China’s Shining Star: Peking University
China is not known for especially happy relations with the West, which is a tragedy, because China comprises about a fifth of humanity. With such a massive population to draw from, this means that a fifth of the best and brightest of humanity is within its borders. But China has something in common with the West- indeed, with the rest of the world- in that it values the educational and economic prosperity of its people. In light of this fact, it is no small wonder that one of the best universities in the world may be found in Beijing.
Peking University (PKU), like the country from which it springs, is big. With thirty colleges and ninety three undergraduate specialties, as well as almost two hundred masters specialties and another hundred seventy three doctoral specialties, Peking University offers educational options like no other place on Earth. Only ranked #41 on QS World Rankings, its numbers are deceiving, as its ranking is skewed by the relatively small number of foreigners who learn there and the current generation’s much higher percentage of boys to girls than in other countries. Yet even with these disparities, PKU still ranks at number 33 worldwide for economics departments.
PKU is not for the casual student. An overwhelming sixty three percent of its current enrollment consists of postgraduate studies. Even within its relatively small subsample of international students, the number of postgraduates compared to undergraduates is almost a one to one ratio. With the sheer number of Masters and Doctorate specialties available it’s no wonder that students would flock to its doors, and in huge numbers.
As with all subjects covered by PKU, Economics is extensively covered, with six departments (Departments of Economics, Public Finance, International Economics and Trade, Risk Management and Insurance, Finance, and Environment Resource and Development Economics) devoted solely to the branch of education. Because China is one of the largest economies in the world, PKU devotes special care to the Economics program; it has been said by Sun Qixiang (Dean of the School of Economics, PKU) that Peking University, and the School of Economics in particular, are both intimately tied to the development of China as a whole. PKU is a C9 university, the equivalent of an Ivy League school in the United States.
First founded in 1898, the school was originally called the Imperial University of Peking. It retained this name until 1912, where it was called National Peking University, then later still just Peking University around 1949. Head and shoulders above other educational institutions, it became a focal point for progressive philosophy and demand for reforms aimed at bringing China into the position of being a world leader. The university gained and lost some departments during Mao Zedong’s government as part of an initiative intended to promote specialized education, but overall PKU continued to broaden its curriculum, knowledge, and dedication to higher learning.
The list of prominent alumni of PKU is quite broad, because of the incredible concentration of talent and drive that the university attracts from within its own borders alone. Political figures, business founders, notable academics, and influential movers and shakers alike can be found on its alumnus rolls. Among its international alumni can be found the president of Ethiopia, Mulatu Teshome, and prominent India politician K. Natwar Singh. Twenty seven of the top three hundred wealthiest people in China graduated from PKU.
China treasures Peking University, and for good reason. They accept and demand the very best from those who study there. The international students who join the school are not very many, but they are tangible proof that it IS possible to work your way into the institution. Those who manage to gain acceptance into this school from outside China’s borders have a very hard road ahead, but the rewards of that education will see them to the very top of their fields.