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Central University for Nationalities

Central University of Nationalities is a national-level university located in Beijing, China designated for minority nationalities. It is colloquially known as Míndà in Putonghua and CUN in English.

Academic programmes

The university awards undergraduate-level degrees in more than 40 academic subjects, usually after four years of study. Postgraduate programmes are offered for about half of these. While young people from the majority Han group are the largest single ethnicity amongst the 8,000 or so students, the minority nationalities are the great majority of the students and more than one third of the academic staff.

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.

CUN also participates actively in social sciences research. CUN's social science departments are ranked twentieth in mainland China. In particular, CUN's economics, management, law and history departments are growing into be dynamic research institutions with the help of Project 985.

CUN 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.

In English-speaking countries, CUN's main partners are the University of East London, United Kingdom, and the Oregon University System USA.


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 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. 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 down side, 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 (who are usually more qualified and wealthier).

On the other hand, 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.


The Central University for Nationalities dominates one side of the Weigongcun area, also home to Beijing Foreign Studies University and Beijing Institute of Technology. It has restaurants from a wide variety of ethnic minorities. According to CUN anthropology professor Zhuang Kongshao, the area has been the Uyghur ghetto in Beijing since the Yuan Dynasty, when it was known as Weiwucun ("Uyghur village", presumably ) and was a local shopping area. The Qing scholar Qiao Songnian claimed in 1834 that the Uyghurs had been brought there by Yuan Taizu. The name Weigongcun is first recorded only in 1915, and removes any reference to Uyghurs. Others attribute the ethnic variety solely to the presence of CUN. Most of the Uyghur district was razed around 2001. Baranovitch notes that "the Xinjiang Village of Weigongcun became according to many people a centre of criminal activity", including "drug dealing".

Notable students and faculty

See also

Other universities for ethnic minorities in the People's Republic of China:



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.

External links

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