Beijing University (above): China's top varsity and its first national university. Established in 1898, it is noted for producing luminaries such as the writer Lu Xun. It was also at the forefront of student movements, such as the May Fourth Movement and the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
Qinghua University: Alma mater of Chinese President Hu Jintao and Vice-President Xi Jinping. The Beijing-based school is known for its business and engineering studies.
Fudan University: Widely viewed as China's top southern university, the Shanghai-based institution is highly regarded for physical sciences, social sciences and medicine.
Zhejiang University: Seen by Chinese students as the country's No. 4 university, after Beijing, Qinghua and Fudan. The Hangzhou-based college is rated highly in natural sciences and engineering.
Nanjing University: Established in AD258 under the Kingdom of Wu, it is one of the oldest universities in China. It is regarded as a pioneer in many fields, including literature, philosophy and history.
Shanghai Jiaotong University: Known for its engineering strength, the university counts former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and computer giant Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzhi among its alumni.
Harbin Institute of Technology: Famous for its military and space-related research. A key player in China's Shenzhou space project.
Xi'an Jiaotong University: The top university in China's western region. It is well regarded for its science and medicine programmes.
University of Science and Technology of China: The college in northern Anhui province is renowned for its science research. It is well-known, too, for its vice-president, physicist Fang Lizhi, whose liberal ideas inspired pro-democracy student protests in 1986 and 1989.