The first overseas branch of a mainland university will open to undergraduate students next month, in Vientiane. And, as Patrick Boehler discovers, getting to grips with Laos and its authorities has taught the representatives from Suzhou a thing or two.
Project 211 (Chinese: 211工程; pinyin: 211 gōngchéng) is a project of National Key Universities and colleges initiated in 1995 by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China, with the intent of raising the research standards of high-level universities and cultivating strategies for socio-economic development. During the first phase of the project, from 1996 to 2000, approximately US$2.2 billion was distributed.
China today has more than 1,700 standard institutions of higher education, with about 6 percent of them being 211 Project institutions (having met certain scientific, technical, and human resources standards and offer advanced degree programs). 211 Project schools take on the responsibility of training four-fifths of doctoral students, two-thirds of graduate students, half of students from abroad and one-third of undergraduates. They offer 85% of the state's key subjects, hold 96 percent of the state's key laboratories, and utilize 70% of scientific research funding.
The name for the project comes from an abbreviation of the 21st century and 100 (approximately participating universities).