A business school established by Alibaba founder Jack Ma was the center of a social media frenzy on Sunday when a video circulated showing its name being erased from a stone placard, sparking speculation as to whether the school was closing or simply being renamed.
Hupan University in Zhejiang province confirmed to mainland media that its name was changing to Hupan Entrepreneurship Research Center “to avoid creating misunderstanding,” a change that was soon reflected on the institution’s official Weibo profile.
In a widely circulated video, workers were seen removing the words “Hupan University” from a stone placard in the institution’s grounds. The change prompted netizens to reference Jack Ma’s words when Hupan was founded in 2015, that it would keep running for 300 years. “Can it only manage a few years now?” one netizen asked.
Mainland media speculated that the reason for the change is that privately run institutions cannot call themselves universities unless they are subject to supervision from the Chinese Ministry of Education and the credentials they issue are recognized by the state.
Hupan was founded in March 2015, not as an educational institution, but as a private non-enterprise social organization. It has been accused of elitism for its 4.07% acceptance rate and for its requirement that those enrolling must be entrepreneurs whose businesses have been active for more than three years.
On Friday, the Chinese government published new regulations for the promotion of private education, stipulating that Chinese Communist Party units at such schools must “participate and supervise” when major policy decisions are being made.
According to Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao newspaper, the first-year class at Hupan, which was scheduled to begin in March, has been suspended. It’s unclear when newly enrolled students will begin classes, the paper said, but Hupan is not shutting down.
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