The Trends and Challenges of Higher Education in China

The Trends and Challenges of Higher Education in China

Shuyi Zhang (Shanghai Finance University, P. R. China) and Li Zhao (Shanghai Finance University, P. R. China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-599-5.ch015
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This case focuses on the challenges and trends of Chinese higher education. It analyzes the challenges that the Chinese higher education faces and discusses a couple of issues of internationalization of higher education, and finally, the case points out the future trends that Chinese higher education might encounter.
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Since the foundation of People’s Republic of China, gradually the Chinese government has established three national education strategies: Priority Development, Revitalization China in Term of Science and Education, and Reinvigoration China through Human Resource. China has shaped the socialist education system with characteristics of increasing scale, quality improvement, reasonable structure, and effectiveness enhancement. During the process of reform and development initiating in1980s, the deepening education structural reform has provided powerful impetus to the vitality of Chinese education. After years of exploration and practice, China has established its compulsory education system led by the State Council, planned and implemented by the provincial government, especially the local government. Such a system strengthens the government’s duty, and plays a key role to push forward the compulsory education. With the advancement of building socialist democracy and legal system, China has set up preliminary education law and regularity system that composed of the central and local education law, administrative rules, which paved the way for the civil education right, the basic educational institute, and the improvement of reform and development (Yang, 2001).1 In 2008, nationwide institutions of higher education numbered 2,663, including 2,263 regular higher education institutions, and 400 institutions of higher adult education. Among regular institutions of higher education, 1,079 were four-year undergraduate institutions, and 1,184 were polytechnic colleges. There were altogether 796 master’s-degree-granting institutions in China, including 479 colleges and universities and 317 research institutes.2

China has just celebrated 60th anniversary in October, 2009 and looking back, the Chinese education has made a great progress along with the achievements in other industries. During the past 60 years, especially last three decades, the Chinese government has been improving educational level for general public and hence promoting the cultural and scientific quality for Chinese nation (Liu, 2009). By establishing the socialist education framework, Chinese education has fulfilled two historic stride leaps, namely, the universal of the nine-year compulsory education, and the mass higher education which contribute more to accelerating development of vocational education by insisting on the public welfare and equal access to education (Postiglione, 2005). The number of students in primary school, middle school, high school, and the universities respectively booms as shown in Table 1 below. The enrolment for institutions of higher education and the number of students attending school continued to increase.

Table 1.
The number of students at different educational level (in, 0,000)
Type of education194919782008
primary school24391462410332
middle school8349955628
high school4418044546

(Source: The number of students in different educational level in 1949, 1978, and 2008, available at

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