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Higher Education in China

Since the implementation of reform and opening up, the reform and development of higher education have made significant achievements. A higher education system with various forms, which encompasses basically all branches of learning, combines both degree-education and non-degree education and integrates college education, undergraduate education and graduate education, has taken shape. Higher education in China has played an important role in the economic construction, science progress and social development by bringing up large scale of advanced talents and experts for the construction of socialist modernization.

In 2019, there were all together 2688 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), among which 1265 were universities, 257 were independent colleges and 1423 were higher vocational colleges. There were also 268 higher education institutions for adults. In 2019, the total enrollment of undergraduate in the regular HEIs were 30,315,262. The total enrollment of postgraduate in the regular HEIs were 2,863,712. The total enrollment of adult higher education institutions were 6,685,603.

Chinese economic system used to be very highly centralized. To adapt to that, the former higher education system was also centralized, with education provided by the central and local governments respectively and directly under their administration. The disadvantages of this system were that the state undertook too many responsibilities and the schools lacked the flexibility and autonomy to provide education according to the needs of the society, with central departments and local governments providing education separately, the structure of education was irrational and segmented. There were too many single disciplinary HEIs and professional HEIs, With the establishment of disciplines over-lapped, the efficiency of some HEIs fell very low which in return hampered the improvement of education quality. Therefore, the structural reform of higher education has become a key for other higher education reforms. The reforms of higher education consist of five parts: reforms of education provision, management, investment, recruitment and job-placement, and the inner-institute management, among which management reform is of most importance and difficulty. The overall objectives of higher education reform are to smooth the relationship among government, society and HEIs, setting up and perfecting a new system in which the state is responsible for the overall planning and macro management while the HEIs follow the laws and enjoy the autonomy to provide education according to needs of the society.

After several years' endeavor, the structural reform of higher education has gained heartening achievements. In the field of education provision reform, the old system in which the state undertook the establishment of all HEIs has been broken, and a new system in which the government take main responsibility with the active participation of society and individuals has been taking shape. The development of HEIs run by social forces are fully encouraged and supported.

Regarding management system reform, the relationship among universities, government and society has been gradually smoothed out by various ways such as joint establishment, adjustment, cooperation and merger. A two-level education provision system has taken shape in which the central and local government will take different responsibilities to provide education with the former responsible for the overall planning and management. As a result, the overlapping of education was overcome. At the same time, the government streamlines their administration and delegate more power to the HEIs, expanding their autonomy of providing education for the society according to the laws.

With regard to the financing system, the old system in which the funding of higher education depended on the governments only has been changed and a new system capable of pooling resources from diverse channels with the main responsibilities on government has been gradually established and perfected.

With regard to the reform of system of recruitment, fees charging and graduates job-placing, on the basis that all citizens should enjoy the legally equal right of receiving higher education, which should be consistently stick to, in the light of local economic development, a new system in which all students should pay reasonable contribution to their own higher education has taken shape. Simultaneously, a scholarship system for excellent student both academically and morally and a loan, stipend and taking part-time jobs system for students with family economic difficulties has been brought into common practice, ensuring that none students will drop out of school because of economic reasons. After their graduation, the students will mainly select their own jobs under the guidance of the state policy. In addition, the MOE is undertaking the reform of examination and recruitment of HEIs which will help HEIs to select talents and expand the autonomy of schooling, thus laying the foundation of training creative talents, and also help the secondary schools to implement comprehensive quality oriented education.

With regard to the reform of internal administration mechanism, the key lays in the personnel system and the allotment system reforms. On the basis of reasonable organization structure delimitation, all the teaching staff carries out the post responsibility system and appointment system and working achievements are emphasized concerning the personal income allotment, which strengthens the encouragement mechanism in allotment and mobilized the enthusiasm of the teaching.

Teaching Reform in Higher Education in China

1) The solidified core status of teaching in HEIs.

In HEIs, the idea that with training talents as its basic task, teaching as its melody, how to increase the education equality is its eternal theme, teaching reform is the core of any other reforms, and undergraduate education is its basis is becoming the dominant idea for higher education. The establishment of this dominant idea comes by not easily.

From the end of 1980's to the early 1990's, there used to be inadequate input in the fields of leading vigor, teaching expenditure, teachers and the students' energy. As a result, the trend of declining or potential crisis once showed up in the field teaching. In order to stop that, the former State Education Commission took active measures and gave guiding opinions on some directing, comprehensive and strategic issues. Under the unified planning of State Education Commission, the educational executive departments at various levels energetically deliberated the policies and measures to stop the trend of teaching declining in its own areas and department. All the efforts effectively controlled the trend and potential crisis and lead the teaching work to develop in good direction.

2) The completion of the reservation of the discipline catalogue and disciplines adjustment and the beginning of the over all reservation of teaching plan.

