Chinese University Rankings

As a companion to this month’s feature on Chinese secondary school credentials and higher education admissions, we are offering a quick guide to Chinese university rankings and some of the issues surrounding the industry. This should be considered an update to our August 2006 look at Chinese university rankings, which delves a little deeper into the methodologies of the various different rankings.

The first point to consider when thinking about Chinese university rankings is that ministry of education officials have been fairly consistent in their opposition to university rankings. While government disregard for rankings has not curbed the non-governmental production of university league tables, it has impacted the availability of official information and data and thus the robustness of ranking methodologies and criteria, making the ranking of colleges somewhat problematic and unreliable.

The non-official rankings that are produced have therefore come in for a certain amount of criticism for lacking empirical depth and perhaps more significantly for being open to corrupt practices, such as cash for ‘institutional ranking tutoring.’

Beijing and Tsinghua Reign Supreme

Methodology considerations aside, just about every Chinese ranking you will ever see ranks two universities – Peking (Beijing) and Tsinghua – as the two best schools in the country. Almost without exception, the very best students in the annual national admissions examination choose one of the two academic powerhouses as their study destination of choice. Beijing has historically had a stronger arts and pure science focus than Tsinghua, which has its roots in engineering. Those biases have eased in recent years, as both schools have broadened their recruiting focuses to achieve a more balanced student and faculty body, but subject rankings suggest that the perceptions persist.

Moving beyond the top two schools, the top ten in the rankings also tend to be fairly uniform and it is only when you look beyond the top ten that the school placings become a little less predictable.

Government Rankings

Perhaps the most significant ranking of top institutions – although not technically a ranking, more a club – is the recently announced C9 group of universities. The group, which was announced in October of last year, have signed cooperative agreements that allow for flexible student exchange programs between member institutions, deepened cooperation on the training of postgraduates, and the establishment of a credit system to facilitate the earning of credits at any member university.

The C9, or ‘Chinese Ivy League’ as the group was quickly dubbed by media outlets across the world, has been backed by the Chinese government, which has been working for over a decade to elevate a group of Chinese higher education institutions to elite, world-class status. The stage prior to the adoption of the C9 was the 1988 launch of the 985 project by President Jiang Zemin, who wanted to channel supplemental funding to a select group of research-focused institutions. Today, there are 30 universities additional to the C9 universities in the 985 club, with funding that has averaged US$92 million per institution for scientific research (and as high as $132 million for Beijing and Tsinghua).

From that group of 39 universities, the C9 has clubbed together in what might be seen as a final selection of universities from the 985 project that will spearhead China’s efforts to produce truly world-class universities that can be competitive on a global scale both in attracting talent and in producing research.

Four Tiers

On an institutional level, it might be considered that there is a four-tier hierarchy of top institutions with two at the pinnacle, followed by a group of seven in the second tier, a group of 30 in the third tier, and a group of 85 in a fourth tier of universities that are deemed to have excellence in particular key disciplines as defined by the 211 Project. With funding and prestige tied to an institution’s position among these four tiers, it appears that this hierarchy is somewhat self-sustaining, with the best students seeking out places at top-ranked schools and funding following them:

The pinnacle:

  • Beijing University
  • Tsinghua University


Other C9:

  • Fudan University
  • Harbin Institute of Technology
  • Nanjing University
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • University of Science and Technology of China
  • Xi’an Jiao Tong University
  • Zhejiang University



  • Tianjin University
  • Huazhong University of Science and Technology
  • Xiamen University
  • Hu’nan University
  • Central South University (also known as Zhongnan University)
  • Beijing Institute of Technology
  • Nankai University
  • Southeast University
  • Wuhan University
  • Shandong University
  • Ocean University of China
  • Jilin University
  • Dalian University of Technology
  • Chongqing University
  • Sichuan University
  • Northeast University
  • Tongji University
  • Beihang University (also known as Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics)
  • University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
  • Lanzhou University
  • Northwestern Polytechnical University
  • Beijing Normal University
  • China Agriculture University
  • Central University of Nationalities
  • Renmin University of China (also known as People’s University)
  • Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University
  • National University of Defence Technology
  • South China University of Science and Technology
  • Sun Yat-Sen University (also known as Zhongshan University)
  • East China Normal University



