Jiangxi University Professor Addresses Higher Education in China

By Purnell T. Cropper | November 22, 2011

By Erica Lamberg

As part of Arcadia’s celebration of International Education Week, a presentation about Higher Education in China was led by Dr. Xuchuan Xu of Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics in the north of Nanchang Province in China. Provost Dr. Steve O. Michael introduced Xuchuan and described the opportunity to exchange ideas about international education as both exciting and necessary. Also present were Janice Finn, Associate Dean for International Affairs, and staff from Enrollment Management, The College of Global Studies and students from International Business and Culture and other majors.

The comprehensive slide-show presentation included statistics about growth rates in higher-education enrollment. He reported that in 2010, the gross enrollment for higher education increased to 26.5 percent.

He then reviewed the differences between higher education in China and the United States. Most notable, he said, was the role of government. “In China, the government has a strong position,” Xuchuan said. “Within a centralized educational system, government controls all higher education institutions through policy-making, legislation, planning, funding and evaluation.”

He went on to describe how the President of each institution works under the leadership with the Committee Chinese Communist Party. “So it is obvious,” said Xuchuan, “higher education in China is an executive-led system.”

According to Dr. Xuchuan’s reporting, in 2010, there were over 3300 higher education institutions in China enrolling 33.2 million students. Undergraduates have been choosing fields of study according to the demands of the labor market. While engineering is the top choice of study, the interest in administration is rapidly increasing.

Financing education in China is also an important variable as the demand for higher education continues to grow. “The current tuition fees vary according to institution, program and location,” said Xuchuan, adding that according to the Minister of Education, tuition reflects the per student operational costs of the institution, and the appropriation from the local government, and a student’s household income level.

He said China is committed maintaining a strong influx of new educators. Students in the “six national normal” (teacher education) universities, which are affiliated to the Ministry of Education, have had their tuition fees waived since 2007. “These students are required to work as teachers in the K-12 education system upon graduation,” Xuchuan said.

As in the United States, students in China are encouraged to experience a multi-faceted college experience.  “They should not just be studying text books,” explained Xuchuan. “Students have clubs and societies, sports centers and volunteer associations.”

The outlook for higher education in China is “big, but not strong,” he said. “It isn’t world-class. The key is the government has to decentralize to set more free air to universities.”

Following his presentation, there was a question-and-answer session.

Photo by Pedro Leal ’13