Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

The Changing Nature of China's Higher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

The Changing Nature of China's Higher Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper discusses the changing nature of China's higher education by turning to the changes that happened to China's higher education system brought about by implementing different government policies of higher education. The implementation of the policies, the restructuring of universities and independent colleges in 1952, the enrolling of workers, peasants and soldiers as college students, the turning from "elite" education to "mass" education and etc. results from the fact that China's higher education is by nature susceptible to changes, some of the changes being politically-driven, some economically-driven. Because of the changing nature, China's higher education is now a handy tool in the hands of those in power with which to realize their Utopian or egalitarian dreams and then a "powerhouse" generating knowledge as power pushing the country down the road to prosperity.

Keywords: China's higher education, reform, education system

1. Introduction

This paper is an effort to focus on the changing nature of China's higher education by addressing the changes in detail that happened to China's higher education system brought about by implementing different government policies of higher education. The paper elaborates on the policies, the restructuring of universities and independent colleges in 1952, the enrolling of workers, peasants and soldiers as college students, the turning from "elite" education to "mass" education and etc. that were adopted to meet the needs of the times. The ever-changing higher education of China's is sometimes politically-driven and sometimes it is economically-driven. Because of the changing nature, China's higher education is now a handy tool in the hands of those in power with which to realize their Utopian or egalitarian dreams and then a "powerhouse" generating knowledge as power pushing the country down the road to prosperity. On the whole China's higher education ever since 1949 is made up of two periods, the period before 1978 and that after 1978. In the first period the changes were meant to speed up the economic construction, to claim the proletarian dominance by reducing the disciplines of humanities and social sciences to a minimum and wiping out the church-sponsored private universities and to drive egalitarianism into the higher education system, bringing more opportunities to the children from working class families; in the second period, China's higher education system has experienced a drastic change in scope, in ideology, in structure and management, basically turning from the "elite" to the "mass" education and from the "home-bound" to the "internationally-oriented".

2. Restructuring of Universities and Colleges in 1952

In 1952 a series of sensational events happened to the Chinese universities and independent colleges which were to bring about far-reaching effects upon China's higher education.

2.1 Background

When they came to power in 1949, the Chinese communists realized that they faced a politically and economically chaotic situation, as was especially true of the case with the country's higher education where, as Ma Xulun, minister of Ministry of Education said at the First National Conference on Higher Education in June 1950, anarchy was the order of the day, because every university or independent college was found in intellectual isolation, confined to the circle of its own educational ideas and practices. (Su, 1989, p. 9) Five years earlier, the scholar had given a summary of China's overall situation of higher education characterized by 1) concentration of higher education on big cities along or close to coastlines; 2) preference given to humanities, social sciences and law over engineering and pure sciences and 3) therefore, much too serious shortage of the disciplines of engineering, education, medicine, agriculture and forestry to meet the needs of the socialist construction. (Li, 2002, p. 72) According to the statistics released in 1947, of all the college undergraduates those majoring in engineering and sciences accounted for less than 17. …

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