Origin. MIT started after 2003, in 2003 we already had TLCP. Nothing to do with MIT. We started expanding education in 2000. From elite education to massification. But the problem was the quality. To expand quality, irst we started with keystone disciplines, first it was 211 project, that was very large. A university centralized on making one major, one discipline. So the national keystone disciplines were evaluated.  XXX and BNU got educational technology. I was a leader. But discipline is very big. Then we focus on TLCP, improve quality of individual courses. University - > discipline -> course. I was also participating in the keystone disciplines, I was responsible. We found out that discipline is not enough, we had to focus on courses.

The internet resources were not the most important, because internet wasn’t very developed at that time. Initially the application process was not so strict about the course website, that began changing in 2004, 2005. 


From 1999 MoE started online education pilot, then it was called modern distance education, I was in charge. I designed the whole project with TLCP online ed. 

How did it start? Not sure, was not there from the start. Like a ranking table, for courses. With Chinese characteristics. 


In December 1998 the Chinese Ministry of Education (1999, pp. 4–5) promulgated The Action Plan to Vitalize Education Facing the Twenty-first Century. This strategic plan aims at accom- modating major issues affecting educational development, and setting targets for educational reform and development for the five-year period until 2005 and the ten-year period until 2010. The action plan stipulates that the gross enrolment rain higher education institutions must reach 11% by 2000 and 15% by the end of 2010. With the implementation of this action plan, China started to expand enrolment in higher education institutions. In 1999, Chinese traditional higher education institu- tions enrolled 1.6 million students, 51,000 more than in 1998. The total number of all students was 4.15 million, or 10.5% of the age group 18–22 years – 760,000 more than in 1998 (Ji, 2000a, p. 16).

Since 1992 Chinese higher education has been expanding in step with its economy. The numbers of students in traditional (regular) universities increased by 1.23 million, or 56.4% from 1992 to 1998. The average annual rate of increase was 7.7%. In 1999, the Chinese Government increased enrolment in traditional higher educational insti- tutions to about 510,000 students. The rate of increase for new students was 47% in 1998. The total student numbers in traditional institutions increased by 22% in 1999, doubling the number attending in 1992 (Ji, 2000b, p. 147). The total number of all students, including those in both traditional and non-traditional institutions, increased from 4.4 million in 1992 to 9.54 million in 1999. The gross annual enrol- ment rate increased from 3.47% in 1992 to 11.2% in 1999. The highest yearly rates of increase in total students was 19.4% in 1993 and 15.7% in 1999 (Xie, 2000, p. 96).

Li (2001, p. 24) argues that the sudden and single largest expansion ever, which took place in 1999, was warmly welcomed by parents, students and society at large. But the policies had not been fully discussed beforehand. Society was not fully aware of the policies, nor understood them completely. Institutions and local education author- ities did not have enough time to prepare for this huge expansion. These factors had a negative effect on the implementation of the policies and the participation of society. In the same vein, Du (2000, p. 159) mentions that Chinese institutions were not well prepared for the unexpectedly large expansion in 1999 and therefore experienced pressure due to a shortage of facilities.

{Pretorius & Yue}

In 1993, the Outline for Reform and Development of Education in China was promulgated by the central government, which emphasized the necessity of building up approximately 100 key universities and a few key disciplines and specifications and making some universities reach a rather high level in the world in the quality of their education, research activities, and administration and management. In 1995, based on the Outline, more operational and specific principles concerning reforms in higher education were clarified in the Education Act. Under the Higher Education Act of 1998, what is mentioned in the Outline of 1993 is further stressed. For instance, non-government institutions are permitted and regarded as an important component in China’s higher education system and institutions are encouraged to conduct contract research and joint projects with enterprises, business, social organizations, and other private sector agencies. In the document Action Plan of Education Promotion for the 21st Century (Guangming Daily, 25 February 1999), issued by the MOE in 1998, the policy and objectives of expanding higher education enrollment are stated in detail.

The importance of the Education Act of 1995 and the Action Plan of EducationPromotionforthe21stCenturyof1998aswellastheHigher EducationActof1998cannotbeoverstated.Theyindicatethatthetraditional model of higher education institutions almost totally controlled by government in a planned economic system, has to be changed and become one more oriented towards society. The Action Plan especially articulates the future of China’s higher education and covers a wide range of pilot projects such as the 211 Project, the Project for Creative Talented People with High Level, the Plan for Creating the Most Excellent Universities and Disciplines in the World, Modern Long-Distance Education, and the Project for Industrializing the High Technology in the Universities.

