Financial woes hit China's top universities, too

Tue Dec 30, 2008 8:47am EST
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BEIJING (Reuters) - The global financial crisis, which has dented endowments at the top universities in the West, has also reduced funding to China's universities, said the president of one of the country's most prestigious schools.

Peking University is under pressure for funds, even as its graduates face a harder time getting jobs, Zhou Qifeng told a conference this weekend.

"As a state-funded college, Peking University will definitely bear it heavily if state tax revenue is affected by the crisis," he said, according to remarks posted on the university's website Tuesday.

"We also feel pressure in raising money from private sponsors... Some of them cannot fulfill their promises on schedule, but we truly understand their difficulties."

Peking University is not alone in feeling pinched. The plunge in stock markets has cut Yale's endowment by 25 percent between the end of June and early December, while Harvard's endowment fell by 22 percent in roughly the same period.

More of China's billionaires hail from Peking University than from any other, according to the China University Alumni Association. Peking University's 35 billionaire alumni include sportswear manufacturer Li Ning and the heads of homegrown Internet giants Baidu and

Zhou acknowledged that the school's graduates, most of whom found jobs easily before the crisis, are facing a bleaker job market this year.

"Our faculty should work harder on teaching to make the students more competitive," he said.

A quarter of China's 6.1 million college graduates could have trouble finding a job next year, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report this month, as the economy faces slipping into single-digit annual growth for the first time since 2002.

Rising unemployment has fed Beijing's fears of unrest as forecasts for China's growth next year fall below 8 percent, seen as a minimum needed to create jobs and maintain social stability after years of double-digit expansion.

(Reporting by Yu Le and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Lucy Hornby)