New Chinese Double First Class University Plan Released
China's initial strategy, also known as the Double First Class initiative, plans to create numerous world-class universities and disciplines by the end of 2050. This project will be running on a five-year cycle, with approximately 100 disciplines being supported.
The overall program was passed in August 2015, and a document called “Implementation measures to coordinate development of World-class Universities and First-class Disciplines Construction” was released in January 2017, providing more detail on the Double First Class initiative. The list of selected institutes was announced on 21 September 2017.
Interpreting China’s Double First Class University Plan
- The plan, conceived from 2015, is aimed to create world-class universities and disciplines by the end of 2050, hence the name Double First Class.
- Two lists were released by the Ministry of Education on 21 September 2017. The first list includes names of 42 First Class universities (36 in Category A and 6 in Category B), and 95 universities with First Class disciplines. The second lists out the First Class Disciplines to be developed in each of the universities on the first list. For ease of reference we will call the first list ‘University List’ and the second one the ‘Discipline List’.
- All the 39 previous Project 985 schools are among the First Class Universities, 36 in Category A and 3 in Category B. Three previous Project 211 schools, but not Project 985, schools are also amongst the First Class Universities, all in Category B. (See the section below on the background to the new plan.)
- All previous Project 211 schools are among the List, and 25 non-Project 211 schools are also on the List. (note: all Project 985 schools are also Project 211 schools).
- There are three special universities, each with two campuses in different provinces. Each of them appears as one school in the University List, but appears as two separate schools in the Discipline List. Therefore, if we include names of schools, the University List has 137 in total and the Discipline List has 140. These three are treated as separate schools in the analysis below, consistent with the Discipline List.
- The schools are spread unevenly over 31 Provinces/Municipalities. The top three Provinces/Municipalities, Beijing, Jiangsu and Shanghai, have 63 (45%) of all the schools between them. Beijing alone has 34 First Rate schools, more than double the second one Jiangsu which has 15 schools. Twelve provinces each have only one school listed: most of them are in the western regions.Of the 140 schools, only 12 have more than 10 First Rate disciplines, and 77 each has only one discipline listed. Peking University and Tsinghua University are the two giant schools, with 41 and 34 first class disciplines respectively. Both are located in Beijing.
- Distribution of the First Class disciplines. According to the MOE Higher Education Discipline Catalogue, the First Class disciplines fall into 12 categories. Four categories are in Natural Science and eight in Humanities and Social Science.
Table 1: Distribution by provinces
Table 2: Distribution by disciplines
Note: there are overlaps. For example, Peking University has 41 subjects covering 11 categories (not only covering Agriculture).
Background to the new Double First Class Plan
In 1996 to 2001 China introduced Project 211 with "211" designating "21st century" and there being 100 universities and colleges involved. The purpose behind Project 211 was to raise the research standards of already high-level universities and to manage strategies for socio-economic development.
In 1998 an additional project called Project 985 was acquired, which included both national and local governments distributing large funds to specific universities in order to improve facilities; build new research centers; host international conferences; attract world-renowned faculty and visiting scholars; and help Chinese faculty attend conferences overseas.
Projects 211 and 985 have both been closed now and have been replaced by the Double First Class University Plan, which is now the official, sponsored national university development scheme.
Understanding the importance of the Double First Class Plan and its impact
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