China University Student Dataset (CUSD) Project

China University Student Dataset (CUSD) Project

The China University Student Database (CUSD) project analyzes the social and geographic familial background of university students in Republican China (ROC) and elite university students in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) including Hong Kong and Taiwan based on a collection of 400,000 individual university student archival records from 35+ Chinese universities as well as a variety of published and archival sources on Chinese students studying abroad as well as domestically.



“Modern” four-year university education began in China with the dissolution of the civil service examination system in 1905 and the systematic introduction of a Western curriculum accompanying the establishment of the first public university in 1898, the first missionary universities in 1900, and the first private universities in 1911. By 1932 there were already 76 recognized four-year universities in China and these numbers grew by 1947 and 1951 to 130 and 206.  Today there are 1219 four-year universities including 112 211-elite universities and 39 985-elite universities in the Peoples Republic of China, 126 universities in Taiwan, and 8 UGC universities in Hong Kong.  According to the 2010 Chinese census, of the 1.33 billion people in China, over 100 million are four-year university graduates.

CUSD Data Series

We distinguish between three categories of university students  – ROC, PRC, and Overseas – and have created or are in the process of creating three different CUSD data series: the CUSD-ROC, the CUSD-PRC and, the CUSD-OS.

The CUSD-ROC includes all or partial student registration records for 35 Republican Chinese universities, all but one of which dates back to the 1930s.  While these represent only one-third of the  universities of that time, they account for 90 percent of the 175,567 surviving student registration records we have located in Chinese university and administrative archives.  As of January 2019, we have entered 165,981 records of 136,220 students for 34 universities.  We are still in the process of completing the data entry for several of these universities, as well as acquiring access to the Republican student records for other universities which we hope to include in the CUSD-ROC.

The CUSD-PRC includes all the student registration records for two Chinese universities: 64,500 who attended Peking University (PKU) perhaps the most prestigious liberal arts university in China in 1952-1955, 1972-87, 1989-1999; and 86,393 undergraduates who attended Suzhou University (SZU) the highest ranked Provincial university in China from 1933 to 2003.  In addition, we have begin data entry for an equally large student population from Zhejiang University.

The CUSD-OS already includes an estimated 55,000 overseas Chinese students, that is three-quarters of the 65-75,000 Chinese students who graduated from foreign universities from the beginning of the twentieth century through the early years of the People’s Republic of China.  The current population available for immediate analysis include 46,888 records for 29,328 Chinese students in Japan, 10,835 records for 10,348 Chinese students in the USA, 7,352 records for 7,159 students in Europe, and almost a thousand students in the Soviet Union, for a total of 65,928 entered, processed, and linked records to 48,322 unique international Chinese students.  In addition, we are currently processing 9,933 entered student records from 1938 Japan and 1,622 entered student records from the United States in 1944.

The CUSD-OS includes information only on the students themselves since it is based on graduation and immigration records while the CUSD-ROC also includes the names, occupations, and addresses of 50,000 parents and 30,000 guarantors, and the CUSD-PRC includes names and occupations of household head for all SZU students, and names and occupation for both parents for almost all PKU students, since they are based on matriculating student records.

On-Line User Guide

梁晨、任韵竹、 李中清, 2017, 《民国大学生数据库用户手册》。 (unpublished).

Project History

The idea of creating a China University Student Database (CUSD) dates back to Spring 1998 when during Peking University’s Centenary celebrations then PKU Provost, Chi Huisheng, told James Z. Lee about the student archival records in the PKU University Archives.  Lee subsequently obtained permission to enter these records for all undergraduate students from PKU and SZU and recruited HKBU Professor, Ruan Danching (sociology) to be co-I.  Actual data entry for what would become the CUSD-PRC did not however begin for PKU until 2003 under Ruan’s direction, coordinating with PKU Professor Yang Shanhua (sociology), and Yang’s PhD student, Zhang Hao, and for SZU until 2006 / 2007, under the direction of SZU Vice President Yin Aisun and SZU professor, Zhang Zhaoyu (archives), and the supervision of PKU and University of Michigan Postdoctoral Fellow, Liang Chen.