The former SEDC began the new round of reservation of undergraduate discipline catalogue in 1997. Following the policy of being scientific, adapting and standard, the reservation came to the end successfully in July 1998 after a year's of thorough investigation and repeated proof. The total number of disciplines was reduced from 504 to 249. After that, MOE promulgated "The basic ideas on the reservation of teaching plan of undergraduate disciplines in the HEIs." and "The Circular of making good reservation of teaching plan of undergraduate disciplines for HEIs " in succession. At present, according to the planning of MOE, all the regular HEIs are undertaking the new round of teaching plan reservation. The new teaching plan will come into practice in the autumn of 1999.

3) Entering a substantial key stage for the reform of teaching contents and curriculum

The former SEDC launched the "Reform Plan of Teaching Contents and Curriculum of Higher Education Facing the 21st Century" in 1994, formally ratifying the establishment of 211 big projects and nearly a thousand sub-projects with tens of thousands teachers participating. This plan covers all areas of teaching such as teaching ideology, teaching contents, curriculum structure and teaching methodology. A advisory group for the reform of teaching contents and curriculum consisting of domestic famous experts from all disciplines has been set up. By now, 20 million RMB have been put into the whole plan and the aim that by the end of this century and early next century nearly a hundred new talents training patterns and almost a thousand sets of new teaching materials will come into being is being realized. At the same time, a large number of teaching reform achievements have showed up in HEIs. 1997, the National Teaching Achievements Awards organized and implemented by the former SEDC all together offered 422 State Awards. The national comparison of computer-aided teaching software research was carried out in 1995 and 1997 respectively and a bunch of preliminary systematic teaching software with high quality has sprung up.

4) The initial success of talents training bases for basic disciplines and the teaching bases of basic courses

Since the later year of 1980's, the basic disciplines in HEIs has been facing serious difficulties such as severe inadequate expenditure, very unstable teacher team, obvious decline of students' quality. As a result, the long-term development of our science and technology and the training quality of talents in higher education were threatened. Under that circumstance, the former SEDC decided to establish the training bases for talents in basic disciplines and the teaching bases of basic courses. By the end of 1998, 84 national training bases of talents from basic disciplines of Science, 51 for basic disciplines of Arts, 45 for engineering disciplines and 13 for economics have been set up in succession. The bases attracted lots of outstanding high school graduates, thus the quality of students was improved obviously and the initiative of the teachers increased unprecedented. The establishment and reform of bases gained common approval and appreciation form higher education sector.

5) The enhancement of cultural education of university students and the exploration of new talents training models

In 1995, the former SEDC envisaged to enhance the cultural education of university students. With the tangency of enhancing the cultural quality of university students, moral and ideological quality, cultural quality, professional quality and physical and psychological quality were combined organically together. Passing on knowledge, training capacities and improve quality were be mixed and quality education was realistic strengthened. 52 HEIs participated in the pilot work. The concerning HEIs took various measures, such as identifying the compulsory reading list, strengthening classroom teaching, offering lectures, and organizing all kinds of cultural activities, to promote the programme development. Some pilot HEIs identified the goal, basic requirement and assessment standard of the programme while some others began to adjust talents training and teaching plans in the light of new requirements. After 3-year of pilot, MOE promulgated the "opinions in the enhancement of cultural education of university students", set up directory committee for cultural education and ratified 32 "Bases for the Enhancement of cultural education of university students", which symbolized that the enhancement of cultural education of university students was carried out fully and over the country.

6) The increase of the vitality of short 2-3 years higher education in the reform

The former SEDC have established 216 teaching reform pilots for short 2-3 years higher education nationally, and the establishments of pilot colleges are progressing successfully and a number of disciplines and colleges with short higher education characteristics are also taking shape. Recently, with the condition of education provision of those colleges greatly improved and their pace of basic construction speed up, the overall capacity of education provision of them has remarkably strengthened and important achievements have been made in the field of teaching reform. The experience and achievements gained in the reform of short 2-3 years higher education provied important experience for the development of higher vocational education. The state policy of energetically developing higher vocational education in return provides new opportunity for the development of short 2-3 years higher education, which has shown up its great vitality.

7) The establishment of macro management system on quality of higher education made stable progress

In 1993, the Department of Higher Education of former SEDC began to research the assessment plan and the practice of teaching assessment. Aimed at helping the HEIs consistently identify their schooling directive ideology, improving the schooling conditions, enhancing the basic construction of teaching, deepening teaching reform, increasing management level and gradually setting up and perfecting the system of self-development and self-restrain so as to continuously improve education quality and increase schooling efficiency, the assessment of undergraduate teaching adheres to the principle of "promoting reform and establishment through assessment, combining assessment and establishment together with the emphasis laying on establishment". There are three forms of assessment: the first is the pass level teaching assessment to the universities with comparatively weak basis and short history of undergraduate education; the second is the excellent level assessment to the universities with good basis, high teaching level and a comparatively long history of undergraduate education; and the last one is the random level assessment to the universities between pass level and excellent level. Since 1994, 146 HEIs with weak basis and short history of undergraduate education have undertook the pass level assessment step by step and 10 key universities have undertook the excellent level assessment. The development of teaching assessment evoked intense repercussions among educational administrative departments and HEIs and played an important role in promoting the improvement of higher education quality.

