Minzu University of China
|Central University for Nationalities|
|Affiliation||State Ethnic Affairs Commission|
|1,991 (including academic staff)|
|Location||Beijing, Beijing Municipality, People's Republic of China
Minzu University of China (MUC, simplified Chinese: 中央民族大学; traditional Chinese: 中央民族大學; pinyin: Zhōngyāng Mínzú Dàxúe) is a national-level university located in Haidian District, Beijing, China designated for ethnic minorities in China. Minzu University is the top university in China specially for ethnic minorities and aims to be one of the best universities of its kind in the world. With the strong support of Chinese government, it has developed rapidly over the years. It is currently one of the most prestigious universities in China in fields of ethnology, anthropology, ethnic economies, regional economics, religion studies, History, Dance and fine arts. The university has been selected as one of 38 national key universities to directly receive funding from Project 211 and Project 985, aspiring to build itself into a worldwide known leading university. It is commonly regarded as one of the most respected institutes for higher learning in China. It is colloquially known as Míndà in Putonghua. It was formerly known in English as the Central University for Nationalities (CUN).
The Chinese name has the meaning "central ethnic university", suggesting a national-level university focused on serving minority ethnic groups. The old English name translated the ethnic term as "nationalities", based on the term used in German and Russian language Marxist texts. On 20 November 2008, the university changed its official English name, apparently citing concerns that "central" might imply a location in the geographical centre of China (as it does in South-Central University for Nationalities), and the old name did not sound good. The name change of Renmin University has been cited as a precedent. The new name obscures the university's ethnic character, although student opinion has focused more on the fact that it makes obsolete the university's nickname, "the village". The Chinese word for village (Chinese: 村; pinyin: cūn) has a Hanyu pinyin spelling similar to the English abbreviation "CUN". In mainland Chinese culture, villages have homely connotations.
The university awards undergraduate-level degrees in 55 academic subjects, usually after four years of study. There are also 64 master's programmes and 25 doctoral programmes. While young people from the majority Han group are the largest single ethnicity amongst the fifteen thousand students, 60% of the students and more than one third of the academic staff are from other nationalities. In addition to traditional course offerings the school offers special majors and courses such as ethnology, ethnic languages, and minority literature.
By far the strongest research areas are anthropology and ethnology, which are the mainstays of its small publishing house and journal. In 2001, the People's Daily described CUN as "China's top academy for ethnic studies."  Other respected departments are the dance school and the various minority language and literature departments. Other subjects are often studied from the ethnic minorities' perspective, e.g., biology courses may focus on the flora and fauna found in ethnic minority areas of China.
The school offers scholarships characterized by Reza Hasmath, author of "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing," as "very generous" to minority students who study in specialties classified by the university as ethnic minority-related, which in practice refer mostly include ethnic literature and ethnic languages. These scholarships often pay for school to the point where the student does not need to pay tuition, and include provisions for monthly stipends of around 100 renminbi ($14.70 US).
Minzu University also participates actively in social sciences research. Its social science departments predominantly do their research with an ethnic perspective and has achieved leading research results in China in ethnic economies, regional economics, legal studies in ethnic minorities regions, ethnic administration. In particular, its economics, management, law and history departments are growing into be dynamic research institutions with the help of Project 985.
The university is the pinnacle of a national network of institutions maintained by the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, although academic standards are also monitored by the State Education Commission, which means some students end up sitting for two sets of exams.
The Communist Party of China first established a Nationalities Institute in its Civil War stronghold of Yan'an, in central China, in October 1941. In 1950-1952, this was merged with other ethnolinguistic and sociological departments, including elements of Peking University and Tsinghua University. The result was the Central Institute for Nationalities, which was established in 1951, and officially opened on 11 June 1952. The Institute was assigned a large area of parkland on the outskirts of Beijing as its campus.
Both the Yan'an and Central institutes were intended to train cadres (officials) for ethnic minority areas, as well as providing a liberal arts education for promising students from the minorities. The cadres were to be trained so they could serve as a liaison between their minority communities and the Chinese government. Their research was and is intended to support the policies of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission. In its early years, the Institute was caught up in the sensitive issue of classifying China's vast population into official ethnic groups, until the Cultural Revolution made conventional education almost impossible.
With the advent of Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening up policy (c.1978), the Institute went through considerable changes. On the downside, it lost most of its campus to a variety of development projects and it is now in a heavily built-up area. Financial pressures in the early 21st century led to a rapid rise in student numbers, particularly of Han students.
On the upside, the Institute expanded into science subjects during the 1980s and achieved university status on 30 November 1993. In 1999 it was granted "key university" status, as part of "Project 211", which was supposed to identify one hundred Chinese universities which would play leading roles in the 21st century. Since 2004 the university has been a participant in Project 985, a major national programme to raise 39 universities to world-class status. The campus has been almost completely reconstructed as part of this programme.
