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By May of 2017, there were 2,914 colleges and universities, with over 20 million students enrolled in mainland China. More than 6 million Chinese students graduated from university in 2008. The "Project 211" for creating 100 universities began in the mid-1990s, and has merged more than 700 institutions of higher learning into about 300 universities. Corresponding with the merging of many public universities, has been the rapid expansion of the private sector in mainland China since 1999. Although private university enrollments are not clear, one report listed that in 2006 private universities accounted for around 6 percent, or about 1.3 million, of the 20 million students enrolled in formal higher education in China.
The following notation is used:
The default list should follow the neutral order provided by MOE, namely the numerical order of identification codes.
Peking University is the first formally established modern national university of China. It was founded as Imperial University of Peking (京師大學堂) in 1898 in Beijing as a replacement of the ancient Guozijian, the national central institute of learning in China's traditional educational system in the past thousands of years. Three years earlier, Sheng Xuanhuai submitted a memorial to Guangxu Emperor to request for approval to set up a modern higher education institution in Tianjin. After approval on 2 October 1895, Peiyang Western Study School (天津北洋西學學堂) was founded by him and American educator Charles Daniel Tenney (丁家立) and later developed to Peiyang University (北洋大學堂). In 1896, Sheng Xuanhuai delivered his new memorials to Guangxu Emperor to make suggestion that two official modern higher education institutions should be established in Beijing/Tangshan and Shanghai. In the same year, he founded Nanyang Public School (南洋公學) in Shanghai by an imperial edict issued by Guangxu Emperor. The institution initially included elementary school, secondary school, college, and a normal school. Later the institution changed its name to Jiao Tong University (also known as Chiao Tung University). In the 1930s, the university often referred itself as "MIT in the East" due to its reputation of nurturing top engineers and scientists. In the 1950s, part of this university was moved to Xi'an, Shaanxi, and was established as Xi'an Jiaotong University; the part of the university remaining in Shanghai was renamed Shanghai Jiao Tong University. These two universities have developed independently since then, along with the original Beijing Jiaotong University.
Meanwhile, Wuhan University also claimed that its predecessor Ziqiang Institute (自強學堂) was the first modern higher education institution in China. On 29 November 1893, Zhang Zhidong submitted his memorial to Guangxu Emperor to request for approval to set up an institution designed for training students specializing in foreign languages, mathematics, science and business. After Ziqiang was founded in Wuchang, not only courses in foreign languages was taught, courses in science (chemical and mining courses starting from 1896) and business (business course starting from the very beginning) were also developed at the school. Later, although the school officially changed its name to Foreign Languages Institute (方言學堂) in 1902, the school still offered courses in science and business. In China, there had been some earlier schools specializing in foreign languages learning, such as Schools of Combined Learning in Beijing (京師同文館, founded in 1862[remark 1]), in Shanghai (上海同文館/上海廣方言館, founded in 1863), and in Guangzhou (廣州同文館), founded in 1864, but few provided courses in other fields, which hardly qualified as modern education institutions. Some argued that Wuhan University can only traced its history back to 1913, when the National Wuchang Higher Normal College (國立武昌高等師範學校) was established, but Wuhan University officially recognized its establishment as in 1893, relying on the abundance of historical documentation and the experts' endorsement.
Besides, Tianjin University celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1995, which would predate the establishment of Peking University. Jiao Tong University (in all Beijing Jiaotong University, Shanghai and Xi'an) followed in 1996. Other leading universities, such as Zhejiang University (1897), Peking University (1898), Shanxi University (1902), Nanjing University (1902), Fudan University (1905), Tongji University (1907) and Tsinghua University (1911) also recently celebrated their hundredth anniversaries, one after another.
After the Chinese Civil War, parts of some famous universities of mainland China were transferred to Taiwan: notably the National Central University and National Tsing Hua University. As a result, some universities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait share the same names.
The C9 League is an alliance of nine most prestigious universities in mainland China, including Fudan University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Nanjing University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tsinghua University, University of Science and Technology of China, Xi'an Jiaotong University, and Zhejiang University. People's Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, and others refer to the C9 League as China's Ivy League.  These nine universities made up the C9 League in 2009. According to QS World University Rankings 2015/16, most of these universities are considered as among the top 200 universities in the world.
This is a table of Project 985 institutions.
|Beijing (7)||Peking University|
|Renmin University of China|
|Beijing Normal University|
|Beijing Institute of Technology|
|China Agricultural University|
|Tianjin (2)||Nankai University|
|Heilongjiang||Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin|
|Jilin||Jilin University, Changchun|
|Liaoning||Dalian University of Technology, Dalian|
|Anhui||University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei|
|Fujian||Xiamen University, Xiamen|
|Jiangsu (2)||Nanjing University, Nanjing|
|Southeast University, Nanjing|
|Shandong (2)||Shandong University, Jinan|
|Ocean University of China, Qingdao|
|Shanghai (4)||Fudan University|
|Shanghai Jiao Tong University|
|East China Normal University|
|Zhejiang (1)||Zhejiang University, Hangzhou|
|South Central (6)|
|Guangdong (2)||Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou|
|South China University of Technology, Guangzhou|
|Hubei (2)||Wuhan University, Wuhan|
|Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan|
|Hunan (2)||Hunan University, Changsha|
|Central South University, Changsha|
|Shaanxi (2)||Northwestern Polytechnical University, Xi'an|
|Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an|
|Gansu||Lanzhou University, Lanzhou|
|Sichuan (2)||Sichuan University, Chengdu|
|University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu|
China has a number of Sino-foreign cooperative universities, which are legally independent entities formed as joint ventures between Chinese universities and international partners. They include:
|Hong Kong (6)||The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, The University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Baptist University|
|Macau (1)||University of Macau|
Some established rankings in Wikipedia:
Other rankings in external links: