Colleges lag in overseas outreach

Updated: 2015-11-10 08:06

By Su Zhou(China Daily)

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Colleges lag in overseas outreach

View of the Peking University. [Photo/]

Peking University ranked first among Chinese universities in overseas Internet communication skills and influence, according to a recently-released report by Beijing Normal University.

A research team sampled 112 top universities in Project 211, which was initiated in 1995 by the Ministry of Education to help national key universities and colleges raise their research standards.

The rankings were based on a performance analysis using Google News, Google Trends, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

"Generally speaking, overseas Internet communication skills and influence have a positive correlation with universities' academic reputation," said Zhang Hongzhong, a journalism professor at Beijing Normal who headed the research team.

But Chinese universities still fell behind their prestigious peers overseas. According to the research team's model, Peking's score, 162,533, was higher than the University of Amsterdam and the University of Tokyo but much lower than Harvard University's score.

Nearly half of Project 211 universities didn't pass 10,000.

The team also found that none of the universities polled had an official Twitter account, and only 13 universities had a private account. A few schools' Twitter followers didn't reach 100.

On Facebook, the situation was similar. None of the universities had official pages.

"Most of those Chinese universities only attach importance to domestic publicity and pay little attention to their overseas communications," Zhang said. "And this is inappropriate.

"Overseas communication skills and influence are crucial for Chinese universities. First, it is the window for Chinese universities to attract brilliant overseas students to study in China.

"Without social media, overseas students cannot get to know the universities. And it is also good for helping Chinese universities attract overseas scholars and other talents in different fields. It's an important part of China's soft power," Zhang said.

Fang Zengquan, head of the publicity department at Beijing Normal University, said the university has opened official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and information has been updated.

Structural issues may be partly behind the low participation. Li Tiezheng, head of the publicity department at Beijing Forestry University, said many publicity departments at Chinese universities are not responsible for overseas publicity work. Li citied a lack of staff members, as well as the low priority it is given by universities.

Others question whether Chinese universities are good at publicity work even at home. Zhang Hui, who works for an advertising company in Shanghai, said many universities only post forum information or university leaders' schedules on social media-things "that cannot help to build universities' reputation among the public".