ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Tightening Ideational Regimentation of China’s Higher Education System

The operation of the contrary forces of diffusion and control in China’s higher education system is critically examined, highlighting the distinctiveness of China’s internationalisation of higher education. The history of internationalisation of higher education in China, including crucial phases from the Deng era, beginning in 1978 to the Xi Jinping regime is described. The ideational regimentation is discussed in detail and its implications brought forth, and important questions that emerge from the dualism in China’s higher education system are considered.

This is a revised and updated version of the paper presented at the 57th annual conference of the American Association of Chinese Studies in Texas, United States, in October 2015. I am thankful to the anonymous reviewer, whose useful comments contributed to improving this paper.

A major power in international politics, China is pushing beyond traditional domains of national power, such as military and economic power, by proactively adopting policies to internationalise its higher education. China has the world’s largest higher education system in terms of student enrolment. Between 2010 and 2015, it rose from approximately 29 million to 36.9 million, with a gross enrolment rate1 in the 18–23 years age group of 42.7%, and an annual production of eight million graduates. The number of higher education institutions increased from 1,867 in 2006 to 2,914, as of 31 May 2017, of which 2,631 are ordinary institutions (including 265 independent colleges) and 283 are adult colleges and universities (Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China 2017).

Higher education is central to several Chinese central leadership goals. First, it is key to implementing its strategic plan to create “huge talented resources by 2020” and beyond. China’s Thirteenth Five Year Plan outlines a new growth model which moves away from export-reliant and carbon-based unsustainable growth and embraces technological innovation to which an educated population will be indispensable. Second, higher education can play a key role in realising the “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation, by serving as a platform for promoting Chinese culture and language globally. Third, higher education acts as the “vanguard” of the communist regime by functioning as an ideological enterprise that enables state supervision and control, facilitates indoctrination, ensures the “acquiescence” of intellectuals, and supports research in indigenous “discourse power” (Perry 2015).

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Updated On : 26th Jul, 2019
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