Peking & Yale University Videos Spur Debate on Academic Intent

PKU front gate.

Peking University Promotional Video

Yale University Promotional Video

Recently, two online promotional videos from Peking University and Yale University led to debate regarding the role of student life and academia in promoting the campus. The Peking University (PKU) video featured numerous shots of the scenic campus interlaced with historical photos. The Yale video on the other hand focused on student life from the student’s point of view.

Even though the videos are from years ago, the post on popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo attracted nearly 10,000 reposts and mainstream coverage where netizens argued over which video better depicts their school’s academic mission. Some felt the PKU video looked like a tourism promotion, and one netizen concluded that “Yale’s advantage is in the students, while PKU’s advantage is in scenery; Yale’s confidence is in its present, PKU’s confidence is in its past.”

However, a PKU professor stated that the two videos were made for different purposes. The PKU video was intended as a video promoting the school’s history and academics, while the Yale video was mainly a recruitment video. Still, Chinese commenters pointed out that recruitment videos focusing on student life is an aspect missing from Chinese universities.


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Written by Joe

Joe is a documentary producer and journalist based in Shanghai

  • Cool Matt

    Yale better than PKU. You don’t say?

    • notorious

      I don’t think the fact that something is in American makes it inherently better.

      • tipotter

        Of course not. But comparing Yale to PKU, come on.

      • Cool Matt

        Cool. Me too.

      • donscarletti

        No, the bulk of American universities are far from being world class. The Ivy League universities, which is the top tier of American education admit very few undergraduates. There is a tier of public university systems like University of California and Purdue which give a quality education to a large amount of graduates, in the style of large public universites in Europe, Canada, Australia, etc. but still, the size of these system pales in insignificance with America’s enormous population and leaves the bulk of tertiary educational throughput, the largest in the world to really, really shitty third tier universities.

        However, Yale is one of those Ivy League universities, funded out the arse by alumni and assets while having barely any students (5k undergrads or so). If you go to Yale, you will get one hell of an education, nomatter what the average education quality is in the US.

        • Snarl

          Having the experience of both a public Ivy and a community college education in the United States, I must say that the community colleges are more student focused. Public Ivy schools are designated as such only for their research output, which makes them research focused. Ideally, one should want a community college education with an Ivy league degree.

          • donscarletti

            I graduated from a world top 20 engineering university. I have a friend who went to a small town college.

            Now, at his school, his lecturers know him and tailor his education around his every need, gave him extra tuition and actively sought him out to make sure he was going well. In my education those who “knew” me, connected a face with being good at certain things, though I doubt any of them bothered to learn my name. My interaction with the university as a body was just paperwork, queues and near the end a website they had set up.

            Do I regret it? Hell no, I was around smart people who showed me where the hell the bar is and forced me to try harder to maintain my ego and belief in being the smartest person in the universe. My friend, not so much, though being a marginally above average student through highschool, suddenly has been confronted with having the cream of the class all gravitate to the major university and finding himself alone being fawned over like the new incarnation of Vishnu whenever he can give his current age without having to count on his fingers.

            “Elite education” has never meant “good education”, in fact it tends to be quite poor as far as actual education goes, since none of the lecturers seem to treat teaching as more than an obligation. It means “elite” as in “the riff-raff can’t get in” and when you run into someone then you’re likely to be not very much smarter than them, if at all. This counts for so much more, the exhilaration of putting some smarmy dipshit in his place is the greatest teacher, especially when that aforementioned smarmy dipshit actually takes a bit of wrangling to get him there.

          • notorious

            I actually went to the community (or junior college) for the first two years, then completed the rest at a four year. This is the best way to do it since, all of prerequsite courses and other “required” courses are taken at the community college, saves money instead of wasting that money at a more expensive university. That way, you have the classes where you are doing the most work, and which will shape your future career at a more prestigious university where it matters, in your third or fourth year of study. That isn’t to say the first two years are not as important.

          • Snarl

            I’m afraid I have to disagree with you about the exhilaration of putting some smarmy dipshit in his place being the best teacher. A person is of low quality if his character is weak, regardless of his intellectual capacity.
            As an anecdote, I work with some very smart and highly credentialed people. None of them earned their bachelor’s degree at an elite university (although many have earned their MBA at elite universities, that’s outside of the scope of your argument). On the other hand, when I had the misfortune of working with a Harvard graduate a few years ago, the only thing he brought to the plate was his outrageous ego. He was unwilling to learn from us inferior mortals who graduated from lowly public universities. His arrogance eventually became an issue with some of the firm’s clients, and so we had to let him go.
            If your friend can attend a local community college and set his own standards, then not only does that show initiative and self-motivation, it also gives him greater potential than anyone who lets the smartest kid in the room set the standards.

