In 1978, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Radio and Television jointly founded the Chinese television universities with the objective of addressing the constraints on human resources. In 1979, the Central Radio and Television University (CRTVU) was established in Beijing and 28 Provincial Radio and Television Universities (PTVUs) were set up in the provinces and the municipalities. Now there are 46 PTVUs with thousands of local stations (See Annex 7A for source).
The CRTVU registered no students, but controlled most of the undergraduate curriculum through courses it made and the national examinations it set. PTVUs were responsible for enrolling students, and for supporting these courses with printed teaching materials and broadcasting basic and specialized courses. Initially, these TVUs enrolled professional staff, industrial and commercial workers, scientific and technological technicians, secondary school teachers, and the members of the military who passed an entrance examination. In the early days, most students were released on basic pay to study 36 hours a week in local classes during the day, often at their place of work or in a special study center. The World Bank supported the development of this system with a loan of $85 million in 1982. A flexible self-study examination system was introduced in 1983 to enable spare-time students to use TVU materials for independent study. Enrollment grew rapidly, peaking in 1985 with 673,000 students. Between 1979 and 1991, 1.3 million students graduated with credentials from TVUs, and another 3 million studied courses without obtaining credits.
A series of measures introduced in 1986 and 1987 changed the original direction of TVUs. In 1986, short-cycle TVU courses covering science, engineering, economics, and teacher training, were introduced. In 1987, to raise the quality of TVU's intake, applicants for undergraduate programs were required to pass the national university entrance examination; independent study classes were closed down; post-university courses (mostly on engineering, economics, and finance) were introduced for in-service, skill-upgrading; and teacher training was introduced. The last emphasis was derived from the 1985 reform which called for nine years of basic education for all by 2000. To reach this target required training 70 percent of junior secondary school teachers and 20 percent of primary school teachers who were unqualified. With the introduction of satellite borne transmission in 1986, the capacity of TV broadcasting was expanded dramatically. About half of the satellite transmission time was used for in-service training of primary and secondary school teachers. The State Education Commission encouraged joint running of schools and merging of various TVUs with other adult education institutions, such as correspondence universities, workers' colleges, evening universities, and conventional universities. Courses studied under the TVUs could be recognized by local institutions, which could award certificates jointly
1 The content of this annex draws heavily from the article by Ma, Weixiang and David Hawkridge, [China's Changing Policy and Practice in Television Education,1978–1993,] International Journal of Educational Development, Vol. 15, No. 1, 1995, pp. 27–36.