In this chapter I will review the history of higher education in China beginning with the formation of the People’s Republic in 1949, with a special focus on the curriculum development process and course evaluation systems. I will show how China began implementing a very rigid and centralized curriculum system in the 1950’s, which they imported from the Soviet Union, and which lasted until the middle of the 1980’s. In that period, control over the curriculum was loosened up, and at the same time, we see the first traces of course evaluations. 

I will argue that this history is crucial to understanding the factors that enabled the Top-Level Courses Project to be launched in 2003. The history of government oversight over the curriculum, teaching teams and course evaluations in individual universities came together with a focus on selecting and funding excellent units, a focus on IT in education, and a desire to maintain or improve quality in the face of explosive enrolment growth.