Find out all about China’s top universities, and explore their world university ranking performances
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 aims 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 percent of the people on Earth, China has one of the fastest developing economies. From cuisine to culture, China offers something 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.
With an ever-increasing number of universities, the choice of places to study in China may seem overwhelming.
However, several initiatives from the Chinese government have helpfully categorized 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 percent 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 into the campus, with the West Gate being the most well-known for the painted murals on its ceiling.
The university has established joint degree programs with Cornell University, Yale University, London School of Economics and Political Science, Paris School of International Affairs, Waseda University, Seoul National University and The University of Tokyo to encourage international student exchanges.
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.
Several research centers are located on campus, including six national engineering research centers, three national key research centers 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 the 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 teach, with a number of its courses taught in English. Internationalization is also a high priority at the institution with global connections and exchange programs 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 about 40 percent electing to do this.
The university is extremely selective, with less than 0.2 percent of the National College Entrance Examination (“Gaokao”) takers being accepted.