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Project 985 Universities

The Chinese higher education system has undergone multiple rounds of reform over the last 40 years. In an attempt to build out a basic classification system of Chinese universities similar to ranking systems in other countries, there are three basic classification nomenclatures: Project 985, Project 211 and C-9. This is similar to the US university classification system of Tier 1 to Tier 3.

Project 985 (Chinese: 985工程; pinyin: 985 gōngchéng) is a project first announced by the Communist Party in China (CPC), China’s General Secretary and Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the 100th anniversary of Peking University on May 4, 1998. The project was designed to promote the development and reputation of China’s higher education system. The idea was to create a group of universities regarded as the best across the country, similar to the Ivy League in the US. Over time the term “985” university became the term for universities that met the high standards established by the government. The term originated from the date of the announcement, using the Chinese date format for May 1998.

Project 985 involves both national and local governments allocating large amounts of funding to select universities in order to build new research centers, improve facilities, hold international conferences, attract world-renowned faculty and visiting scholars, and help Chinese faculty attend conferences abroad.

When it was first announced in 1998, funding for Project 985 was made available to an elite group of 9 universities. These 9 universities made up the C9 League in 2009, which is the Chinese equivalent of the Ivy League. By the end of the first phase of the project, 35 universities were sponsored. In the second phase of the project, four more universities were added to the list, bringing the total number to 39. In 2011 it was announced that the project would not admit other universities.

C9 League Universities (in alphabetical order):

Fudan University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Nanjing University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tsinghua University, University of Science and Technology of China, Xi'an Jiao Tong University and Zhejiang University

39 universities supported by Project 985 (in alphabetical order):

Beihang University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing Normal University, Central South University, China Agricultural University, Chongqing University, Dalian University of Technology, East China Normal University, Fudan University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Hunan University, Jilin University, Lanzhou University, Minzu University of China, Nanjing University, Nankai University, National University of Defense Technology, Northeastern University, Northwest A&F University, Northwestern Polytechnical University, Ocean University of China, Peking University, Renmin University of China, Shandong University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Sichuan University, South China University of Technology, Southeast University, Sun Yat-sen University, Tianjin University, Tongji University, Tsinghua University, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, University of Science and Technology of China, Wuhan University, Xiamen University, Xi'an Jiao Tong University, Zhejiang University

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