2. RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN UNIVERSITIES
AND THE STATE

Context

The State has recently developed a very different interpretation of its role vis-a-vis the universities. The principles behind this new approach were summarized in a recent publication of the Communist Party (CP) Central Committee and the State Council.1 Paragraph 18 calls for deepening reform of the higher educational system [by gradually setting up a system under which the government exercises overall management while schools [universities] are run independently and geared to the needs of society.] The document suggests that the areas where their managerial autonomy should be expanded are [enrolling students, adjusting specialties, appointing and removing cadres, spending funds, evaluating job titles, distributing wages, and conducting international cooperation and exchanges.] It also proposes a gradual devolution of the state's overall management function from the center to autonomous regional and municipal authorities and suggests that, subject to various conditions, they should have the power to set enrollment levels and to decide on new academic specialties. Paragraph 19 outlines other changes in the enrollment system: for example, moving to a system in which all students pay fees with scholarship support where necessary, and to an employment system where [the majority of graduates should choose a job by themselves.]

Changes have already been introduced to the direct relationship that SEdC has with universities. Consultations are under way within SEdC on the mechanics of designating universities as independent legal entities. This is the legal rock on which their managerial autonomy will rest, as it could allow them to set their own strategic goals, define their own specializations, and control their resources accordingly. In August 1992, SEdC made a formal directive which reduced central controls in 16 areas. The principal relaxations concerned the management of universities and the devolution of new responsibilities to university presidents. For example, universities were free to appoint or remove teaching staff below the level of vice president; they gained the right to choose academic specializations within the broad academic areas approved by SEdC; they could expand fee-paying and contract student numbers within a cap of 25 percent of their total enrollment; both capital and recurrent budgets were given as [global budgets,] allowing spending flexibility within the total; they gained the freedom to approve travel and study overseas and they were free to pay bonuses, or rewards for good performance to individual academic staff. These liberties have since been acted upon energetically as Chapter 3 shows.

As a result of these changes, the current position in the five functions described at the beginning of this chapter is as follows:

1 Program for China's Educational Reform and Development. Text issued by Xinhua News Agency. Beijing. February 26, 1993.

-20-

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