          • notorious

            what this proves is that smart people can assholes too.

          • donscarletti

            “I’m afraid I have to disagree with you about the exhilaration of putting some smarmy dipshit in his place being the best teacher.”

            Maybe that is true for some people and could be even true from a moral and philosophical perspective. But if you firmly believe that, what are you doing positing on online forums? What appeal could this comment thread have towards anyone who is not drawn to arguing with people who are wrong on the Internet?

        • Sbard

          Maybe not, but the bulk of “world class” universities are American. Outside of Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial University in London, you have to go way down the list to find other institutions comparable to the cream of the American crop.

        • AshLikeSnow

          Students that go to a UC or similar expect to graduate in 4 years. These colleges have weeding courses in the first year where incapable students are failed and dropped from the university.
          However, after that, classes are designed for students to pass. Teachers are expected to fail no more than 2 or 3 students every semester. The average grade curved to around a B to B+.

          In lower tier universities such as Cal State- (I don’t know how prevalent, but at least in engineering / hard science majors) This expectation is no longer there. Grades are 90%-100% based off of tests. Fail rates are around 30% to 60% even for higher level courses. Grades are curved to a C. grades that are D+ or lower are failed.

          What you got hit by the car? Tough luck, you have to retake all of your classes next quarter than. Oh don’t worry, we’ll make it so all the classes you took this quarter won’t count towards your gpa. You want a refund? sorry, no can do.

          While the education isn’t world class, if you made it through, you KNOW wtf you are talking about.

    • Irvin

      I’ve never went to Yale but saw some of the free courses on videos and got to agree it’s way better than china where stimulating thoughts is concern.

      The universities in china is just like high school of which their goals is to make you memorize information so that you can become a better employee.

      The universities outside of china seeks to promote wonders, stimulate interest in a topic and nurture creativity.

      • notorious

        a university is only as good as its professors. i knew of one school that hired teachers/professors who had only themselves, just graduated and obtained their masters. they had to be actively working on their PHD. What world experience might they bring, being so fresh out of school themselves?

        Then you have professors who are learned with years of experience in their various fields, who have actually spent time in the real world in addition to their academic achievements and decades in their respective careers as professors. they might have tutored under an established professor as an association professor for numerous years, while gaining experience in their field outside of the univeristy particularly as a consultant of some sort or in some other important role. Teaching on and off before becoming a full-time professor themselves.

        I took a logic course and I hated the professor. He was so mean, and judgemental. I kept thinking, this person has not spent time around “real” people. He would often reference his upbringing on subjects that had nothing to do with the class, and discuss matters that had nothing to do with the subject. Then he would talk and lecture about how students were failures and so on.

        I ended his class with a C, which he gave me because I was late to his class every single day by at least fifteen to twenty minutes. Didn’t matter that I was an “A” student as far as the work I turned in. I didnt mind the “C”, actually. I was late to his class because I was busy spending time with my sociology professor. Long after his class was over, some of us would stay after and chat with him, maybe tease him on various subjects. He was engaging and made the subject matter enjoyable. I took at least 4 of his classes as electives.

    • Jing

      To each their own.

  • [email protected]

    sofa – now I am officially lame

    • donscarletti

      It would be marginally less lame if you actually got it.

      In my head, I see you calling “sofa” as you miss the sofa and fall arse first onto the coffee table.

  • notorious

    I don’t think the fact that something is in America makes it inherently better.

    • moop

      no, but that’s usually the case. take the following as examples. here’s just a small list of things that are better in america than they are in china:
      TV stations and tv programming, food quality, air quality, health care, education, manners, cleanliness, hygeine, moral standards, any form of art or expression, news, any form of media, traffic, human rights, animal rights, women’s rights, property rights…etc. so why don’t you stop being so butthurt that yale is better than bei da. i guess maybe you are beida alum? qinghua is better than bei da anyways

      • moop

        whoops, forgot rule of law. that’s a big’un

      • Choonage

        The only thing among that list that is in any way controversial is art in its various forms. America is not represented at all when it comes to ancient art and architecture. Modern art-wise, the biggest sellers in international auctions in the last few years (think Sothby’s, Christie’s etc) have been contemporary Chinese art. American art isn’t a big feature in these auctions.

        Food quality, yes China is worse. Food variety (talking about what’s native to the country), China is better by far.

