Project 985 is a constructive project for founding world-class universities in the 21st century conducted by the government of China. The Project reflects a conscious strategy to concentrate resources on a handful of institutions with the greatest potential for success in the international academic marketplace. Also, the Project implies recognition that China will probably fail to develop 100 internationally recognized institutions, at least in the short run.
Supplemental to 211 funding are three-year grants that were made available to a smaller group of universities under what is known as the 985 Project. Some observers believe the introduction of the 985 Project suggests that the Chinese government recognizes it may fail to develop 100 universities of world-class standing in the near future as the money has been too thinly spread.
When it was first announced in 1998, funding was made available to an elite group of 10 universities, including Beijing, Tsinghua, Fudan, Zhejiang and Nanjing. Both Beijing University and Tsinghua University, the top two ranked universities in China, were granted US$225 million each over five years, while Nanjing University and Shanghai Jiaotong University each received US$150 million. The second phase of the 985 Project, launched in 2004, widened the number of universities to 36.
In addition to developing new research centers and improving facilities, much of the 985 funding is being used to hold international conferences, attract world-renowned faculty and visiting scholars, and to help Chinese faculty attend conferences abroad. Through these international networking opportunities Chinese universities are exploring ways to partner with top institutions around the world. As a result, dual-degree programs and joint-venture campuses are now becoming increasingly common and foreign institutions are more aware than ever of the need to engage with China and Chinese academia.
The ability to offer competitive salaries will be critical for Chinese universities in attracting top international faculty. If they can lure and retain top academic talent then Chinese universities will no doubt begin to perform better on the Shanghai ranking and other international rankings.
985 University list: