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Nankai University

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Nankai University (NKU; simplified Chinese: 南开大学; traditional Chinese: 南開大學; pinyin: Nánkāi Dàxué), is a public research university located in Tianjin, China. Founded in 1919 by prominent educators Zhang Boling (1876–1951) and Yan Fansun (1860–1920), Nankai is one of the most prestigious universities in China. Its alumni include the former Premier Zhou Enlai and Nobel laureates Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee.




The university was founded as a private institution in 1919. Nankai's scale was relatively small at its inception partly because it received no funding from the government but instead was funded by foreign charitable funds and local entrepreneurs, with only 3 departments (liberal arts, science, and business) and 96 students. It was noted particularly for its courses which were taught in English using foreign curricula and textbooks. By 1937, Nankai had expanded into a university of 3 colleges, 13 departments, and 2 research institutes, boasting 429 students and 110 faculty and staff members. It was compared to be "The North Star of Higher Learning". In accordance with its motto of "Dedication to the public interests, acquisition of all-round capability and aspiration for progress with each passing day", the University has produced batches of prominent talents such as Premier Zhou Enlai, Dr. Shiing-Shen Chern, Dr. Ta-You Wu and Mr. Cao Yu. The well-known Nankai Institute of Economics was established in 1927 and soon became one of the most prominent in China being the first non-foreign entity to calculate a Chinese Consumer Price Index.


In July 1937, during the Sino-Japanese War, Nankai campus was severely damaged by Japanese bombings. About two-thirds of the school buildings were destroyed including its library which was deliberately burnt down by the Japanese Imperial Army. A number of the school's artifacts, including the university bell, were looted and remain in Japanese museums till this day.

In August 1937, still during the Sino-Japanese War, Nankai University, Peking University and Tsinghua University united together and formed the National Changsha Provisional University, which later moved to Kunming and was renamed the National Southwestern Associated University. In 1946, after the war, Nankai returned to Tianjin and was reformed into a national university by the government. At that time, Nankai had four schools (Liberal Arts, Science, Political Science and Economics, and Engineering) and 16 departments.


After the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Nankai was readjusted and became a comprehensive university with emphasis on the arts and sciences, with 14 departments and 3 professional specialties in total. Since then, leading scholars as Zheng Tianting, Lei Haizong, Wu Tingqiu and many overseas scholars from US, Europe and Japan have come to join the university.


From 1966 to 1976 the School's normal life was out of order due to the Cultural Revolution. Even worse, in 1976 a catastrophic earthquake broke out in Tangshan bordering Tianjin, causing damage of varying degrees to the School's buildings.


After 1980, Nankai added a number of new specialties and institutes. In Arts, applied specialties on financing were set up and the School of Economics was reopened in 1983, while in Sciences, interdisciplinary, marginal and high and new technological specialties were added. By the late 1980s, Nankai University had grown to be a comprehensive university embracing Humanities, Natural Sciences, Applied Sciences, Life Sciences, Managements and Art. In 1994 Tianjin Foreign Trade College was merged into Nankai. In 1999 under the combined efforts of Nankai and TEDA, TEDA College was set up. In 2000 the State Ministry of Education signed an agreement with Tianjin Municipal Government on jointly establishing and developing Nankai University. Experimental cooperation between Nankai University and Tianjin University was initiated on the principle of independent school-running and close cooperation. In 2002 under the cooperative efforts of Nankai, Government of Shenzhen and UC Berkeley, Financial Engineering College was established in Shenzhen.


  • Zhang Boling: 1919–48
  • He Lian (Franklin Ho): 1948–57 (acting)
  • Yang Shixian: 1957–69
  • vacant due to the Cultural Revolution: 1969–78
  • Zang Boping: 1978
  • Yang Shixian (second term): 1979–81
  • Teng Weizao: 1981–86
  • Mu Guoguang: 1986–95
  • Hou Zixin: 1995–2006
  • Rao Zihe: 2006–2011
  • Gong Ke: 2011–


A key multidisciplinary university directly under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, Nankai University has long been given much attention by the central government. The university has comprehensive academic programs that cover almost every area including humanities, natural sciences, technology, life sciences, medical sciences and the arts. Nankai University believes in the equal importance of the sciences and the liberal arts, laying a strong foundation with practical and creative characteristics. Its faculty team includes many world-renowned scholars. One of most selective university, Nankai has a diverse student body consisting of inspired individuals with different background but same spirity for academic excellence and creativity

Nankai, as of the end of 2013, has 22 colleges and schools, and offers 79 bachelor's degree programs, 231 master's degree programs, and 172 Ph.D. programs. The total enrollment stood at approximately 12,000 undergraduate students and 11,000 graduate students. Of the total student population, 10% are international students from different countries around the world. Nankai is consistently listed among the top ten universities in China by various ranking sysyems. Nankai's mathematics, chemistry, history, business and economics programs are among the best in China. The chemistry research was ranked No. 1 according to the statistics from the Ministry of Education in 2008. Economics, mathematics and history were ranked 2nd among over 2000 Chinese universities. Chern, Shiing-Shen established the world's largest mathematics institute (in terms of office area) in Nankai University. The university is also highly regarded for its top quality undergraduate programs. Many of the undergraduate lectures are selected as national elite lectures by the Higher Education Division of the Ministry of Education.

The University has established broad international exchanges and collaborative relationships with more than 200 universities and academic institutions. Nobel Laureates Chen Ning Yang, Tsung-Dao Lee, Samuel Chao Chung Ting, Robert A. Mundell, and Reinhard Selten as well as former President of Korea Kim Dae Jung and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were all conferred Honorary Professorships by Nankai University. Many other world-known scholars and entrepreneurs have been invited as Visiting Professors at Nankai University. Nankai University, a magnet for talented mathematicians known both at home and abroad, has become one of the most famous centers for mathematics worldwide. Also, Nankai established dozens of Confucius Institutes all around the world.

The University has signed an MoU with the University of Mumbai.


Nankai University is consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in China. In the ranking of top 50 universities in China published by Renmin University of China in June 2011, it was ranked 10th. In the Netbig ranking of 2011 it was ranked 10th as well. In the QS World University Rankings of 2013 it was ranked 62nd among Asian universities, and 11th in China. In the Chinese first-class university ranking of 2012 by Wu Shulian of China Management Academy, it was placed 8th. In the CWTS Leiden Ranking 2013, it was ranked 53rd among world universities, and 1st in China. In the Nature Index Global 2014, it was ranked 83rd among world universities, and 7th in China.

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