China: Higher Education Reform

China: Higher Education Reform

China: Higher Education Reform

China: Higher Education Reform


This report takes a historical and comparative approach in examining the development of higher education in China at both systemic and institutional levels in the context of broad social and economic changes in China's society. The investigation focuses on four areas: relationships between universities and the state, the impact of changes on university management, financing of higher education, and quality improvement in instructional programs. By reviewing the literature and drawing on evidence from and experiences of other countries, the study provides a fair picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the country's higher education institutions in relation to their individual histories, current conditions, and potentials, as well as recommendations for their future development.


Since 1978, the Chinese Government has placed priority within the education sector upon rapid expansion and improvement of higher education to help reduce the serious human resource constraints on the country's economic and social development. In1985, the Government adopted the document Decision on Education Reform that, inter alia, aimed at providing the mix of skills of a rapidly changing society; to improve efficiency, quality and equity; and to release resources required to develop and enhance education at lower levels.

In order to speed up nationwide transformation from a planned economy to a market economy, the State Council and the Communist Party jointly issued the Guidelines for Development and the Reform of China's Education System in February 1993 to outline the strategy for further reform of the Chinese higher education system. the document identified higher education as being linked to China's competitive position in the world: [Whoever receives education that is oriented toward the 21st century will gain the strategic initiative in international competition during the 21st century.] the document called for reforms to (a) provide the required specialists for China's modernization and for establishment of a socialist market economy; (b) improve the social status, work and living conditions of teachers; and (c) build up 100 key universities and establish several key courses of study. To attain these goals, among the reform measures introduced are decentralization with educational institutions gaining more autonomy; restructuring the system of college enrollment and job placement for graduates, diversifying channels of funding; and improving the quality of the subsector.

Within this context of reform and the sectoral priorities of efficiency and quality, this report examines the implementation of reform goals in terms of four core themes: (a) changing role of government in relation to higher education institutions; (b) implications of reforms for institutional management; (c) diversification of structure and sources of financial support and its utilization; and (d) quality improvement in higher education with particular emphasis on staffing and curricular issues. Identification of core themes and subthemes of the report were guided by the State Education Commission's (SEdC's) identification of the challenges posed by the reform goals to the system as a whole, to institutions in particular, and by the Commission's prioritization of problem areas to be examined. This chapter reviews the implementation of reforms to date, and assesses progress by examining a number of system indicators.

Higher Education and Economic Reform


China's present higher education system was created in the early 1950s with the goal of training high-level personnel according to perceived manpower needs of the central plan. Between 1949 and 1959, higher education expanded sixfold in order to meet the skill requirements for industrialization, agricultural modernization, and political mobilization. During the Cultural Revolution(1966–76), enrollment was reduced to below the 1949 level, examinations were abolished, and admission and graduation were based on political criteria. in . . .

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