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【Learn Chinese】Universities in China
Did you know that China has the largest higher education system in the world? China has around 3,000 universities (大学 dà xué) and colleges, with a total student body population around 30 million (including foreign students). The enrollment in tertiary education in China went from less than 10% in the late 90s to around 50% in 2019.
The Gao Kao (高考 gāo kǎo)
With more students hoping to enter a college or university than there are open spaces, the admissions process is quite intense and incredibly competitive. The National Higher Education Entrance Exam (普通高等学校招生全国统一考试 pǔ tōng gāo děng xué xiào zhāo shēng quán guó tǒng yī kǎo shì), or Gao Kao (高考 gāo kǎo) for short. This exam lasts for a grueling 9 hours a day over 2-3 days, and varies in different provinces.
Standard Chinese (普通话 pǔ tōng huà) and mathematics (数学 shù xué) are the two biggest subjects on the Gao Kao exam. Students can also choose one of six foreign languages (外语 wài yǔ) – English, French, Japanese, Russian, German or Spanish – although most choose English as they study it throughout their early school years. Students need to choose between a liberal arts tendency (文科倾向 wén kē qīng xiàng) or a science tendency (理科倾向 lǐ kē qīng xiàng) for the final portion of their exam.
The Gao Kao causes a tremendous amount of stress for students, parents, and teachers. The exam basically dominates the lives of teenagers in China. A high score is their ticket to a prestigious university, while failing it causes one to “lose face” (丢面子 diū miàn zi). It’s so stressful that many schools even block off traffic in front of the building on test day to decrease the distractions.
Higher Learning in China
For those students who study hard enough and have the smarts to actually make it beyond high school, there are many options for higher learning. There are national universities, as administered by the Chinese Ministry of Education (中华人民共和国教育部 zhōng huá rén mín gòng hé guó jiào yù bù). These schools are known as “Universities directly under the MOE” (教育部直属高校 jiào yù bù zhí shǔ gāo xiào).
In addition, there are provincial universities that are administered by the particular province along with other public universities administered by the municipality. Finally, there has been an influx of privately owned and funded higher learning institutions in the last decade. With so many options to choose from, which institutions are regarded as the best in the land? Here are the top 10 universities in China:
Tsinghua University (清华大学 qīng huá dà xué)
Peking University (北京大学 běi jīng dà xué)
Zhejiang University (浙江大学 zhè jiāng dà xué)
Shanghai Jiaotong University (上海交通大学 shàng hǎi jiāo tōng dà xué)
Nanjing University (南京大学 nán jīng dà xué)
Fudan University (复旦大学 fù dàn dà xué)
University of Science and Technology of China (中国科学技术大学 zhōng guó kē xué jì shù dà xué)
Huazhong University of Science and Technology (华中科技大学 huá zhōng kē jì dà xué)
Wuhan University (武汉大学 wǔ hàn dà xué)
Xi’an Jiaotong University (西安交通大学 xī’ān jiāo tōng dà xué)