Guide to Chinese Universities: What are the Project 211, Project 985 and C9 League?

The rise of Chinese universities in global esteem is one of the greatest success stories in higher education. In the QS World University Rankings 2019, 40 Chinese Universities were in the world’s best universities list. This number is a far cry from the five Chinese Universities 16 years ago.

For the last decade, China has heavily invested in higher education and internationalization. To attain world-class status in higher education, the Chinese government developed the Project 211, Project 985 and the C9 League in the mid-1990s.

Learn more about the purpose of these national initiatives, including how they promote internationalization and which Chinese universities belong under each project.

3 Types of Higher Education Institutions in China

According to data from the Chinese government’s Ministry of Education (MOE), there are 2,914 colleges and universities in mainland China. These Chinese universities are classified under three initiatives.

1. Project 211

Project 211 is an education initiative that started in 1995. The project has funded over 100 Chinese universities with the purpose of elevating them to international academic standards by the end of the 21st century. Project 211 also aims to support universities in their research standards and capacity.

All the universities in this project are all high-ranking in China and the world. They have the best teaching equipment and are internationally recognized for their research contributions. Under the Project 211, MOE lists 112 Chinese universities.

2. Project 985

With the Project 211 being a huge success, the Project 985 was created during the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Beijing University (May, 1998). The purpose of Project 985 is to create elite universities from the 39 universities under the 211 Project. It also aims to promote international cooperation and exchange, and attract international students.

Project 985 initially provided more funding to 9 Chinese universities. This includes: Tsinghua University, Zhejiang University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Xi’an Jiao Tong University, University of Science and Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology, Beijing University, Fudan University and Nanjing University.

In 2004, 30 additional Chinese universities were added during the second phase of the 985 Project. The MOE lists 39 universities in this project.

3. C9 League

In 2009, the C9 League was formed out of the initial nine prestigious universities from Project 985. The purpose of the C9 League is to formally create an elite group of Chinese universities, attract the most talented students worldwide and share resources.

Member universities of the league receive substantial support and funding from the Chinese national and local governments. The C9 League hosts 3% of China’s research scholars, receives 10% of national research budget and produces 20% of cited academic papers in China. They are also a priority in grants and special privileges.

All the nine universities in the C9 League top major publications of world university rankings such as QS World, ARWU and Times Higher Education.

Member universities of the C9 League.

How can studying in Project 211, Project 985 and C9 League universities help international students? 

Higher education institutions under these projects are seen in China and the rest of the world as the most supreme and highest quality universities in China.

Beyond the prestige, member universities in the three initiatives have a globally-competitive curriculum, world-class professors, a diverse and highly talented student population and a vast network of powerful alumni.

They provide countless opportunities for students after graduation and connect you with the top companies in China. Member universities under these initiatives have modern and state-of-the-art facilities and beautiful campuses which are conducive for learning. In addition, they place special emphasis on helping you immerse with the Chinese culture, the history and traditional customs of China.


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