Isomorphism, Diversification, and Strategic Ambiguity: Goal Setting of Chinese Higher Education Institutions in the Double World-Class Project

  • Kai ZhaoEmail author
  • Zheng You
Original Article


China has launched several national academic excellence initiatives since the 1990s, aimed at creating world-class universities. These projects contributed to the achievements of Chinese universities over the past decades and deeply influenced the field of Chinese higher education. This study focuses on the most recent Double World-Class (DWC) project and assesses the impacts of this project on the diversification of leading Chinese universities. Drawing on institutional organization theories, we analyzed how institutions set their goals for the DWC project in development plans. Findings demonstrate that on the one hand, the DWC project reinforced universities’ resource dependence on the government, which lead to universities adopting similar structures and practices. On the other hand, facing the intensified competition with domestic peers for the limited slots in the DWC project, Chinese universities differentiated their goals and orientations as they seek to highlight their competitive advantages. Findings highlight both the benefits and challenges brought by the strong nation-state policies in the pursuit of world-class universities.


China diversity isomorphism organizational behavior world-class university 



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© International Association of Universities 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Postsecondary SuccessFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Institute of International and Comparative EducationBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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