985 and 211 Can Only Be History

Since 1993/1998, 112 Chinese universities had been selected as part of the 211/985 programs, which have financial backing as well as reputational benefits. Today, as far as MOE is concerned, it had become history. The new framework named “double first-class / double top-class” had been carried out since 2015, which crystalizes MOE’s ambition of “producing top world-class universities as well as top disciplines”. To date, 137 universities have been selected to be part of the new framework. The 985 and 211s were born with their own flaws – they didn’t include any top universities which specialized, resulting in the need to give concessions to regional universities to balance local interests. For many years, the 985/211 have become a simple bar and in some ways a misplaced target for many international universities when considering partnerships, or even recruiting. Universities in the UK and Australia particularly pay clear favoritism to 985/211 universities and their graduates. A MOE official spoke in a news conference on May 25, 2008, stressing that the 211 Project’s purpose is to build the most important universities but not to identify China’s best universities”. This has been overlooked and the 211/985 remain misleading on many occasions today.

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