        • bomber

          Yeah, but “what’s native to the country” is a highly relative term. Tomatoes and corn are both New world foods. So are Yams. As far as variety goes, Chinese have more named dishes, but how much actual variation is there between them? Also, no baking tradition and almost no dairy – not to mention alcohol. I love Chinese food, but it isn’t necessarily better or richer a cultural cuisine than others’. If I had my druthers I’d probably eat Tex-Mex every day.

          • bjornt

            Don’t forget potatoes, or “dirt beans” as those Northerners like to call it as a New World food. The Chinese does have a tradition of alcohol though, there are a number of ancient poetry about officials getting drunk. Millet was one of the earliest grains to be turned into alcohol.

          • bomber

            That’s true, they do have a tradition of alcohol. I meant that they landed on baijiu and didn’t really look back. I’m sure there were distilleries making other kinds of alcohol, but not with the variety (beer, wine, spirits) that sloppy drunkards in the west were ;)

        • notorious

          I majored in art when I was in school and I have to say I agree. Wholeheartedly.

          • bjornt

            Sounds like the nouveau riche Chinese are buying themselves into another bubble.

          • Chris N.

            I majored in psychology when I was in school and I have to say you’re insane.

          • notorious

            Chris, insane in regards to what? @me?

      • Alex

        who is butthurt?

        Honestly, you can say the average American university is better than the Chinese one. You can say Yale is way better than bei da. But the point is, the fact that something is in America doesn’t make it inherently better.

        And please, American food better than Chinese?

        I’m not Chinese, nor American. I’ve been living in borth countries.

    • bjornt

      Actually pretty much everything American is better than Chinese. Even American-Chinese basketball players are better than Chinese-Chinese basketball players. Heck, look at the school rankings: Peking U. is ranked so embarrassing low. Perhaps the only thing that China does better than the US is Chinese food, however one must be careful if the Chinese food is tainted or not.

      • Captain Obvious! Do we no longer consider China to be a developing nation? That’s what I’ve been saying I don’t know why everyone is all scared of China going to take all their shit. But I guess competition is good.

        • notorious

          on yahoo, there were many jokes about China’s vice president visiting last week. Most of them said “the landlord is here lol”.

      • Nanjing

        Wow, those university rankings seem to be a little bias. You’re telling me Oregon State is a better school than Peking? If that were true and Chinese students knew how easy it was to get into OSU there would be millions of overworked students taking a concrete dive knowing they dedicated their childhood and adolescence to get into a mediocre school.

        • Sbard

          The list is a ranking by Shanghai Jiaotong mostly intended for use by Chinese students looking to attend graduate school. As such, it’s heavily biased towards large research universities. Note the complete absence of schools without graduate programs (like Swarthmore or Amherst).

      • hanyucha

        Two words – ping pong!

      • jin

        this site is just PURE BIAS lol. i guess its made by americans, and wtf? 90% of the university in this crap ranking is american university? made in USAss

        • Anon

          Pay attention- it’s a Chinese ranking.

        • bjornt

          Are you telling me the Chinese (Institute of Higher Education of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China) are bias against themselves? Lol.

  • Taargus

    It has nothing to do with being American, hater. Yale is a superior university, trust me, I’ve attended both schools(although only a year at pku). It’s not even a discussion.

    I actually agree with the prof…two videos for two different purposes. Not even the most jingoistic Chinese academic would dare compare pku to Yale in terms of academics.

    • Chris N.

      Could you elaborate? What did you see at PKU that convinced you of this? I’m genuinely interested.

  • gatesofbabylon

    Well, when the thing in question is university education, I’d wager it’s fairly cut and dry.

    • notorious

      @gatesofbabylon re “Well, when the thing in question is university education, I’d wager it’s fairly cut and dry.”

      This statement is culturally biased.

      • moop

        more like factually biased

  • gatesofbabylon

    That was meant to be a reply to Notorious

  • typingfromwork

    I would say that the two videos are aimed at different demographics. There are plenty of promotional videos for American universities that focus on the campus and history (Blah blah Teddy R. went here, historical 18th century buildings blah). Both are excellent universities in their own country. I would like Chinese universities to focus on individuals more but the fact of the matter is most people know that there’s much less flexibility in Chinese degrees than American ones. They can definitely improve on that.

    As for comparing Yale with PKU- one is a world top 10, the other isn’t anywhere near. Simple as. Come back in another couple of decades, and the comparison may have more merit.

  • donscarletti

    I know everyone thinks about Yale as being a super-villain training academy, but I’m still going to say: go to the one where Kong Qingdong is not a professor.

    • staylost

      Maybe Kong Qingdong can award the Confucius peace prize to Jeremy Lin to convince him to come to China.


