Impact of 985 Project

Impact of ‘985 project’ on research outputs of 67 key Chinese higher education institutions, using institutional data (total research journal publication) between 1998 and 2013

Overview

The rapid advances of China’s universities in major international league tables is generally believed as an accomplishment driven by initiatives for establishing world-class universities, two of which are known as Project 985 and Project 211.

This study brings together policy and statistical analysis to evaluate the impact of ‘985 project’ on research outputs of 59 key Chinese higher education institutions, using institutional data (total research journal publication) between 1998 and 2013. Among the 59 universities, 35 were sponsored by Project 985 and 24 were funded by Project 211.

We considered Project 211 universities an appropriate comparator (group) and constructed a difference-in-differences (DID) model to form the basis for discovering the net effect of Project 985. Results showed that Project 985 has had a positive effect on academic outputs of 985 universities as a whole after controlling R&D inputs. More specifically, universities entering Project 985 Phase II have gained strong momentum in publication growth in international journal or in ISI journals as a result of the project funding. However, a long-term tendency of publication stabilization was also observed in those nine universities joining Project 985 Phase I, despite the generous investment from the government. We argue that the initial differences between both phases of Project 985 would diminish and homogenizing tendencies gather force with time. Theil index decomposition was, therefore, employed to examine the stratification effect of Project 985.

Results confirmed the trend of homogenization concerning academic outputs within Project 985 universities. In contrast, the vertical differentiation between Project 985 and 211 universities has been noticeably enlarged. While sustained public funding is still vital the next step the government must take is to transform HE governance to enhance competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.

Principal investigator

Dr Xiaohua Zong

Co-Investigator

Dr Wei Zhang

Collaborating Institution in China

Nanjing University

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