  • Anhui University
  • Beijing Foreign Studies University
  • Beijing Forestry University
  • Beijing Jiaotong University
  • Beijing Sport University
  • Beijing University of Chemical Technology
  • Beijing University of Chinese Medicine
  • Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications
  • Beijing University of Technology
  • Central Conservatory of Music
  • Central University of Finance and Economics
  • Chang’an University
  • China Pharmaceutical University
  • China University of Geosciences
  • China University of Mining and Technology
  • China University of Petroleum
  • China University of Political Science and Law
  • Communication University of China
  • Dalian Maritime University
  • Donghua University
  • East China University of Science and Technology
  • Fourth Military Medical University
  • Fudan University
  • Fuzhou University
  • Guangxi University
  • Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Guizhou University
  • Hainan University
  • Harbin Engineering University
  • Harbin Institute of Technology
  • Hebei University of Technology
  • Hefei University of Technology
  • Hohai University
  • Huazhong Agricultural University
  • Huazhong Normal University
  • Hunan Normal University
  • Inner Mongolia University
  • Jiangnan University
  • Jinan University
  • Liaoning University
  • Nanchang University
  • Nanjing Agricultural University
  • Nanjing Normal University
  • Nanjing University


  • Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Nanjing University of Science and Technology
  • National University of Defense Technology
  • Ningxia University
  • North China Electric Power University
  • Northeast Agricultural University
  • Northeast Forestry University
  • Northeast Normal University
  • Northwest University
  • Peking Union Medical College
  • Peking University
  • Qinghai University
  • Second Military Medical University
  • Shaanxi Normal University
  • Shanghai International Studies University
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • Shanghai University
  • Shanghai University of Finance and Economics
  • Shihezi University
  • Sichuan Agricultural University
  • South China Normal University
  • Southwest Jiaotong University
  • Southwestern University of Finance and Economics
  • Suzhou University
  • Taiyuan University of Technology
  • Tianjin Medical University
  • Tsinghua University
  • University of International Business and Economics
  • University of Science and Technology Beijing
  • University of Science and Technology of China
  • University of Tibet
  • Wuhan University of Technology
  • Xi’an Jiaotong University
  • Xidian University
  • Xinjiang University
  • Xinjiang Medical University
  • Yanbian University
  • Yunnan University
  • Zhejiang University
  • Zhengzhou University
  • Zhongnan University of Economics and Law


Quasi- governmental Graduate Rankings: The CDGDC

The China Academic Degrees & Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) is an administrative department directly under the Ministry of Education, operating under the joint leadership of The Ministry of Education and The Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council.

One of the main functions of the department is to undertake evaluations and appraisals of academic degrees and graduate education on behalf of the ministry, and as part of that role ranks graduate schools by National Key Discipline. The first such ranking was undertaken in 2002 and finished in 2004. A second round of evaluations was conducted between 2007 and 2009 with a total of 81 programs evaluated.

While the CDGDC has identified the top institutions in each program area, a methodology for the scores has proven hard to come by.

For the most recent ranking exercise (2007-09), we received a translated document with a ranking of 20 disciplines from a researcher on the project, Mr. Luo at Hebei University of Science and Technology, mainly in the arts and pure sciences. We have included the top three in each field, but can provide the full rankings for each discipline upon request. The full rankings are available in Chinese from:


  1. Peking University
  2. Renmin University
  3. Sun Yat-Sen University
  4. Fudan University
  5. Nanjing Univeristy

Theoretical Economics

      1. Renmin University
      2. Peking University
      2. Nankai University
      4. Fudan University
    5. Nanjing University

Applied Economics

      1. Renmin University
      2. Peking University
      3. Central University of Finance & Economics
      3. Shanghai University of Finance & Economics
    3. Xiamen University


      1. Renmin University
      2. China University of Political Science & Law
      3. Peking University
      3. Wuhan University
    5. Jilin University

Political Science

      1. Peking University
      1.Renmin University
      3.Fudan university
      3.Central China Normal University
      5.Nankai University
    5.Central Party School


      1. Yunnan University
      2. Lanzhou University
      3. Inner Mongolia University
      4. Xiamen University
    5. Qinghai University for Nationalities


      1. Renmin University
      2. Peking University
      3. Nankai University
      3. Nanjing University
    3. Sun Yat-sen University


  1. Beijing Normal university
  2. East China Normal University
  3. Nanjing Normal University
  4. Huangzhong Normal University
  5. Northeast Normal University


      1. Beijing Normal University
      2. Peking University
      3. Zhejiang University
      3.South China Normal University
    5.East China Normal University

Sport Science

      1. Beijing Sport University
      2. Shnghai University of Sport
      3. South China Normal University
      4. East China Normal university
      5. Tsinghua University
    5.Chengdu Sport University