Liang Chen conceived the CUSD-ROC, and with LC Group funding as well as a grant from the China Social Science Foundation began in 2010 to collect the student registration cards for many of the 27 universities who currently make up this database, and arranged for most of their data entry.   In addition, James Z. Lee obtained access to the Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU) and Zhejiang University (ZJU) student records and arranged for Xu Dan to enter the records for all eight Shanghai Universities, including SJTU.  Yunzhu Ren recruited Nanchang University Professor Liu Jie (history) to enter the student registration cards for National Zhongzheng University, and Zhang Mingyu, with help from Liang Chen and James Z. Lee, entered the data for National Tsinghua and hopefully will be able to get access to the remaining student records for Peking University as well as Yenching University, while Liu Jiafeng is obtaining access and arranging for the data entry for Cheloo University and the Shandong University Medical School.


Results from the CUSD have been published as a Chinese article, 无声的革命: 北京大学、苏州大学的学生社会来源 1952-2002 (China’s Silent Revolution: the Social Origins of Peking University and Soochow University Undergraduates, 1949-2002), in the January 2012 issue of 中国社会科学 (Chinese Social Science) and as a book with the same title in August 2013 by Beijing Joint Publishing. These publications inspired over one hundred news and editorial print articles, interviews, webcasts, and broadcasts posted on one thousand Chinese websites in 2012 and 2013 and continue five years later to receive attention in the popular media.  The book version was awarded the 2014 third prize for Outstanding Achievement in Philosophy and Social Science by the Jiangsu Academy of Social Science.  The article version was reprinted by 中国社会科学 in 中国社会科学创刊35周年论文选 in 2017 as an example of the best scholarship in the thirty-five years from 1980 to 2014.

We are now completing a prequel book on the social origins of university students from 1911 to 1949 based largely on student records from 35 universities collected in the CUSD, supplemented with employment records from the China Professional Occupation Datasets (CPOD). The Jiangsu Academy of Social Science awarded a related article《江山代有才人出,各领风骚数十年:中国精英教育四段论,1865-2014》. 《社会学研究》第三期(May/June): 48-70, a 2017 third prize (三等奖) for Outstanding Achievement in Philosophy and Social Science.

Project Funding

James Z. Lee PI (Co-I Cameron Campbell, Liang Chen) The Social and Spatial Origins of China’s Educated Elite: 1865-2014. Hong Kong Research Grants Council Project Number 16602117, 2017-2020





James Z. Lee PI (Co-I Hongbo Wang, Liang Chen) Social Origins of University Students in Republican China. Hong Kong Research Grants Council Project Number, 640613; 2014-2016



Danching Ruan PI (Co-I James Z. Lee, Shanhua Yang). Educational Stratification in China–A View from the Top. Hong Kong Research Grants Council Project Number, HKBU 2447/06H; 2006-2008

Research Output

For a summary of our research output from the CUSD, please see Part Two of our on-line course Understanding China, 1700-2000: A Data Analytic Approach – Who Gets Education as well as the books, articles, and presentations below.

Academic Publications: Books

Liang Chen, Zhang Hao, Li Lan, Ruan Danqing, Cameron Campbell, Lee, James.  2013, 《无声的革命: 北京大学、苏州大学的学生社会来源 1949-2002》(Silent revolution: the social origins of Peking University and Soochow University undergraduates, 1949-2002).  Beijing Joint Publishing.  This book was awarded the 2014 third prize for Outstanding Achievement in Philosophy and Social Science by the Jiangsu Academy of Social Science.

Academic Publications: Articles

梁 晨 (Chen LIANG), 任韵竹 (Yunzhu REN), 董浩 (Hao DONG), 李中清 (James Z. Lee)。2017。 <江山代有才人出,各领风骚数十年:中国精英教育四段论,1865-2014>. 《社会学研究》。第三期 (May): 48-70.

