Current Situation of Chinese Higher Education


1.      Insufficient Higher Education Resources in China


 Degree education, or academic education, lays a sound higher educational foundation for students through standard and systematic study and helps students acquire fine learning capability and quick thinking. It has been established that students who receive this kind of education will be better capable of analyzing and solving problems independently and are ensured the opportunity to pursue further education in the postgraduate or doctoral field. Students of this category will then have a chance to acquire senior managerial positions and overall enjoy a higher standard of living.

Degree education is crucial to not only to the development of a stable, solid infrastructure which benefits society as a whole, but also to the individuals quality of life by offering better opportunities for a secure financial future.

Education in China, including degree education, was tightly controlled by the central government up to the mid-90¡¯s.  Student quotas for each sector and each province, and the distribution of student enrollment by field of study were strictly regulated.  While universities in China have undergone dramatic changes in recent years, including an expansion in enrollments, structural reforms and improvements in quality, its existing higher education resources are still relatively insufficient and far from meeting current demands.

Chinese higher education had a very poor start and still does not receive enough financial support.  A survey conducted by UNESCO revealed that out of 153 countries, China ranked 145th with respect to the average per capita spending on education. While developed countries spend more than 6% of GDP on education, in China the number hovers around 2.5%, putting it on par with Chad.  In sum, while great progress has been made in higher education in recent years, China still has a long way to go in order to catch up to the educationally developed countries. 

According to an authority¡¯s statistics in 2004, only 19% of Chinese who are at the right age for higher education have access to it, including higher vocational education and above. By contrast, between 70-80% of Canadians enroll in some form of higher education.  What do these numbers mean? Let¡¯s take an example. If there were 100 students who were to take university entrance examinations in China, only the top 19 students will be accepted by universities, while the twentieth, who is, comparatively speaking, a good student will be declined.  Some Chinese academics have coined this condition the twentieth phenomenon.

In addition, due to insufficient higher education resources, educational departments in China have to make student recruitment plans in terms of different regions in order to keep education in each part of China balanced, thus the minimum entry scores for universities in different regions in China are not consistent. The same score may be accepted by a decent university in one province but refused by a university in another. Therefore, in some regions where the entry scores are relatively high, there may be the sixteenth phenomenon or the twelfth phenomenon, i.e. the sixteenth or the twelfth student in the regions with high entry scores have no opportunity to enter university, while many with similar scores are admitted in another region.

Furthermore, examination results vary. The university entrance examination cannot define a student but can destroy some students¡¯ dream for higher education given that most students can take the examination only once. China unavoidably employs this examination due to its deficient higher education resources. In fact, if the students who have done a good job in senior high school once fail in the university entrance examination, they may become the victims of this examination and the eighth phenomenon or the sixth phenomenon, i.e. the students, who may be the eighth or the sixth in their class but don¡¯t do well on the examination due to stress, illness, or just the jitters¡­will miss the chance to enter a university, despite the fact that actually their overall grades are higher than some students who are admitted to universities.


© Canadian National Education Exchange Centre Inc., 2006