Chinese Language and Literature

  1. Beijing Normal University
  2. Peking University
  3. Fudan University
  4. Nanjing University
  5. Sichuan University

Foreign Languages and Literature

  1. Peking University
  2. Beijing Foreign Studies University
  3. Guangdong University of Foreign Studies
  4. Nanjing University
  5. Tsinghua University

Journalism and Communication

      1. Renmin University
      2. Communication University
      2.Fudan University
      4.Tsinghua University
    4.Wuhan University


      1. Tsinghua University
      2. Communication University of China
      3. Southeast University
      4. Beijing Normal University
      5. Nanjing University
    5.Nanjing Arts Institute


      1. Peking University
      2. Nankai University
      3. Beijing Normal University
      3.Fudan University
      5.Renmin University
      5.Nanjing University
    5.Sun Yat-Sen University


      1.Peking University
      2.Fudan University
      3.Nankai University
      4.Zhejiang University
    5.University of Science and Technology


      1.Nanjing University
      2.University of Science and Technology of China
      3.Peking University
      4.Tsinghua University
      5.Fudan University
    5.Zhejiang University


      1.Peking University
      1.Nankai University
      3.Nanjing University
      4.Fudan University
    4.University of Science and Technology of China


      1.Peking University
      2.Beijing Normal University
      2.East China Normal University
      4.Nanjing University
    5.Lanzhou University

Business Administration

      1.Tsinghua University
      1.Xian Jiao Tong University
      3.Renmin University
      3.Nankai University
    5.Nanjing University


Chinese Academy of Management Science

The Chinese Academy of Management Science, a division of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, produces an annual ranking of Chinese universities. The methodology is somewhat unclear, but the table below offers a yearly look at the top 20 schools from 2002 to 2009.

Top 20 universities

University (membership of C9/985) 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Tsighua (C9-985) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Peking (C9-985) 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Zhejiang (C9-985) 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Shanghai Jiao Tong (C9-985) 10 9 9 7 4 4 4 4
Nanjing (C9-985) 5 6 6 5 6 5 5 5
Fudan (C9-985) 4 4 4 4 5 6 6 6
University of Science and Technology (C9-985) 14 15 15 11 13 11 7 7
Sun Yat-Sen (985) 11 10 11 10 10 12 12 8
Huazhong University of Science and Technology (985) 6 5 5 6 7 7 8 9
Wuhan (985) 7 7 7 8 8 8 9 10
Jilin (985) 9 8 8 9 9 9 11 11
Xian Jiao Tong (C9-985) 8 12 12 14 12 10 10 12
Sichuan (985) 12 13 10 12 11 13 13 13
Harbin Institute of Technology (C9-985) 15 11 13 13 14 14 14 14
Nankai (985) 21 19 19 18 17 17 16 15
Shandong (985) 13 14 14 15 15 15 15 16
Beijing Normal (985) 17
Tianjin (985) 18
Central South (985) 19
Southeast (985) 20
Renmin (985) 21

Source: China Academy of Social Sciences, retrieved from: Wikipedia

Top 50 Universities in China: Institute of Higher Education, Renmin University

The Institute of Higher Education at Renmin University produced a ranking of China’s top 50 universities based on an institution’s organizational strength and social influence.

The ranking uses a methodology that it describes as being divided 60/40 between ‘core competitiveness’ and ‘social influence’ respectively. The indicators under the core competitiveness section are ‘quantity & structure of national key disciplines’ (30%), ‘national discipline ranking’ (10%), ‘articles indexed in Science Citation Index’ (10%), ‘articles indexed in Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index’ (10%). The indicators under the social influence section are ‘average scores in national matriculation test’ (30%), ‘university name search index (7%), and ‘university president search frequency (3%).

Due to data limitations, the ranking only looked at 80 or so universities directly affiliated to the Ministry of Education, to the former Committee of Science & Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), and to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Results (2008):

