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In December 2015, Yunnan University established the School of Ethnology and Sociology, based on the Ethnic Research School of the Department of Sociology and Social Work of the School of Public Administration, and sociology staff from a previous Development Research Institute.
In accordance with the Double First-rate university strategy of Yunnan University, the school aims to promote social development, social management and social services in Yunnan, southwestern China and Southern and Southeastern Asia, and promote the development of the philosophy of social science in China.
As a teaching and research institution, the school has a Party committee, an administrative office, departments of anthropology, sociology, and social work, and institutes for religious culture research, Chinese ethnic minority history research, ethnology research, borderland studies research, and social work research. It also has an anthropology museum.
In addition, the school is in charge of the development of two key research bases of the Ministry of Education -- the Yunnan University Southwestern Borderland Ethnic Minorities Research Institute and the Yunnan Ethnic Research Institute.
Yunnan University initiated anthropology as an undergraduate major in 1987, one of the first universities in China to do so; in 1990 it established sociology as a major, and in 1992 it set up a major for social work. It was among the first ten universities in China to offer a social work major.
Yunnan University was authorized to grant doctoral degrees in Chinese ethnic history in 1981, and was among the first institutions to accept doctoral candidates.
The School of Ethnology and Sociology has a national key major of Ethnology, a first-level doctoral program of ethnology, a first-level master's degree program of ethnology and sociology, one master's degree of social work, three undergraduate majors of ethnology, sociology, and social work, one postdoctoral ethnological research station, and one national training base for social work professionals.
The school has 91 staff, 18 professors, and 20 associate professors, including two second-level professors and three distinguished professors of Yunnan University.
The School of Ethnology and Sociology has been approved by the Ministry of Education as a key research base for the humanities and social sciences. The university's Southwestern Borderland Ethnic Minorities' Research Center has five sub-institutes, which are the Kuige research center, the intangible cultural heritage research center, the ethic relations and ethnic issues research center, the trans-ethnic and borderland issues research center, and the visual anthropology research center. It has two academic magazines –Southwestern Ethnic Minorities Research (CSSCI) and China southwestern Anthropology and Ethnology Review.
The school set up the Yunnan Provincial Ethnic Research Center in 2006. The center serves Yunnan's economic and social development goals, organizes research resources and major research projects, and solves key theoretical and practical issues.
The school set up a research base for southwestern social management and social development with the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and set up a provincial research center of social management and social work with the Yunnan Department of Civil Affairs.
The school has hosted many high-level academic meetings and forums in recent years, including the 16th Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, The East Asia Anthropology Forum, and an International conference on the interactions of China’s southwestern and southeastern ethnic groups.
The school has cooperation relationships with more than 30 overseas universities, including the University of Leuven, Chiang Mai University, Queen's University Belfast, Yeungnam University, the United Nations University, etc.
The school invites about 20 foreign experts in ethnology and anthropology to teach in Yunnan University every year, and sends about the same number to other countries.
The school established a program to cultivate professionals in Chinese ethnic history videography with the Gottingen scientific movie research institute in Germany in 1998. An anthropology experiment room was set up in 2006, including two movie projection and discussion areas, 20 video on demand terminals, a resources room and a movie editing room to work on anthropology and ethnology movie production.