From the Origins to the Opening
The Origins and Development
The first modern Chinese universities were created on the Japanese or American model around 1900. In 1952, private universities or financed by the foreign missions were transformed into public institutions or closed.
In a context of centralized planed economy, the authorities adopted then the Soviet model: most of those superior organizations specialized and their first goal was to instruct, according to the objectives of the plan, graduates then recruited by state-owned enterprises themselves under the authority of ministries or provincial governments.
From then on, set apart of the most renowned universities which preserved some laboratories, researches were discarded, this activity being included in the Academy of Science of China.
Among the 1,032 superior establishments counted in the 1950s, 35 depended from the State Education Committee and 311 from 61 ministries. 686 others were under the authority of the provincial governments categorized by business sector (light or heavy industry, oil, farming, etc.).
This excessive segmentation had three major consequences:
a) The teaching was to specialized because their inside were fixed by rigid ministries or provincial offices;
b) The size of establishments remained small;
c) Many material and human means were wasted (disproportionate number of teachers with regard to the small number of students, equipments sub-used, lack of link between the education and the research).
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the political fights overrode the education and the resumption of the gaokao took place in 1977. On 5.7 million candidates, only 273 000 (4.8 %) were accepted. These fortunate benefited from free studies and from a small compensation of life expenses, as well as from the insurance of an employment in a government corporation. On the other hand, for the outcasts of the system, the mortar was enormous.
The Movement of Opening
The movement of opening launched in 1978 by Deng Xiaoping affected at first campaigns then propagated in cities.
The development of the private sector in the field of the services and the light industry increased the need in effective and productive staff. The universities multiplied (1,075 in 1988 against 633 in 1979) and the duration of the trainings augmented from two to three years. But the efficiency of them which the number of students rarely exceeded 2 000 remained mediocre: in the 1980s, the ratio students / teachers was close to 4 for 1 (against an international average from 10 to 12 for 1), the hourly responsibility of the weekly teaching was of 4.8 hours for the teachers (against from 9 to 12 hours in the other countries of the area Asia-Pacific).
In 1986, 15,804 specialities were counted for 1.8 million students (that is an average recruitment of 119 students by speciality). The emergence of the socialist market economy drove, in the middle 1990s, to an upheaval of the university landscape.
The Massification of the Higher Education
To end the hyper specialization and the uncountable local doubloons inherited from the planned economy, the ministry of Education began between 1995 and 2002, in agreement with the local authorities, a big institutions grouping.
It was a question of bringing to the foreground in China a choice of formations and centres of excellence, and of setting up an indispensable investment policy to increase accommodation facilities.
In 2000, about 612 superior establishments had merged to give rise to 250 establishments of bigger size. Universities play from now on a driving role in the regional development. And so in periphery of big metropolises appeared these last year’s mega-campus welcoming 50 000 to 100 000 students.
Establishments are henceforth placed under the authority of the ministry of Education for missions and educational principles, and under that of a central or local authority for their financing.
The Education Fees
To accompany the development of institutions, the registration fees were generalized in 1996. The amount of these rights, which cover 20 to 25 % of the budget of establishments, is fixed by the ministry of Education according to the theoretical cost of every instruction.
According to the authorities, there should only be charges for two higher education expenses, namely tuition and boarding fees. The boarding fee is around 800 to 1,200 yuan ($100-148) per student per school year, while tuition is decided by the operational costs of each school. Since the year 2000, the tuition level has been kept at about 25 percent of the routine operating cost per student.
Thanks to a voluntarism policy, the number of students quadrupled between 1998 and 2004. With an access rate of 19 % higher education in China filled partly its delay, but stay far behind the developed countries where 50 in 70 % of 18-22 years old teenagers follow higher education.
Reform the Management with the Aim of the Excellence
Services for the students in the campus (stores, banks, food supply, hospitals, etc.) were outsourced. The reform gives a bigger autonomy to universities, in particular for the recruitment of the students, the organization of the faculties and the departments, the contents of the instruction, the development of the research, the international cooperation, the management of the staff, the allocation of financial resources.
In return of the justification of their spending, they have a bigger independence of decision as for the affectation of their funds. This approach gives responsibilities to the establishments and favours the local initiatives even if it is always the Ministry of Education which names the President of University, fixes the sum of the inscription and gives the list of the specialities giving the right to diplomas.
The reduction of administrative staff and services allowed revaluing the salary of the teachers. The recruitment and the remuneration for these last ones depend on the applied policy and on the responsibilities which they assume (doctoral supervision, management of team, international publications, etc.).
The evaluation of teachings by the colleagues and by the students becomes more and more current. The publication in the Chinese and English-speaking press of position vacancies attracts academics of Chinese origin practicing abroad or in the other Chinese universities gives evidence of the emergence of a market of the mobility within the teaching profession.
The Project 211 and Project 985
Launched in 1996, the “project 211" aspires at obtaining, in the 21th century, 100 universities of excellence around priority themes: formation and research, to endow the country of the scientific and technological skills required to pursue its development in a competitive context.
To get and keep this label, universities are evaluated and negotiate with their regulatory authority the objectives to achieve. This project, which groups 94 superior establishments (that is less than 6 % of public institutions) unevenly located on the Chinese territory, ended in the national implementation of a broadband computer network dedicated to the research.
The certified universities " 211 " include 96 % of the key State laboratories, 85 % of the key disciplines, 87 % of the teachers who intervene at the doctoral level, 32 % of the students in benke (High school diploma + 4), 69 % of the students in Master's degree, 84 % of the students in doctorate. They have 54 % of the equipments of research and drain 72 % of the funds of the Chinese scientific research.
