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Yunnan's universities underperforming nationally, regionally

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The results are in for the annual ranking of China's top universities by 21st Century HR Report (21世纪人才报) and once again Yunnan's top universities lag behind much of the rest of the country.

For the third year in a row, Beijing's Peking University topped the list, followed by Tsinghua University in Beijing and Fudan University in Shanghai. The top five were rounded out by Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and Shanghai Jiaotong University.

Yunnan, China's ninth-largest province in terms of population, only had two universities make the top 100 this year. Yunnan University slipped two places from its 2009 ranking to number 64 this year and Kunming University of Science and Technology barely made it in at the 100 spot.

Compared to its neighbors in southwest China, Yunnan fared better than Guizhou and Guangxi, who had one university each, with Guizhou University placing 89th and Guangxi University 95th.

Sichuan and Chongqing had much stronger showings, with Sichuan University ranking 12th and Chongqing University 31st. Sichuan was represented by an additional three universities in the top 100 and Chongqing's Southwest University ranked 50th.

The comparatively high quality of university graduates in both Chengdu and Chongqing is one of the main reasons that the two cities have eclipsed the rest of southwest Chinese cities in the race for domestic and foreign investment.

Yunnan University Party Secretary Liu Shaohuai (刘绍怀) told local media that slight ranking fluctuations were a normal phenomenon.

Liu said that one organization's rankings shouldn't be the basis for assessing an academic institution, adding that Yunnan University would do everything it can to be in the top 50 within a decade.

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Many teachers, both Chinese and foreign, who are aware of this report will make it a subject of comment today. Of course, the greatest contributing factor for these results is financial which results in an energy spiral strengthened by the attraction of foreign experts and, thus, the best students. Therefore, in a way, it goes without saying that the Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing universities will lead the pack.

Having spent my extended China teaching time equally in Chengdu and Kunming, I am aware of some contributing factors that Liu Shaohuai ignores. Obviously, as a diligent political member of the Party, it is unlikely that his education has concentrated on much more than propaganda and, thus, some very good teachers at Yunnan University (known to me personally) who are not active Party members are given little attention.

I remember meeting a Chinese senior English-language teacher who had been introduced, proudly, with a Ph.D. Upon enquiry, I learnt that her dissertation was about Ethnic Tourism. Is there a link between ethnic groups and language? Yes, but will this knowledge improve the teaching of language in Yunnan? Very little, in my opinion. There is also the memory of my first introduction to a Kunming university - My guide proudly telling me that 90% of the university's teachers had a bachelor degree. Seeking more information, I learnt that of the remaining 9% comprised those with masters and doctorates, but 1% (approximately) only had a college diploma. I understand that this is no longer the case.

Yet, by comparison, I know of an elderly foreign tenured-professor from a top U.S. university, with two doctorates, who visits Kunming for six months every year - he teaches privately during his visit and has never been approached to assist with the university assessments that Mr. Liu seems to advocate.

Finally, I should be interested to know why there is a 60 years-old age cut-off for useful foreign experts ... perhaps related but a whole new subject.

@gokm - looking forwards to your review of this piece in 2012 (I seem to have missed the 2011 review)...


laotou: the 2011 table can be found here:

Yunnan Uni dropped from 64 to 67, and is the only Yunnan university included in the top 100 table.


Thanks - I was hoping to prod gokm to make this news item a regular annual feature.

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