Mar 30, 2018 07:05 PM

Two Top Universities Are Letting Students Down, Report Claims

The main gate of Peking University in Beijing is seen on Jan. 20. Photo: VCG
The main gate of Peking University in Beijing is seen on Jan. 20. Photo: VCG

Beijing’s Peking and Tsinghua universities have long been heralded as China’s top contenders for taking on world-class institutions such as Harvard and Oxford.

But a recent ranking of Chinese universities has the pair trailing behind even some of the country’s less-prestigious institutions.

The rankings — which looked at a group of universities that the government wants to be world-class in the coming decades — rated institutions on four criteria, including students’ extracurricular activities and student growth.

Tsinghua University ranked 16th with 72.7 out of 100 points, while Peking University came in 21st with 71.4 points in the rankings, published by Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, a joint venture by Xi’an Jiaotong University and England’s Liverpool University.

Shanghai Jiaotong University leads the list with 81.2 points, with Fudan University — also in Shanghai — and Beijing’s Renmin University rounding out the top three with 79.4 and 79.2 points respectively.

Peking and Tsinghua universities have consistently appeared on global top 50 and top 100 lists of higher-learning institutions in recent years. Tsinghua ranked 24 in the QS World University Rankings in 2017, and Peking was in 39th place.

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, based in Suzhou in the eastern province of Jiangsu, said that its rankings are closely tied to how students learn and grow on campus as opposed to what schools have achieved academically.

It gives Peking University only 18.4 points for student growth in comparison with 24.2 for Shanghai Jiaotong University.

“In many occasions in China, schools that excel in research and development have troubling records in teaching,” the report that accompanied the list said.

“Teaching staff at many renowned universities are so overwhelmed with pressure to publish academic papers that they have little time and energy left for students.”

In September, 42 universities, including Peking and Tsinghua, were included on a list of institutions that the central government hopes will become world-class by 2050. Another 96 were tasked with improving their research and teaching facilities in specific fields to match top-tier global institutions.

China must do more to train top-tier talent to fulfill its grand vision of world-class universities and labs, according to Shao Guosong, a vice dean of Shanghai Jiaotong University’s School of Media & Design.

But Chinese colleges are often evaluated by the government based on the number of academic papers, books and inventions their teaching staff have churned out as well as criteria such as the ratio of teaching staff to students, he said.

“On the other hand, they don’t pay much attention to improving the level of teaching because it’s difficult to measure its quality,” Shao said.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (

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