The "project 985 ", groups, since 1998, the 9 better “universities 211 "with the idea to raise them in the world prize list before twenty-thirty years.
Communication with Foreign Universities
More and more Chinese universities join with foreign universities to co-deliver in China the abroad recognized diplomas.
Since 1978, with the development of opening to the outside world, educational communication and cooperation got into a complete new stage. The work of sending students studying abroad develops well, the number of students studying abroad in China increases year by year, and the international academic communication widely carries out. By the educational communication, a lot of valuable experiences has been taken, and these experiences pushes the educational reforming and development, and the understanding and friendship are also increased and strengthen.
In more than 20 years time, 320,000 students studying abroad have been sent to more than 100 countries and area, more than 340,000 students studying abroad from 160 countries and areas have been received. Teachers and experts sent abroad reaches to 1,800, more than 40,000 foreign teachers and experts have been invited. The number of experts and scholars go abroad for international conferences from China and to China are both reaches to more than 11,000.
Since 1999, the number of students’ learning at their expenses abroad has strongly increased. About 400 000 Chinese study abroad, what makes of China the first source of foreign students. The favourite destinations are the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Korea and France.
The Reform of the Management of the Teaching Personnel
Between 2002 and 2004, some of the well-known universities made a reform of the management of the teaching personnel (the University of Peking, Tsinghua, Nankin, Fudan, Sun Yat-sen).
The objective was to set up procedures of recruitment and promotion of the teaching personnel which improve the competitiveness in regards of the better world universities. These reforms allowed noticing that if there is a consensus in China on the legitimacy of this objective, the views on the manners to reach it differ strikingly.
The main lines of the adopted measures concern the introduction of the competition and the mobility in the management of the careers of the teachers, and are inspired by the functioning of the American universities.
Full professors' positions are then reserved for those who give evidence of their skills. The lecturers and the recently recruited assistants will be hired on fixed-term contracts, renewable a limited number of time. The recruitments are widely opened on the outside and job descriptions are broadcasted on a national and international scale.
The evaluation of the learning and research activities by a scientific commission of the establishment becomes systematic. The detractors of these changes asserted that the Chinese universities suffer at first from a hypertrophy of the administration.
Voices about the Reform
Voices rose to say that if the university is still one of the rare sectors of the Chinese society to escape to the competition of the market, it is exactly to protect the academic autonomy of the teachers, indispensable to the development of the knowledge and research.
Others underlined that employ borrowed methods from the American universities in the Chinese universities, built on other historic and cultural bases, risk to weaken these last ones.
In reality, the underlying question concerns the superiority granted, within establishments, to the administrative and political structures. The power of the administration is contradictory to the implementation of transparent criteria of academic and scientific evaluation.
By privileging the quantitative rather than the qualitative, that means by increasing brutally the student staff without having reform the system of evaluation, fight against the fraud and the plagiarism which are endemic, the teachers' training capable not only of developing teachings centred on the learners but also of leading searches in laboratories, the authorities took the risk of proposing only half-reforms which will not maybe be enough to stop the brain drain abroad and to raise the Chinese universities in the world prize list.
The Challenges of the Next Years
The Current Situation
A comparison with India shows that China does not invest enough in the basic education, in particular in the rural zones. For families with low incomes, the costs of schooling are very important.
The authorities will have to take measures reducing the regional disparities and guaranteeing a real right to education to avoid that the place of birth or residence becomes a brake in the schooling. Otherwise, the children who live in the rejected rural zones or the children of migrants are socially condemned to become second-class citizens.
Many families got into debt to finance the secondary or university education of their children. With the massification of flows, the obtaining of a first employment often passes by the acceptance of an underpaid situation for which the young person is overqualified. The depreciation of their diplomas on the market and the competition with the migrants, make that young people have a feeling of frustration.
The Practical Application to the Knowledge
The teaching is also often unsuitable for the request of companies - in particular foreigners - of the service sector or the high value-added technologies, which tomorrow will be a wide part of the Chinese development.
It is important to develop the secondary and high professional training, and to watch a better use of the human resources by supporting the setting-up of qualified jobs in the rural zones and in the western provinces as well as by liberalizing the employment market.
The improvement of the pedagogy and the methods of study are indispensable to meet better the needs of companies. Lessons without interaction, limited to the reading aloud of a textbook, for which the written production rests especially on the compilation and the plagiarism, where the preparation of the evaluations is based on learning by heart are not the best way to develop the creativity, the critical mind, the adaptability and the capacities of communication.
The Influence of National College Entrance Exam
The current system of selection submit the pupils and the establishments a very strong pressure and suffocates the innovating talents: the life of million high school students are subjected to the two days of National College Entrance Exam.
For those who fail, there is no second chance. For those who pass, the choice of the further training is made without a real preliminary orientation and without verifying the adequacy of the substance to their capacities or to their curiosity.
Here or there, there were certainly some experiments of recruitment on the basis of interviews, but it concerned almost some hundreds students.
More Focuses on Education Questions
The educational questions occupy more and more space within the Chinese society: all the families are interested in the future of their child and have the justifiable concern of an access at every educational level.
Eminently social field, the education is a revelation of the contradictions of what the authorities continue to call the “Chinese-style socialism ". The student demonstrations of the year 2005-2006 show that the authorities will have to take all the measure of the strong expectations of the population concerning the education if they want to protect themselves of the risk of social instability.