8) The importance attached to the research of higher education theory and directing teaching reform with scientific theory

In early 1993, with other three departments, the Department of Higher Education of former SEDC jointly sponsored and organized research team for the task of "On the research of theory for socialistic higher education with Chinese characteristics". With the keys on what is the socialistic higher education with Chinese characteristics and how to establish such higher education, the team carried out their theoretical research. Supported by educational administrative departments at various levels, after four years' endeavour, a number of important research achievements like "the Theory keys of Higher Education with Chinese Characteristics" have been made and aroused great influence in the higher education circle. After this research, in the light of development of our socialistic modernization construction and higher education reform and the historic opportunity of entering a new millennium for our human beings, MOE organized the research team for the task of " Chinese Higher Education in 21st Century " to continue the theoretical research on socialistic higher education with Chinese characteristics.

9) The track of managing higher education through laws

On 29 August, 1998, the 4th conference of the 9th standing committee of National Congress passed the "Higher Education Law of People's Republic of China" which is implemented from 1 Jan, 1 999. Higher Education Law is the first complete higher education legal document in term of legislature. It is a law, which standardizes the internal and external complicated social re1ationship of higher education and its own activities. It is a basic law promulgated under the direction of the constitute and Education Law which laying the important foundation for the establishment of a systematic and perfect higher education legal system led by the Higher Education Law.

10) The assurance of further deepened reform through further improvement of schooling conditions

With the deepening of teaching reform, inadequate input in it has been an obstacle. In order to solve the problem, educational administrative departments at various levels and HEIs have actively explored the measures and ways to increase educational expenditure and improve schooling conditions. At present, the World Bank Loan Project, which is being carried out, will all together input $70 million to improve the experiment conditions for the basic courses in HEIs. Local governments at various levels have also take a serious of measures to expand the input to locaI HEIs to enhance the construction of disciplines, bases, curriculum, laboratory and library for HEIs, greatly improving the material conditions of these HEIs.

The Construction of Teaching Contingent

From the end of 1980's to the early 1990's, the problems of aging, lacking young teachers and low qualification have obviously shown up concerning the teaching contingent in HEIs. To change the situation, educational administrative departments at various levels and HEIs made different policies and took all kinds of measures, After l0 years unremitting efforts, all those problems have been solved primarily.

1) With many young teachers replenished, the age structure of teachers' contingent has been adjusted. A number of middle-aged and young teachers have gradually developed themselves and become the backbone teams in teaching and research.
2) The policies relative to position promotion have been made and the position structure of teaching contingent has been adjusted.
3) The proportion of Ph. Ds and masters to be selected and remained in HEIs has been increased and the degree structure of teachers has been adjusted.
4) The knowledge structural of teachers has been adjusted through in-service training, offering in-service degree education, selecting teachers to go aboard for advanced studies and carrying out cooperative research. The teachers contingent is replenished and the development of new disciplines is promoted by recruiting the returning overseas students.

The Industry, Teaching And Research In HEIs

In recently years, taking full advantage of their talents, knowledge, science and technology, the HEIs emphasized the practical research and development in the light of economic construction of our country and made great effort to serve the central task of economic construction while at the same time strengthening the basic research. In addition, HEIs have taken part in the construction of science parks, establish high-tech enterprises run by HEIs and combine industry, teaching and research together to turn the scientific and research fruits into real productivity and spread them to the whole society. For example, with its own advantage of talents and technology, the Fourder Group run by Peking University not only revolutionized the printing industry of China, but also occupied 90% of the market of Chinese newspapers at home and aboard. The Group has its own master and doctoral training pilots, post-doctor mobilizing departments, national key laboratories and research centers for national projects, thus the integration of industry, teaching and research into reality.

Chinese government attaches great importance to the international cooperation and exchanges of higher education. Since the reform and opening up to the outside world in 1978, international cooperation and exchanges of higher education have become more and more active and achieved fruitful results. Recently, through the reform of sending and management of overseas students, Chinese government adopted the policy of "supporting overseas studies, encouraging overseas students to come back after they complete their studies and guaranteeing their freedom of coming and go" to encourage the overseas students to come back and serve the country in various forms after they finish their studies. By opening to the outside world, we broadly learn the useful foreign experience, promote the reform and development of our higher education and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between China and other countries.

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