China sets direction for world class universities

On 5 November 2015, the Chinese State Council released a statement (“Coordinate Development of World-class Universities and First-class Disciplines Construction Overall Plan” or统筹推进世界一流大学和一流学科建设总体方案) designed to lift the status and standing and international competitiveness of China’s higher education system.
The statement sets out an ambitious and broad policy for China to develop a number of world-class universities and disciplines by 2020, to have some universities and disciplines among the best in the world by 2030 and to have China’s overall higher education system considered among the world’s best by 2050. This builds on the aspirations of the National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development for 2010 to 2020 to improve teacher quality, improve the research capacity of selected universities and provide professional development opportunities for senior education leaders.
The statement provides further details of what is unofficially called the “World Class University and Discipline 2.0”, or “World Class 2.0”, which is an upgraded version of the former “985” and “211” projects. Initial details of this plan were passed by China’s Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms in August this year and reported on in the University World News. The University World News article reports that under “World Class 2.0”, China plans to get six universities into the top universities in the world by 2020, with some of these institutions being ranked among the top 15 in the world by 2030.
In order to develop China’s higher education system and position a number of institutions to be ranked among the very best in the world, the policy emphasises building first-class teachers and developing innovative and interdisciplinary teams, training top creative talent through strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship education, enhancing the level of scientific research and promoting achievements, while embedding and strengthening Chinese traditional culture and socialist values and characteristics in Chinese universities.
The document announces a number of reforms to Chinese universities including to:

• strengthen and improve Party leadership at the individual university level and improve the internal governance structures
• improve performance management
• accelerate talent training and collaborative science education
• build community participation and improve links with industry and research institutes and
• promote international exchanges and cooperation with world-class universities and academic institutions, to strengthen international collaboration and attract foreign students.
The National Education System Reform Leading Group is responsible for the high-level design and funding of these reform policies, while the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance and the National Development and Reform Commission are responsible for development and implementation.
The State Council reports that the Ministry of Education will develop five-year plans for the implementation of the policy, starting in 2016.
Looking at the latest QS World Rankings, in 2015 China has four universities ranked in the top 100 in the world, namely Tsinghua University at 25, Peking University at 41, Fudan University at 51 and Shanghai Jiao Tong University at 70. In addition, Shanghai University is ranked in the top 60 institutions under 50 years old in the 2015 QS rankings.