Tertiary Education in Contemporary China
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0165
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0165
Tertiary education in contemporary China (1990–) marks an era of reforms and expansion. In this period, the Chinese tertiary education sector struck the world with its ambitious moves that simultaneously push for rapid enrollment growth, constitute new governance structures, and seek to build world-class universities. Though some of the initiatives were started as early as in the mid-1980s when the Chinese government proclaimed reform programs in the education realm, these moves were forged intensively and extensively since the 1990s. The aggregate enrollment of the tertiary education sector grew from 3.4 million in 1998 (the year immediately before the latest expansion that aimed at having a mass system) to 38 million in 2017, increasing more than eleven times in less than twenty years. The number of institutions increased from 1,022 to 2,913 in the same time span, or by nearly three times. Now the Chinese tertiary education sector stands out as the world’s largest, and a majority of high school graduates in the country are able to continue their education and training at the tertiary level, which used to be a privilege for the very few. In the meantime, the Chinese government has been investing hugely in the elite university schemes (i.e., Projects 211 and 985) to raise some universities and programs to a world-class standing. Put together, tertiary education in contemporary China exhibited extraordinary changes in the past two decades, thus has attracted interest from researchers worldwide to study it. Against this backdrop, we have compiled this bibliographic text in the hope that it would provide a useful research instrument for scholars and students in the field. For this sake, we set up five criteria when selecting the bibliographical items: (i) frequency of citations (it is commonly perceived that solid works are more likely to be referenced and good for further references); (ii) reputation of the publisher or the journal (reputable publishers and journals arguably produce high-quality publications); (iii) status of the author(s) (active researchers in good standing always contribute a bulk of meritorious works in their own fields); (iv) scholarly awards and honors (the recipients of scholarly awards and honors often make outstanding publications in the field); and (v) nominations by scholars in the field (as a highly eclectic thematic area that draws vigor from a large array of scholarly pursuits, it is the field’s practitioners who are most knowledgeable about the remarkable works with respect to tertiary education in contemporary China). The last criterion may especially help identify recent and important works that don’t necessarily get high visibility/citations yet. Based on these criteria, we have collected slightly over two hundred journal articles and scholarly books, published in English or Chinese since 1990, with roughly equal emphasis on literature in either language.
General Overviews of Tertiary Education in Contemporary China
China has a long and preserving tradition of tertiary/higher learning since the 4th century BCE when Confucius established a private academy. In modern times, Chinese experienced a unique and eclectic pattern of absorbing a wide range of foreign influences, from the Japanese (in the early 20th century) to the European and the American (in the 1920s to 1940s) then to the Soviet (in the 1950s) and finally to opening up primarily to all the Western systems since the 1980s. As such, it requires cultural sensitivity or a historical culturalist approach to arrive at insights into those dynamics and drivers behind the systemic changes in Chinese tertiary/higher education in contemporary times. Arguably, the following publications exemplify such an approach. Specifically, Chen 2002 examines the impact of a German classic view of the university on outlooks of Chinese universities. Ferrara 2016 discusses developments in parallel in American and Chinese higher education, Hayhoe 1994, Hayhoe 1995, and Hayhoe 1996 all maintain an underlying pattern of persisting values in Chinese higher education, set against the Western experience. Hayhoe, et al. 2011 examines the latest development in Chinese higher education. Kirby 2014 presents the question of whether Chinese universities are poised for global leadership in higher education. Otsuka 1998 provides a comprehensive and an objective perspective on evolution of the contemporary tertiary education system in China. Perry 2015 points out that China’s project of building world-class universities will serve both as motors of economic development and as mainstays of authoritarian rule. Tian 2006 discusses the transformation of the model of Chinese higher education development over the past century. Yang 2015 poses the question how far Chinese universities could move within their current development model. Zhou 2012 reveals the relationship and interactions between Western universities and the changes in Chinese universities.
Chen Hongjie 陈洪捷. Deguo gudian daxue guan ji qi dui zhongguo daxue de yingxiang (德国古典大学观及其对中国大学的影响). Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2002.
This book is the first volume that examines the impact of the German classic view of the university on outlooks of Chinese universities. It holds that German ideas are engraved inevitably on the early formation of higher education and academic profession in China, through the reform initiatives at Peking University.
