China's top colleges have become a breeding ground for the wealthy, with more than 1,500 billionaires appearing in an alumni-ranking list released on Wednesday. The list was released by cuaa.net, a website that provides services for college graduate associations across the country.
Based on research since 2003 on the careers of alumni of China's leading universities, the website ranks universities according to the number of their graduates who have become billionaires, top scientists, political leaders, and other prominent figures.
Tsinghua University won the title of "the cradle of billionaires", with 84 super rich who studied there - and who have a combined wealth of 300 billion yuan ($47.4 billion). Besides rich people, Tsinghua produced 49 political leaders, the highest number among the 30 universities on the list.
Nevertheless, Peking University ranked first. Though it produced fewer billionaires and politicians, it fostered 182 social scientists and 144 members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences or the Chinese Academy of Engineering - compared with Tsinghua's 18 social scientists and 141 academy members.
After Tsinghua University and Peking University, the list showed the figures from 28 other universities with successful alumni, including Renmin University of China and Fudan University.
Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University of China and an education columnist, said the rich alumni reflect trends in the society. "We are in an era in which people's greatest pursuit is wealth," Zhang said. "The universities listed happen to be the most prestigious universities in China, so they naturally attract the elite from across the country. "Although these universities may not have taught them the skills to create wealth, their campuses develop into platforms to allow the students to expand their social relationships, especially with wealthy people," Zhang said.
But Zhang also said that the primary mission of universities is not to teach students how to make more money. "Most Chinese universities still need to improve, in cultivating students' ability for innovation and for scientific research," he said.
Xiang Danni, a graduate of Peking University, thinks it is not proper to use distinguished alumni as a standard for rating a university. "People succeed for many reasons beyond university education. A university should never ignore its fundamental responsibility - education and research. So this ranking has little meaning, although it might briefly attract some readers' attention," Xiang said.
Zhao Wanwei, also a graduate of Peking University, thinks that the ranking is not convincing. "The list released neither names of the alumni nor rating standards, but only the numbers of wealthy alumni from each university. But it does reflect one hot issue - the cultivation of society's elite," Zhao said.