      No one has ever so disrespected Confucius but his own faux descendant.

      • donscarletti

        Kong Qingdong is a product of Confucius’ lineage being so damn valuable that diluting it by breeding outside the immediate family for the last 2500 years would simply be inexcusable.

  • Andy

    To even mention a prestigious academy of excellence like Yale (George W excepted) on the same web page as the backwards PKU rice academy, is like comparing George St Pierre with Hulk Hogan !

    • typingfromwork

      What the fu…?

      George wishes he has the money, legendary fame, showmanship and business clout of the Hulkinator. Actually he probably just wants to bang Hogan’s daughter.

  • mark

    uni ranking
    if you dont include Hong Kong then 2 chinese unis have made it into the top 50 and they are going up every year

    the top ten is the USA and the UK [unlike that other link that pretty much just has the USA in the top 100 this list has been put together a bit better.

  • jeffli

    If I had the opportunity to choose between yale and Beijing Universities I would not hesitate to choose Yale. why?
    1. cleaner environment
    2. less poisons in available foodstuffs
    3. a more progressive education system.
    4. more likely my achievements, how ever humble, will still be internationally recognised.
    5. After five or six years studying there if I’m a foreigner I have the option to immigrate – in China? no-way and probably don’t want to.
    6. From Yale I can continue further studies in many countries at many universities within US/England/Canada/Australia/New Zealand -this point is linked with 4.
    7. Real cost? not so much different these days huh? eh?
    8. Better global connections.
    9. modern infrastructure and resources.
    so do I waste 3-5 years and lots of dollars with a bunch of fuddy-duddies acquiring a diploma that needs be translated and then then no-one will trust,
    Go and do 3-4 years at Yale?

    • dilladonuts

      Well put.

      Most of the Chinese education system is mostly bullocks, infrastructure sucks, student life on campus sucks, entertainment sucks, teachers bland and uncultured, going to uni in China is more like going to a boarding school.

      • dilladonuts

        BTW, A couple youngins I know go to quite a ” prestigious ” UNI in SH and dorm there as well, the Uni still cuts electricity after 11pm, and no heating. Seriously? Boarding school I tell ya…

        • bjornt

          Hey man, if Chinese people lived the lifestyle of Americans(especially in regards to use in electricity and resources) the world would explode.

      • Anon

        As ridiculous as the hard-partyin’ lifestyle at American universities can be, Chinese universities go waaaaay too far in the other direction, treating students like children. Which I guess makes sense in a way, as thanks to their upbringing many of the students still basically are children.

  • dim mak

    >implying anyone cares about ancient history or student life and aren’t just there to get a diploma

    Brotip: unless you’re poor, don’t live on campus.

  • Glen

    Has anyone even watched the video for Yale? It’s complete satire. A joke. This was definitely made for the laughs, administration must have had a good sense of humor and promoted it. I can’t believe it’s being taken seriously, but I guess that shows something about some standards

  • Foreign Devil

    The Yale Promo video is some kind of joke or parody? They break out into a Disney style musical number. .

  • Rod

    Yup. That’s why thousands of students travel to the US to study INDEFINITELY, and Americans coming to study in China list it as a ‘write-off’ because they know they won’t learn anything worthwhile.

  • 平凡人

    Personal opinion, I think the Yale advertisement gives more answers to students who applying for college. The PKU on the other hand entice people to visit the campus.
    Well since PKU’s video is not for recruitment (as stated by a professor); probably they are “packed” and no more talent required, it’s okay.

    • bjornt

      What kind of university develops a video for tourism? That is just silly and waste of resources. Tourists can’t even go inside and browse the library unless they put in a ridiculous down payment. There is really nothing to see at Peking University, unlike the other more important parts of Beijing. Once again it proves the aimless nature of Peking University, whereas the students of Yale are creative and fun.

      • staylost

        Wait… you have to pay to go into public university libraries in China?!?

        • bjornt

          Public universities? China has no such things! You need to put in a down payment, apparently to deter people from stealing books!

      • 平凡人

        Hey, welcome to China! Like I said, they don’t need to do recruitment, they have enough talented people already.

  • Kim Jung iLL

    The Chinese are just sore looser. Just look at the junks the Chines universities have produce, Kong Qingdong? Americans are exploring Mars for human civilization. Russians exploring lake vostok to study life. The Chinese? support North Koreas?

    • bjornt

      You only give one example of one product PK produced. Hardly a sample size for the quality of Chinese tertiary education. And the US is not exploring Mars, lol. They don’t have the money, lol.

    • MetalRules

      This is the stupiest comment I’ve ever read on this site