梁 晨 (Chen LIANG), 任韵竹 (Yunzhu REN), 王雨前 (Yuqian WANG), 李中清 (James Z. Lee). 2017. <民国上海大学生社会来源量化研究,1913-1949>. 《历史研究》。第三期 (May): 76-92.


梁晨 、李中清,2014, 《大数据, 新史实与理论演进—以学籍卡材料的史料价值与研究方法为中心的讨论》, 《清华大学学报》 (哲社版) 第5期,第104-113页。  2015 Parkson Best Article Award.

梁晨、李中清 等,2012,《无声的革命:北京大学与苏州大学学生社会来源研究,1952-2002》 (Silent revolution: the social origins of Peking University and Soochow University undergraduates, 1952-2002),《中国社会科学》(Social Sciences in China) 第1期,第98-118页。

Academic Presentations

The Role of International Education in the Creation of the Chinese Academe, 1909-1989, Duke-Kunshan University, December 16-18, 2019

IUSSP Conference on Linking Past to Present: Long-term Perspectives on Micro-level Demographic Processes, Reitaku University, Tokyo, December 9-11, 2016

41st Annual Social Science History Association Meeting, Chicago, November 17-20, 2016

“大学与近代中国”国际学术研讨, Central China Normal University, November 12-13, 2016

China Biographical Database Project (CBDB), Harvard University, November 9, 2016

Asian Pacific Higher Education Research Partnership Senior Seminar on Gender and the Changing Face of Higher Education in Asia Pacific,  the Education University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University, October 27-29, 2016

Roundtable on Elites, Politics and the Economy. American Sociological Association 111th Annual Meeting, Seattle, August 20-23, 2016

North American Chinese Sociologists Association Conference, Seattle, August 19, 2016

International Sociological Association RC 28 Committee Meeting on Social Stratification and Social Mobility, National University of Singapore, May 26-28, 2016

Department of Sociology, Wuhan University, April 16, 2016

School of History and Culture, Central China Normal University, April 15, 2016

“大学与现代中国”, Nanjing University, March 12-15, 2016

南京大学社会学院合美博士论坛, Nanjing University, March 2, 2016

“大数据时代下的历史研究”国际学术研讨会, Qingdao, December 4-6, 2015

第十二届科举制与科举学国际学术研讨会 (12th International Academic Meeting on Keju system and Keju studies), Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, China, November 23-25, 2015

北京大学北京论坛, Peking University, Beijing China, November 5-9, 2015

12th Conference of the European Sociological Association (ESA), Czech Technical University, Prague, August 25-28, 2015

Harvard University and Goldman Sachs Global Education Conference on Opportunity and Equality in the Knowledge Economy, Harvard University, June 17-19 2015

Conference on Higher Education and Chinese Society in the 20th Century, Taishan University, Tai’an, Shandong, China, April 10-12, 2015

Research Center for Chinese Social History, Shanxi University, November 17, 2014

“第十一届科举制与科举学” 学术研讨会 (11th International Academic Meeting on Keju system and Keju studies), Guangzhou, November 15, 2014

Harvard Yenching International Symposium on Modern Chinese Higher Education in a Global Perspective & 150th Anniversary of Tengchow College (全球化视野下的中国近代高等教育暨登州文会馆150周年), Shandong University, Jinan, October 11-15, 2014

近代中國教育史研討會,台灣新竹福華渡假飯店, July 8-11, 2014

首都师范大学青年学人讲坛, Capital Normal University, April 23, 2014

“第四届中国社会与中国研究”国际研讨会, Nanjing, October 27, 2012

“第五届全国青年史学工作者”学术研讨会, Guangzhou, October 15, 2012

“新史料与新史学:机遇与挑战”国际学术研讨会, Hangzhou, August 25, 2012

Data Access

Data from existing university archives are not available for public data release. While the remaining data are potentially available, preference will be given for collaborative research proposals. Interested parties should write directly to Liang Chen, copying Yunzhu Ren and James Z. Lee.