A descriptive study of the centralized system of higher education in China

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Virginia Tech


This study has two purposes: (1) to document and analyze the centralization phenomena in China's higher education system and (2) to make suggestions to improve or modify the centralization of China's higher education system in light of the documentation and analysis. A major outcome of this study is an analysis of telephone interviews and secondary documents, and four recommendations are derived from this analysis.

In this study four research questions have been investigated: (1) What relationship exists between the government and individual colleges or universities? What should this relationship be? (2) What kind of relationship exists between the Party committee and the university administration, especially the relationship between the university president and Party committee? What should this relationship be? (3) How much autonomy should the colleges and universities possess? (4) How should higher education institutions move from the centralization planning economy and adapt themselves to the market economy?

Two methods have been employed in this study: secondary document analysis and telephone interviewing. The secondary analysis consists of information collection in both Chinese and American libraries, information evaluation, categorization, and analysis. The telephone interviewing has been used to strengthen secondary analysis. The interviews were conducted with 15 Chinese scholars who were studying in the U.S. at the time and who have either worked in China's higher education system for more than ten years or have assumed some administrative responsibilities above the department level in that system.

The major findings of the telephone interviews and secondary analysis lead to the conclusion that the higher education system in present China is highly centralized and, according to the consensus viewpoint, should be decentralized in light of the four recommendations made in this study.