China: World-class status eyed for more universities
19:20 JST, February 27, 2022
China has added seven universities to a list of those it aims to elevate to world-class status, taking the total to 147.
Based on a review by experts and approved by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, the second list of universities and disciplines included in the “double world-class project” was released by the ministries of education and finance and the National Development and Reform Commission on Feb. 14.
The new additions to the list included Shanxi University, Xiangtan University in Hunan Province and Nanjing Medical University in Jiangsu Province. All of the 140 universities in the project’s first list, released in 2017, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and Renmin University of China, remained on the latest list.
The universities and disciplines were chosen based on their ability to nurture top talent and innovative teams in major and core scientific and technological fields in accordance with national development strategies, said Hong Dayong, director of the Ministry of Education’s department of degree management and postgraduate education, adding that no consideration was given to the rankings of universities or research papers published.
The first list placed universities in one of three levels, but the new list does not. Hong said the change was made because building world-class universities should be based on building world-class disciplines and the universities should pursue distinctive and differentiated development.
Some universities had treated inclusion in the “double world-class project,” launched in 2016, as a status symbol and, as a result, had pursued blind expansion and competition, he said.
The new list will encourage the universities to pursue world-class development based on their own advantages, he said.
Peking University and Tsinghua University have been given the autonomy to conduct self-evaluation and release their own lists of world-class disciplines.
The two universities can each decide how many disciplines they aim to elevate to world-class status, Hong said.
Sixteen disciplines at 15 universities have been given warnings because they lagged behind in their overall progress and failed to live up to expectations. They have not yet been removed from the project, but will face further evaluation next year.
Initiated in 2016, the first round of the project was completed by the end of 2020, the ministry said.
Hong said, however, that progress in building world-class universities has yet to match the country’s comprehensive strength and international status and also lags behind in meeting the needs of social and economic development and creating a diversified talent pool.
Before the launch of the project, the Chinese government evaluated its universities via the “211” and “985” projects launched in the 1990s. The 211 project aimed to raise education standards in about 100 colleges and universities during the 21st century, and the 985 project, named after its launch date in May 1998, endeavored to select the cream of the crop from those institutions.
Qu Zhenyuan, former chairman of the China Association of Higher Education, said the “double world-class project” is a continuation of the “211” and “985” projects in the new era. It is also a key project in the strategy of building a powerful China through education and lays the foundation for achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, he said.
Inclusion in the list is recognition of a university’s overall strength, Qu said, but also means it has an important duty to fulfill.
Shi Jinghuan, an education professor at Tsinghua University, said China has the largest higher education system in the world, but there is still a great deficiency in terms of high-quality higher education.
The universities included in the project represent only a small proportion of those in the country and can lead the way for other universities and lead reform of the country’s higher education system, she said.
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