National Key Universities
National Key Universities (Chinese: 国家重点大学) previously referred to universities recognized as prestigious and which received a high level of support from the central government of the People's Republic of China. The term is no-longer in official use, however, it remains part of the vernacular, as evidenced by numerous Chinese media articles which still refer to "National Key Universities".
A list of 16 National Key Universities was first promulgated by the Chinese government in 1959, and included Renmin University, Peking University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, East China Normal University and the University of Science and Technology of China. In 1960, another 44 universities were added to this list. By 1978, there were 88 National Key Universities. At the end of the 20th Century, after reforms to the system of higher education in China, the Chinese government instituted a two tier system of universities, namely universities managed by the central government and universities managed by provincial governments. The majority of universities would be managed by provincial governments. A small number of universities which affected national development or were highly specialized would be managed by the Chinese Ministry of Education (or by a few other ministries). The term "National Key Universities" then became defunct. Universities under the Chinese Ministry of Education, of which there are currently 75, became known as "Universities directly under the Ministry of Education" (教育部直属高校)").
The term "zhòngdiǎn" 重点, translated here as "key," in this phrase can also be translated as "major," "priority," or "focal." 
See also 
- The Chinese-English Dictionary (Heian International Pub. Co., 1979).
- What is the difference between Universities directly under the Ministry of Education and National Key Universities? - Chinese Ministry of Education
- zh:中华人民共和国全国重点大学列表 (list)
- List of Universities directly under the Ministry of Education - Chinese Ministry of Education
- National list of key universities - China Education Online