1.  Peking University
2.  Tsinghua University
3.  Fudan University
4.  Renmin University of China
5.  Zhejiang University
6.  Nanjing University
7.  University of Science and Technology of China
8.  Beijing Normal University
9.  Nankai University
10.  Shanghai Jiaotong University
11.  Wuhan University
12.  Xi’an Jiaotong University
13.  Beihang University
14.  Sun Yat-sen University
15.  Xiamen University
16.  Tianjing University
17.  Harbin Institute of Technology
18.  Huazhong University of Science and Technology
19.  East China Normal University
20.  Tongji University
21.  Sichuan University
22.  China Agricultural University
23.  Shandong University
24.  Southeast University
25.  Jilin University
26.  Dalian University of Technology
27.  Beijing Institute of Technology
28.  Central South University
29.  Shanghai University of Finance and Economics
30.  Beijing Foreign Studies University
31.  China University of Political Science and Law
32.  University of Science and Technology Beijing
33.  Northwest Polytechnic University
34.  Central University of Finance and Economics
35.  University of International Business and   Economics.
36.  Hunan University
37.  Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications
38.  Beijing Jiaotong University
39.  Nanjing University of Science and Technology
40.  East China University of Science and Technology
41.  Ocean University of China
42.  Chongqing University
43.  Northeast University
44.  Huazhong Normal University
45.  South China University of Technology
46.  Shanghai International Studies University
47.  Lanzhou University
48.  Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics
49.  Northeast Normal University
50.  Communication University of China

QS Asia Ranking

The research group that used to perform the research for the Times Higher World Ranking of Universities, QS, undertook a ranking of Asian universities last year. According to the QS findings, the best universities in China are as follows:

  1. Peking University (10=)
  2. Tsinghua University (15=)
  3. University of Science & Technology of China (24)
  4. Fudan University (26)
  5. Nanjing University (27)
  6. Shanghai Jiao Tong University (29)
  7. Zhejiang University (32)
  8. Tianjin University (70)
  9. Xian Jiao Tong University (75)
  10. Tongji University (94)
  11. Southeast University (95)
  12. Shandong University (101=)
  13. Beijing Normal University (110=)
  14. Jilin University (116)
  15. Nankai University (121)
  16. Sun Yat-Sen University (125=)
  17. East China University of Science & Technology (140)
  18. Hunan University (143)
  19. Nanjing Agricultural University (144=)
  20. Beijing Institute of Technology (146)
  21. East China Normal University (148)
  22. Lanzhou University (150=)
  23. Xiamen University (151=)
  24. Yunnan University (151=)
  25. Dalian University of Technology (151=)
  26. Donghua university (161=)
  27. Suzhou University (161=)
  28. China Agricultural University (161=)
  29. Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (161=)
  30. Huazhing University of Science and Technology (161=)
  31. Renmin University (171=)
  32. Northwestern Polytechnic university (171=)
  33. Beihang University (181=)
  34. Sichuan University (181=)
  35. South China University of Technology (181=)
  36. Nanjing Normal University (191=)
  37. Northeast Normal university (1919=)
  38. Beijing Foreign Studies University (191=)

* Regional ranking in parentheses.
** An overview of the ranking methodology is available from:

QS World Ranking

Same ranking organization, less regionally oriented methodology, different results:

  1. Tsighua University (49)
  2. Peking University (52)
  3. Fudan University (103)
  4. Shanghai Jiao Tong University (153)
  5. University of Science and Technology of China (154)
  6. Nanjing University (168)
  7. Zhejiang University (247)
  8. Jilin University (401-500)
  9. Xian Jiao Tong University (401-500)
  10. Tongji University (401-500)
  11. Tianjin University (401-500)
  12. Southeast University (501-600)
  13. Shandong University (501-600)

* Global Ranking in parentheses
** An overview of the ranking methodology is available from:

Shanghai Jiao Tong World Rankings

And finally, the view from China’s ranking of world universities:

1. Nanjing University (201-302)
1. Peking University (201-302)
1. Shanghai Jiao Tong University (201-302)
1. Tsinghua University (201-302)
1. University of Science and Technology of China (201-302)
1. Zhejiang University (201-302)
7. Fudan University (303-401)
7. Shandong University (303-401)
9. China Agricultural University (402-501)
9. Dalian University of Technology (402-501)
9. Harbin Institute of Technology (402-501)
9. Huazhong University of Science and Technology (402-501)
9. Jilin University (402-501)
9. Lnzhou University (402-501)
9. Nankai University (402-501)
9. Sichuan University (402-501)
9. Sun Yat-Sen University (402-501)
9. Tianjin University (402-501)

* Global Ranking in parentheses
** An overview of the ranking methodology is available from:

Other Rankings

China University Alumni Center Rankings: (English) (Chinese)

Netbig: (Chinese)

Research Center for Chinese Science Evaluation:
An overview (in English) of the 2010 ranking can be found at the following news source:

For more on Chinese rankings and ranking methodologies, please see the August 2006 issue of WENR.

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