Ferrara, Mark S. Palace of Ashes: China and the Decline of American Higher Education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.
This book discusses developments in parallel, both historical and contemporary, in American and Chinese higher education, and argues that the rise of Chinese higher education system has led to a perceived decline in American higher education.
Hayhoe, Ruth. “Ideas of Higher Learning, East and West: Conflicting Values in the Development of the Chinese University.” Minerva 32.4 (1994): 361–382.
This paper reveals an underlying pattern of persisting values in Chinese higher education, through identifying and contrasting the characteristic values and structures of the medieval universities of Europe and the Chinese tradition of scholarship.
Hayhoe, Ruth. “An Asian Multiversity? Comparative Reflections on the Transition to Mass Higher Education in East Asia.” Comparative Education Review 39.3 (1995): 299–321.
Through a comparative lens, this paper sheds light on possibilities and choices open to China’s development of higher education. It sets the East Asian experience against the Western experience and contrasts the emergence of the “multiversity” in North America with escalating institutional stratification patterns and hierarchy in East Asia. Such contrasting cases provide an evaluative context for considering China’s move toward mass higher education.
Hayhoe, Ruth. China’s Universities 1895–1995: A Century of Cultural Conflict. New York: Garland, 1996.
This book is the first comprehensive account of Chinese higher education during the modern period. It examines the first hundred years of the development of universities in China, with special emphasis on the cultural patterns that shaped them in ways that differed from the development of Western universities.
Hayhoe, Ruth, Jun Li, Jing Lin, and Qiang Zha. Portraits of 21st Century Chinese Universities: In the Move to Mass Higher Education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2011.
This book examines the ways in which China’s universities have changed in the dramatic move to a mass stage that has unfolded since the late 1990s. Twelve universities in different regions of the country are portrayed through the eyes of their students, faculty, and leaders.
Kirby, William C. “The Chinese Century? The Challenges of Higher Education.” Daedalus 143.3 (2014): 145–156.
This paper poses the question of whether Chinese universities are poised for global leadership in higher education, along with China’s quest for history’s foremost global powers.
Otsuka, Y. 大冢丰. Xiandai zhongguo gaodeng jiaoyu de xingcheng (现代中国高等教育的形成). Translated by Huang Futao 黄福涛. Beijing, China: Beijing shifan daxue chubanshe, 1998.
Authored by a Japanese scholar, this book provides a unique and an objective perspective on evolution of contemporary tertiary education system in China. In particular, it sheds light on a cycle of changes in Chinese higher education in modern times, as well as the tensions between the Western and Chinese indigenous norms.
Perry, Elizabeth J. Higher Education and Authoritarian Resilience: The Case of China, Past and Present. Cambridge, MA: Harvard-Yenching Institute, 2015.
Through the historical and comparative perspectives, this scholarly work convincingly argues that China is funneling impressive amounts of public investment toward the project of building world-class universities in hopes that such institutions will serve both as motors of economic development and as mainstays of authoritarian rule. Thus the Chinese case, past and present, poses a challenge to those who would argue that authoritarian resilience depends upon denying citizens access to higher education.
Tian Zhengping 田正平. Zhongguo gaodeng jiaoyu bai nian shi lun (中国高等教育百年史论). Beijing: Renmin jiaoyu chubanshe, 2006.
This book reviews the history of development of Chinese higher education over the past century, and specifically discusses transformation of the model of Chinese higher education development, the institutional changes of modern Chinese higher education, as well as the issues concerning the faculty development and mobility.
Yang Rui. “Reassessing China’s Higher Education Development: A Focus on Academic Culture.” Asia Pacific Education Review 16.4 (2015): 527–535.
This article assesses China’s higher education development, with a particular focus on the challenges brought forward by academic culture. It interrogates China’s pride in the idea that Chinese universities are not willing to assume that Western models define excellence and asks how far Chinese universities could move within their current development model.
Zhou Guping 周谷平. Zhongguo jindai daxue de xiandai zhuan xing (中国近代大学的现代转型). Hangzhou, China: Zhejiang daxue chubanshe, 2012.
This book systematically reveals the relationship and interactions between Western universities and the changes in Chinese universities, pointing out that the rapid transformation of Chinese modern universities has been the consequence of a shift from political pragmatism to economic pragmatism, and therefore Chinese universities have never been ivory towers in a real sense.
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