This week, the China Alumni Network (CAN) released its rankings of the best colleges and universities across China. As in years past, the list was dominated by higher learning institutions from the country's mega-cities. Yunnan province landed only a single school, Yunnan University, in the top one hundred.
Peking University in Beijing garnered top honors for the eighth consecutive year. The top five was rounded out by Tsinghua (Beijing), Fudan (Shanghai), Wuhan (Hubei) and China People's University (Beijing). One needs to look down the list to number 63 to find any mention of Yunnan, and a further 55 places to spot the province's second entry.
The CAN rankings were calculated using a litany of variables including rigor of undergraduate courses, number and quality of articles published by graduate students and research professors, academic awards, graduation rate, condition of facilities and many others. Peking University received a perfect score of 100. In comparison, Yunnan University received a grade of 64.98.
In total, ten institutions in Yunnan were ranked in the CAN top 500, all of them located in Kunming but one:
63. Yunnan University (云南大学)
118. Kunming University of Science and Technology (昆明理工大学)
195. Yunnan Normal University (云南师范大学)
227. Yunnan University of Nationalities (云南民族大学)
255. Yunnan Agricultural University (云南农业大学)
281. Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (云南财经大徐)
297. Kunming Medical University (昆明医科大学)
383. Southwest Forestry University (西南林亚大学)
418. Yunnan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (云南中医学院)
466. Dali University (大理学院)
Yunnan has struggled to place its universities highly on similar previous lists of this type, typically trailing many other provincial capitals such as Chengdu in Sichuan. Such educational shortcomings are at least in part the result of woefully underfunded rural primary and secondary schools. In Yunnan's far-flung villages, drop-out rates can reach as high as 40 percent as adolescents either leave school early to work on family farms or move to larger cities in search of jobs.
Education authorities in Kunming are actively working to address institutional deficiencies, seemingly at all levels. Last year, the city government earmarked 678 million yuan (US$109 million) for upgrading school buildings, hiring more teachers, and enrolling more students, all while attempting to shrink class sizes. While that effort only affects children in the Spring City, provincial officials launched a tuition forgiveness program targeting incoming college freshmen.
The pilot program, began last year, allows new university students to apply for tuition grants if they plan to major in the fields of agriculture, agroforestry, medicine, mining, teaching or water conservancy. In return, qualified graduates will be required to commit to three years of community service in one of Yunnan's 28 "border counties or Tibetan areas".
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