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Renmin University pulls itself out of overseas ranking systems

By ZOU SHUO | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-11 10:04

Renmin University of China has decided not to participate in any overseas university rankings, the website of China National Radio has reported, citing multiple sources familiar with the matter.

The university's administrators have reached a consensus and made the decision to withdraw the university from overseas rankings, which conforms with the overall direction of China's education development and will become a trend, the report said.

The withdrawal reflects the autonomy and courage of Chinese universities, education and culture, a source said, adding that China's knowledge system, which has lasted for thousands of years, is the longest and most extensive in the world.

Previously in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and overall plan of building world-class universities and disciplines, Nanjing University said it no longer considers overseas rankings as a development target, according to a recent release from the website of the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission.

A source from Lanzhou University told CNR that the university has never participated in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

It submitted information to QS World University Rankings once when approached by the institution but has not done so afterward, the source said.

Educational autonomy featuring high quality, profound cultural inheritance and Chinese characteristics have long been envisioned and underscored by top authorities in China.

In his visit to Renmin University of China last month, President Xi Jinping called on young people to blaze a new path in building world-class universities with Chinese characteristics, rather than simply following foreign standards and models.

In a visit to Peking University in 2014, Xi said there will never be a second Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT or Cambridge, but there will always be a first PKU, Tsinghua, Zhejiang, Fudan and Nanjing university.

By simply following others and letting go of Chinese characteristics, the country's building of world-class universities will never be successful, he stressed.

Hong Dayong, director of the Ministry of Education's department of degree management and postgraduate education, said no consideration was given to the rankings of universities or research papers published in reviewing universities to include in its list for the "double world-class project".

The list encourages universities to pursue distinctive and differentiated development, serve national development strategies and nurture top and innovative talent, he said at a news conference.

In response to a proposal made in 2019 by a deputy of the National People's Congress about regulating university rankings published by social organizations, the ministry said these rankings have played a positive role, but also have many shortcomings.

The ministry said it would guide universities to treat the rankings rationally. In its evaluation of universities and disciplines, the ministry pays more attention to their talent cultivation and actual contributions.

The ministry would also work with authorities to punish acts of unfair competition in the rankings.

Xiong Bingqi, director of 21st Century Education Research Institute, said while Chinese universities and disciplines have risen steadily in overseas rankings in recent years, their global influence and attractiveness to top international students have not improved much as climbing the rankings is mainly due to more papers being published.

Judging whether a university is world-class or not depends on whether it has cultivated top talent and made original and significant research for world development, he said.

Zhou Guangli, education professor and executive director of the evaluation research center at Renmin University of China, said that for a long time, "foreign standards and rankings" based on research papers published has put huge public opinion pressure on Chinese universities.

These rankings value the university's scale, number of papers, academic research and development in natural science, while overlooking talent cultivation, educational quality and social sciences, he said.

Xie Bo, a professor at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, said different university ranking institutions have different standards of evaluation, so some universities actively promote their high positions in certain rankings while hiding other low rankings.

The rankings have far-reaching impacts, such as in student enrollment, teacher recruitment, and even resource allocation and social impact, Xie said in an article published in Guangming Daily.

Universities can be evaluated, but they should not be ranked, which leads to excessive competition, and they should return to their most fundamental task of cultivating talent, the article added.

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