and international standing of select Chinese universities

On 21 September, the Government of China introduced a new programme that will aim to further boost a select group of Chinese universities toward world class status. The plan, known in English as the “Double World Class Project”, seeks to have 42 highly ranked Chinese universities and 456 comparably ranked schools or programmes across 95 universities by 2050.

It represents the latest such national initiative in China, and follows on from the earlier 211 Project and 985 Project from the 1990s. It will now also apparently mesh with or expand somehow the “Double First Class,” initiative which was launched in 2015.

“People in China, ranging from national leaders, university presidents, to the general public, admire prestigious schools to great extents. Everyone dreams of having China’s own world-class universities as competitive as Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge,” says a related item from the People’s Daily newspaper. “The concept of ranking is deeply rooted in Chinese culture.”

On the strength of its accumulated capacity and reputation building projects, Chinese institutions have indeed begun to edge up the global rankings. In 2016, Tsinghua University became the first-ever Chinese institution to crack the top 20 in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Ranking. The Times’ reputation table is based entirely on an invitation-only survey of 10,000 academics worldwide. And this year, Tsinghua moves up to 14th in the 2017 ranking, with Peking close behind in the 17th spot.

Tsinghua and Peking are also the only two Chinese institutions to appear in the top 100 in the overall Times Higher Education World University Ranking for 2018.

The 21 September announcement reveals the list of participating institutions for the first time, effectively launching the new project’s implementation. The universities were selected through “a process of peer competition, expert review, and government evaluation” according to a joint release from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance.

In spite of what appears to have been an involved selection process, the Double World Class Project includes all previous participants of the 211 and 985 projects, and, as in those earlier efforts, the selected institutions will now receive additional government oversight, support, and funding to strengthen their programmes, faculty, research efforts, and international standing.

It also seems clear that this is the next major step on the part of the Chinese government in expanding China’s international influence via its higher education system. In this context, the Double World Class Project is the country’s latest exercise in expanding and employing soft power to strengthen academic, commercial, diplomatic, and cultural ties with countries throughout Asia and beyond. The new project also reinforces China’s interest in becoming an increasingly important destination for foreign students.

Please see below for a complete list of the 42 institutions selected for the Double World Class Project.

Beihang University
Beijing Institute of Technology
Beijing Normal University
Central South University
China Agricultural University
Chongqing University
Dalian University of Technology
East China Normal University
Fudan University
Harbin Institute of Technology
Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Hunan University
Jilin University
Lanzhou University
Minzu University of China
Nanjing University
Nankai University
National University of Defense Technology
Northeastern University
NorthWest A&F University
Northwestern Polytechnical University
Ocean University of China
Peking University
Renmin University of China
Shandong University
Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Sichuan University
South China University of Technology
Southeast University
Sun Yat-sen University
Tianjin University
Tongji University
Tsinghua University
University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
University of Science and Technology of China
Wuhan University
Xi’an Jiaotong University
Xiamen University
Xinjiang University
Yunnan University
Zhejiang University
Zhengzhou University

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