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The Impact of Higher Education on China

Because the people in China strongly believe that education ensures not only the future and development of the individual but also the economy and the country as a whole, a good education has always been highly valued in China.  Passed down from ancient times, the great master Confucius once boldly…

Because the people in China strongly believe that education ensures not only the future and development of the individual but also the economy and the country as a whole, a good education has always been highly valued in China.  Passed down from ancient times, the great master Confucius once boldly stated, “It is a pleasure to learn something and to try it out at intervals.” Similarly, numerous students have been convinced of just that as higher education in China continues to develop rapidly and has taken on a prosperous process.  In only a few years, Chinese higher education has transformed from an education for the elite to one for the public.  It is a process that has been a marvelous development for China and a process that has commonly taken several decades to accomplish for many other countries. 


Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that since 1999, China has expanded enrollment in higher educational institutions.  As of right now, the number of students studying in Chinese universities has reached 25 million, which is an astonishing five-fold increase in only nine years, reported the Chinese Education Minister, Zhou Ji.  In just this year alone, about 5.4 million new students enrolled in universities and colleges.  Higher education institutions and research institutions have experienced an increase in the enrollment of postgraduates by 22.65% compared with last year, which is evidence that postgraduate education in China has developed very quickly.

Ever since the implementation of reform and development of higher education, both have made significant achievements. Higher education in China has played an important role in the economic construction, scientific progress and social development of China by developing a large scale of advanced talents and experts for the construction of socialist modernization. 

The Chinese economic system used to be highly centralized. To adapt to that, the higher education system in the past was also centralized.  This meant that education was provided by the central and local governments respectively and directly under their administration. It goes unsaid that the disadvantages of this system were many.  One specific and major shortcoming was that the state undertook too many responsibilities and the schools lacked the flexibility and autonomy to provide education according to the needs of the students.  With central departments and local governments providing education separately, the structure of education was irrational and segmented. There were too many single disciplinary higher education institutions and professional higher education institutions.  When the establishment of disciplines over-lapped, the efficiency of some higher education institutions fell very low.  As a result, this slowed down the improvement of education quality. Therefore, the structural reform of higher education has become a key for other higher education reforms.


China has now reformed its higher education system, which is also having a rather positive and direct impact on China’s economy. The structural reform of higher education has gained elevating achievements after several years’ effort. In the field of education provision reform, the old system in which the state undertook the establishment of all higher education institutions has been broken and now, the development of higher education institutions run by social forces are fully encouraged and supported.  The new system that has taken shape is one in which the government takes main responsibility with the active participation of society and students.


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 delegates more power to the higher education institutions, expanding their autonomy of providing education for the society according to the laws.


The previous system in which the funding of higher education depended on the governments only has been changed and a new system that is capable of pooling resources from diverse channels with the main responsibilities on government has been gradually established and perfected.


Major improvements have been made to the reform of the system of recruitment.  Student loans have emerged and come into existence thanks to joint views that all citizens should enjoy the legally equal right of receiving higher education.  In light of local economic development, a new system in which all students should pay reasonable contributions to their own higher education has taken shape. Simultaneously, a scholarship system based on academic performance for excellent students has been created and there are very efficient systems where a student can have a loan, stipend and take part-time jobs for students with family economic difficulties has been brought into common practice, ensuring that none of the students will drop out of school solely because of economic reasons  The conditions of the graduate’s job placement is also a major important topic that needs to be addressed when evaluating the impact of higher education on China.

China’s Unemployment Rate and GDP
The progress that China’s educational system has made has also helped unemployment rates in China fall.  Clearly, China is producing many more new graduates and 3.8 million were available for the workforce last year, which is 4.5 times the total of 1998.  Today, in China, a very large percentage of the workforce has completed four years of college.  As a result, today’s workers enter the labor market with much more knowledge.  Moreover, they keep acquiring new skills by company-paid training programs, adult education classes, and distant-learning options on the internet.  As education and training levels rise, so does productivity.  This increase in labor skills and education in the labor force is a major source of productivity growth.  China is one of the top three GDP growth countries with their unemployment rate currently at 4.20%.   It is also essential to note that the combined land area of university campuses in China has nearly doubled from 2002 to 2006.  The more that these institutions of higher learning spread out, the more positive impacts we see this has on China’s economy.


In fact, China has an astounding drive to excel in science and technology and is also dominating global trade and finance.  Only 15% of United States undergraduates now receive their degrees in natural science or engineering.  In China, 50% graduate in these fields.  In the United States 34% of doctoral degrees in natural sciences and 56% of engineering PhDs are awarded to international students.  A good many of the best students in these fields in the United States have been Chinese.

The Economy and Research in Higher Education Institutions
A vital source of productivity advancement is research and development.  Research and development is a broad concept that includes scientific research, product development, innovations in production technique, and the development of management improvements.  In recent years, taking full advantage of their talents, knowledge, science and technology, the colleges and universities emphasize the practical research and development in light of economic construction of China and made great effort to serve the central task of economic construction while at the same time strengthening the basic research. In addition, colleges and universities in China have taken part in the construction of science parks, establishing high-tech enterprises run by the university or college itself, and combine industry, teaching and research together to turn the scientific and research findings 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 Fourder 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. In the past 20 years, China has established educational cooperative and exchanges relationship with 154 countries and areas, sent 300, 000 students to go aboard for study to more than l00 countries and areas, received 210, 000 foreign students from 160 countries and areas, sent 1800 teachers and experts to teach aboard and employed 40, 000 foreign teachers and experts. 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 going 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, Chinese broadly learn the useful foreign experience, promote the reform and development of their higher education and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between China and other countries.

Source: www.asiaecon.org |



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