Meanwhile, Haidian has continued to develop as Beijing's main university district. CUN is now adjacent to the National Library of China and Zhongguancun, which local media refer to as "China's silicon valley". In 2006 a large site was acquired in Beijing's Fengtai district, and it is likely that a second campus will be constructed there.
To ensure that members of the 55 recognized minority groups are admitted the school has fixed quotas for each ethnic group. As of 2011, Minzu university accepts National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gaokao) scores with a minimum in the mid-400s, or below the 50th percentile. Out of the Beijing universities, this is one of the lowest acceptance requirements.
In China a university may admit a student whose score is barely below the cutoff score at its discretion. Sometimes minimum score levels were lowered to ensure that students from among the least accepted minority groups would be permitted to gain entry. The school offers remedial courses, including a one year tutorial course that reviews the final year of senior secondary school and remedial Chinese courses, in order to assist minority students within to enroll.
The university has bridging programs to select minority students at Chinese secondary schools who are high achieving so they can attend Minzu University as a way to prepare them for entering the highest ranked universities in Beijing. The government pays tuition for these programs in full.
Reza Hasmath stated that in general it is unusual for ethnic minorities in Chinese universities to promote their ethnic identity, Minzu "provides a level of acceptance that encourages students to promote their ethnic identity." He stated that ethnic minority students who originated from and were resident in Beijing for their entire lives, while attending Minzu, "were more aware of their ethnic identity and engaged more with their ethnic culture than at any other juncture of their lives."
Notable students and faculty
- Arken Abdulla, Uyghur & Mandarin Chinese language pop singer-songwriter
- Kahar Barat, Uyghur-American historian
- Fei Xiaotong, sociologist and anthropologist
- D. O. Chaoke, Evenki linguist
- Han Geng, Mandopop singer and actor
- Song Zuying, an ethnic miao singer of classical Chinese and Western songs, who performed at the 2008 Summer Olympics closing ceremony
- Ilham Tohti, an ethnic Uyghur professor of economics at Minzu University who was detained by police in July 2009 following riots in Ürümqi
- Zhang Chengzhi, writer, once audited a class in Kazakh
- May Chin, Taiwanese Aborigine actress, singer and member for parliament in the Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China (Taiwan) for Highland Aborigines electoral district
- Xu Han, professor at Minzu University (graduated from Tsinghua University) and creator of Ali the Fox.
Other universities for ethnic minorities in the People's Republic of China:
- Dalian University for Nationalities
- Guangxi University for Nationalities
- Northwest University for Nationalities
- Qinghai University for Nationalities
- South-Central University for Nationalities
- Southwest University for Nationalities
- Yunnan University for Nationalities
- Inner Mongolia University for Nationalities
- Beifang University of nationalities
- Hasmath, Reza. "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing." Ethnic and Racial Studies. 2011. Volume 34, Issue 11. DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2011.553238. p. 1835-1854.
- The Central University for Nationalities (undated, but c.2000). Beijing: CUN International Relations Office. A prospectus for Chinese and foreign students; the source for many of the dates and statistics in the first section.
- 中央民族大学关于启用新英文校名的通知. 中央民族大学桌报 Minzu University of China Weekly (in Chinese). 忠言民族大学校报编辑部. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
- Hasmath, "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing," p. 1845-1846.
- Hasmath, "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing," p. 1846-1847.
- Hasmath, "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing," p. 1847.
- Hasmath, "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing," p. 1846.
- Hasmath, "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing," p. 1845.
- 中央民族大学可能迁至丰台区校方尚未证实. People's Daily Online (in Chinese). 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-03. (Archive)
- Hasmath, "The education of ethnic minorities in Beijing," p. 1850.
- Uyghur Historian Kahar Barat Discusses Xinjiang History, Part 1, an English translation of Kahar Barat's interview by Wang Lixiong. (The Chinese original: 新疆的古代王朝与宗教转换, "The old kingdoms of Xinjiang and religious conversions")
- "Outspoken Economist Presumed Detained". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved July 12, 2009. (Archive) "According to his official biography, Tohti was born in Atush, Xinjiang, on Oct. 25, 1969. He graduated from the Northeast Normal University and the Economics School at the Central Nationalities University in Beijing."
- "影响中国社科院博导的书籍 (Books which have influenced the professors at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)". Xinhua News Agency. 2004-03-15. Retrieved 2007-04-17. (Archive)
- Xiong, Yuqing. "Clever like a fox." Global Times. November 18, 2013. Retrieved on February 23, 2014.
- Official website (simplified Chinese)
- Official website (Archive)
- "University of Ethnic Communities." (Archive), China.org.cn, China Internet Information Center - Feature of the university from a guide to Beijing