Chinese universities want to give up international rankings

Science 12 May, 2022

After the economic decoupling, will we see an academic decoupling? The universities of Nanjing, Lanzhou and especially the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing have decided to no longer participate in the international rankings of higher education. It was the National Radio website that broadcast this information, adding that «this is going to become a trend».

The announcement comes on the heels of a high-profile visit by President Xi Jinping to Renmin University on April 25. He said at the time that «China is a country with a unique history, a distinct culture and a special national context» and that «we cannot blindly follow others or just copy foreign standards and models when we build world-class universities».

In his eyes, «in order to chart a new path for world-class universities with Chinese characteristics, we must remain faithful to the party leadership and the orientation of Marxism and serve the cause of the party and the people». In the evening, television had shown Xi Jinping leaving the university to the applause of a crowd chanting: «We will remain loyal to the party and live up to the people’s trust».

For now, Western observers remain cautious. «We don’t know if it’s just propaganda or a real substantive movement that will affect university relations», – says a diplomat in Beijing. However, Xi Jinping has been preparing such a move for several years. In May 2014, visiting Peking University, he said: «There will never be a second Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT or Cambridge, but there will always be a first Peking University, Tsinghua, Zhejiang, Fudan and Nanjing».

On September 22, 2020, he held a meeting at which he instructed the leaders of the educational and cultural world to «implement the master plan for evaluating education in a new era», the plan of which will be published in a few days.