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4th Oct 2017

China announces new push for elite university status

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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