The Chinese Top Level Courses Project


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The Top Level Quality Project (jingpin kecheng, 精品课程) is a large project in Chinese higher education which uses the production of Open Educational Resources to improve the quality of undergraduate education.

Widely understood in the West to be a form of OpenCourseWare inspired by MIT’s example, this work traces the roots of the project back to the history of Russian influence on Chinese higher education, the introduction of course evaluation systems in 1985, a string of large-scale funding projects to promote excellence in the 1990’s, and the massification of higher education from 1988 to 1998.

After a detailed description of the project, the thesis suggests that university teaching is conceptualized very differently in North America and in China, drawing parallels both to the historical French and German models of the university, and to the Chinese tradition of using “models” to promote virtue and excellence.

About the thesis, and this page

This thesis, with the full title "The Chinese National Top Level Courses Project: Using Open Educational Resources to Promote Quality in Undergraduate Teaching", was submitted for a degree of Masters of Art at the Department of Theory and Policy Studies, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto in September 2010. I am making it available here in a number of different formats, all licensed under the Creative Commons BY 3.0 license.

This page will be the central location for information around the thesis – I have written a number of blog posts about parts of the thesis. I have also released most of my raw research data and notes. Finally, I am experimenting with a number of different formats and channels for distributing the thesis itself, and will be documenting that here. All blog posts will be listed on this page, and will also be available in the MA thesis category (RSS feed). I welcome all comments, feedback and criticism – both about the contents of the thesis, and about the different formats, distribution methods, etc.

Blog posts

Blogging about the research, and the thesis:

Blogging the contents of the thesis:


Currently, the thesis is available in two "editions", and multiple file formats. The canonical version is the complete PDF, which is the only version that has been formally approved by my committee, and which will be available on University of Toronto's institutional repository T-Space in a few months. The two-column edition is a paired down edition which does not have the acknowledgments, table of contents or appendices (ethics review documents), and has a much denser formatting. With 44 pages, instead of the 101 pages of the full version, it is much better suited for printing. Of course, you can create your own versions, since I also give you both editions in editable file formats. EPub and other ebook-formats are coming very shortly.

Complete canonical version (101 pages) PDF DOC ODT RTF
2-column edition (44 pages) PDF DOC ODT RTF
E-book versions ePub Mobi (Kindle)

Raw notes Scrivener file (on the web)

Journal article

Together with Wang Long, a professor from the Chinese People's Public Security University in Beijing, who has a long experience with researching the Chinese Top Level Courses and publishing in Chinese, I published an article in the British Journal of Educational Technology. This is not a direct extract from the thesis, since we began writing it before the thesis was finished, and it is based on Wang Long's own framework.

Long, W. and Håklev, S. (2011), A practical model of development for China's National Quality Course Plan. British Journal of Educational Technology. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01254.x

Chinese translation

A full Chinese translation of the thesis: PDF DOC ODT RTF

(Read more about this on my Chinese project page)

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