A Beginners Guide to Key Terms in Chinese Higher Education

211 Programme

The 211 programme confers “National Key University” status on its member universities and colleges. The top 6% of China’s universities are included in the programme (the name of which refers to the top 100 universities in the 21st century). The 211 members together receive 70% of total science research funding awarded in China and account for 96% of the State’s Key laboratories. In phase I of the programme over £1.3 Billion was awarded to just over 100 universities.

973 Programme

The 973 Programme (aka the National Basic Research Programme) provides funding to develop basic research, innovations and technologies aligned with China’s national priorities in economic and social development.

985 Programme

This initiative (announced in May 1985) is intended to foster the development of world class universities and research institutions, and to support a small number of already renowned universities in China. In 2009, nine universities made up the C9 League of 985 member universities and by 2011, when the 985 programme closed its doors to new admissions, 39 universities had been included. Membership of the 985 programme may be considered analogous to that of the Russel Group in the UK.

C9 League

A reference to the original nine member universities of the 985 Programme.

China Scholarship Council (CSC)

Student funding in China is administered by the Ministry of Education through the CSC. There are five categories of funding for students in higher education in China:

  1. Grants: The State Grant program was established in 2002 to award excellent needy undergraduate students attending recognized higher education institutions
  2. Scholarships: Since 1986, these merit based scholarships have been the primary source of support available to college students
  3. Work-study: In 1994 “Regulations on building work-study funds in regular higher education institutions” were issued requiring all institutions to offer work-study programmes aimed at helping less affluent students
  4. Tuition waivers: These are offered only in cases of exceptional hardship to a small number of students each year
  5. Student loans. These have been available since 1986 and fall into three categories – the General-Commercial Student Loans Scheme (GCSL), the Government-Subsidized Student Loans Scheme (GSSL), and the Government-subsidized Student Resident Loan (SRL) scheme.

See also: Ministry of Education


The China national university examinations, of which there are two kinds. The first, and most often talked about, is the “National College Entrance Examination”(Pu Tong Gao Kao) which is taken by high school students. Registration for this exam is through a website run by the student’s provincial education authority. Although the exam is national, the questions and style can vary slightly from province to province. The second Gaokao is the “Adult university entrance exam” (Cheng Ren Gaokao) which is for students hoping to take postgraduate courses at university (e.g., Masters degrees). In addition, there is a third, doctoral, entrance exam provided at the individual university level, for those intending to progress from a higher degree to a PhD.

Independent Recruitment (Zi Zhu Zhao Sheng)

Until recently this was a route by which universities and students could by-pass the Gaokao exams. Under Independent Recruitment students would register their application directly with their university of choice, they would then take that university’s own entrance exams. Independent Recruitment is particularly popular with China’s “Oxbridge” universities. The Gaokao system is due to change in 2015, with all students required to take the Gaokao and all applicants will have to rely on their Gaokao scores even if applying to a university directly.

Ministry of Education (MoE)

The MoE is an organ of the State Council of China. The MoE is responsible for the distribution of much of the higher education funding in China and it administers the 211 Programme. The MoE is also responsible for determining the government’s appropriation towards the operational costs of each university, and for determining the maximum tuition fees chargeable to students in each province. The provision of scholarships for PhD students and postdoctoral research is managed by the China Scholarship Council (CSC), an affiliate of the MoE. In addition, the MoE has a close role in the operation and support of China’s “Normal Universities”, which are universities specializing in teacher training.

See also: 211 Programme, China Scholarship Council

Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST)

The MoST, together with the MoE, is one of the main offices of the State Council responsible for the distribution of research funding across Chinese universities and other research institutions. Together with the China NSF, the MoST coordinates research within the 973 programme. The MoST and NSF fund individual research projects and larger collaborative projects, networks and major initiatives in China.

See also: the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSF)

National Evaluation of Primary Disciplines

This is China’s equivalent of a unified Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). There have been two National Evaluations, with the most recent held in 2007-2009. The Disciplines were fields such as arts, mechanics, materials science and engineering, electrical engineering, electronic science and technology, information and telecommunications, control science and engineering, computer science and technology, architecture, nuclear science and technology, environmental science and engineering, and business administration. A university could be awarded strengths in one or several disciplines and thereby attract additional funding in these areas; however, following an announcement in July 2014, it appears that the National Key Disciplines Accreditation Council will be disbanded and the assessment procedure for future evaluations has yet to be announced.

National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSF)

The NSF was founded in 1986 for the management of the National Natural Science Fund, aimed at promoting and financing basic research and applied research in China. The NSF is also involved in coordinating research under the 973 programme with the MoST. The NSF awards almost all of the project grants for principal-investigator-led, individual projects, in China.

See also: 973 Programme, Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST)

“Sunshine entrance: admissions information dissemination and management platform” (Yang Guang Gao Kao)

The portal includes university profiles, application numbers, and ranking data, making it almost a one-stop-shop for university applications. This is a the website through which prospective undergraduate students can register their Gaokao scores and choose their list of preferred universities. All information relevant to university applications (university prospectuses, entrance requirements and enrollment procedures) is reviewed by the higher authorities and then made available via this system. The portal ensures that all applicants have followed the correct application procedure (i.e., registration, medical and background check, sitting the entrance exam, and choosing a short-list of preferred universities and courses). The portal is also a defence against “fake universities” which have no degree awarding power, but which have been known to attract unwitting or desperate parents.

See also: Independent Recruitment (Zi Zhu Zhao Sheng) and Gaokao

State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA)

This organ of the State Council of China is responsible for regulating and administering the procedures governing the recruitment, immigration, employment and conduct of foreign experts in China. The SAFEA approves those organizations permitted to recruit Foreign Experts (FEs), issues the Foreign Experts Invitation Confirmation Certificates which are required for the FEs visa application (Z-visa) and sets the conditions for FEs residence in China (e.g., medical examinations, financial regulation, etc). All FE’s employed in China are required to sign a contract with the SAFEA as well as with their employer. The SAFEA also issues the Foreign Experts Certificate (FEC), which is a necessary document for residence permit applications (to enable the FE to reside in China), visa renewals and the FEC also confers upon the holder certain privilidges regarding the import and export of personal and professional effects, currency exchange and supports the visa applications of accompanying family and/or dependents.

Foreign Experts

Those who come to China to work for periods in excess of 6 months; they are mainly either educational, scientific, cultural and medical experts (usually employed by colleges, universities, technology institutes, museums etc), who have Bachelor Degrees and at least 2 years professional experience or economic, technical and managerial experts invited by Chinese Government agencies, economic and social managerial departments, and by units in the fields of industry, commerce, finance, politics and law. The second category also includes foreign investors, legal representatives or senior managers in foreign invested enterprises, and technicians who are engaged in production and management, if they have bachelor degrees (or equivalent) and 5 years or more experience of management. All Foreign Experts fall under the special administration of the SAFEA.

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所有应用程序信息和数据将受 GDPR 保护

All the application information and data will be protected under GDPR


所有应用程序信息和数据将受 GDPR 保护

All the application information and data will be protected under GDPR


所有应用程序信息和数据将受 GDPR 保护

All the application information and data will be protected under GDPR