In November 1995, 2 years after the issue of the Outline, the former SEC implemented Project 211 that was first mentioned in the Outline of 1993. Actually, it indicated the first step by the Chinese government to make an issue of the quality of higher education. The Project 211 is often literally explained as the attempt by Central government to establish 100 key universities in China by the 21st century. However, in fact it covers more specific objectives. The major points concerning qualitative enhancement in the Project include three key decisions. First, to finance Peking University and Tsinghua University intensively with the purpose of enabling the two universities to reach or approach a higher level in the world and become world-class institutions. Second, to enhance the quality of 25 other leading universities through provision of additional public revenue. Third, to make efforts to improve the quality of over 300 key disciplines in different institutions. According to the statistics, it is estimated that during the period 1996–2002 alone, nearly 18.3 billion RMB was allocated from the central government on Project 211, including 6.3 billion for quality improvement in key areas of study in universities that were selected by the MOE and 1.0 billion for improving infrastructure and equipment in related universities (China Education Daily, 6 June 2001). By September 2004, 99 universities had been selected and given special financial support by both central government and local authorities (, accessed on 25 October 2004). It is considered that the Project 211 is the first national key project that has been funded intensively in higher education by the government since the establish- ment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

From 1998, a second step to make further improvement to the quality of higher education has been taken. On 4 May 1998, when the former Chairman Jiang Zemin made a speech on the 100th anniversary of Peking University, he addressed the necessity to establish some first-rank and world-class universities in China. In December 1998, the MOE worked out objectives and principles in the Action Plan. The Action Plan emphasizes that within the next 10 or 20 years, some Chinese universities and key areas of study should reach a world- class level and be internationally recognized. Afterwards, Project 985 — which means that the idea of Project was first mentioned by the former Chairman JiangZemininMay1998—wasimmediatelyimplemented.

Initially, only Peking University and Tsinghua University, the two top universities in China, were selected to be funded intensively by the central government. According to the Action Plan, in the following 3 years, the two universitieswouldbeallocatedaspecial1.8billionRMBbudgetfortheir efforts to reach a higher level in the world in research and teaching activities. From July 1999, the MOE decided to add seven more universities and fund them jointly in cooperation with local authorities. Subsequently, more and more institutions have been encouraged and supported to enhance their quality in research and education with the aim of becoming world-class or world- famous universities. Since 2000, the number of universities that have been funded by the MOE, together with other Central ministries and local authorities has kept on growing. By 2003, they amounted to 34. It is likely that in the next few years the number of universities to be placed on the list of the Project 985 might increase to 38.

One of the important measures that have been taken to enhance the quality of higher education institutions since 1992 is to undertake national-scale mergers. Over the past decade, the structure of the higher education system established in the 1950s, with much emphasis on institutions of science and engineering, has been essentially changed by mergers between highly professional colleges with a single area of study or specialization. In their place, several huge institutions have been established with an intent to become world-class universities. With other institutions, mostly famous higher professional institutions, being consolidated into these huge universities, they have become more research-oriented: many national key research units and experiment centers are to be found in these huge universities. Besides, in these newly merged institutions, students are provided with a variety of subjects covering almost all advanced areas of study. For example, the new Zhejiang University was formed from the former Zhejiang University and other three professional universities; a new Peking University was based on the merger of Peking University and Peking University of Medicine; and a new Tsinghua University was founded by absorbing the former Central Collage of Fine Arts. Through mergers, these huge and comprehensive universities were established, with excellent faculty members and researchers; they include almost all disciplines and most of the key research units and experimental centers.

In addition to the two big projects that pay particular attention to qualitative enhancement in research activities in a very few selected key universities, special efforts have also been made to improve the quality of education in all higher education institutions. One of the major measures that has been taken recently is implementation of assessment on quality of teaching activities at the level of undergraduate education. However, it is conducted neither through peer reviews nor by a third party: the assessment is fundamentally organized and directed by the MOE.

As early as 1990, the first regulation concerning assessment on teaching quality was promulgated. In the Act of Higher Education of 1995, the importance of improving the quality of teaching activities in universities is once again emphasized. By 2002, three types of assessments on quality of undergraduate education had been conducted: a Qualified Assessment on undergraduate education in institutions that were established after 1976; an Excellence Assessment on key universities that were placed on the list of Project 211; and a Random Assessment on the remainder of institutions (, accessed on 6 June 2003). It is reported that from 1994 to 2003, these three types of assessments had been implemented in more than 200 higher education institutions, including Excellence Assessments on 16 institutions; Qualified Assessments on 192 institutions; and Random Assess- ments on 26 institutions. (, accessed on 24 October 2004). In order to make a more effective and efficient effort to regulate assessment on university education at a national level, on 26 October 2004, Center for Assessment of Higher Education Teaching was established by the MOE. It is directly attached to and led by the MOE and specifically funded for conducting assessment on teaching activities and other professional education in higher education institutions on a national scale. From now on, quality assessment on teaching activities in every higher education institution will be conducted by the Center every 5 years. According to the outcome of assessment, all institutions will be ranked at four levels: excellent, good, pass, and failure. In addition, it is also compulsory for institutions to report their data concerning teaching activities to the MOE every year. By publishing the yearly data and implementing assessment every 5 years, the MOE expects to be able to survey the ongoing situation and quality of teaching activities in all universities (China Education Daily, 27 October 2004). Consequently, strongly supported by the central government, this national system of qualitative enhancement of research and teaching activities in higher education has been established in China in the most recent years.

The increases in number of enrollments in regular institutions were mostly achieved in local universities and institutions with lower prestige. It is reported that by 2002 no big changes had occurred in enrollment at Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beijing Normal University, and other key universities (Beijing Youth Daily, 3. April 2002). Compared with other types of regular higher education institutions, significant increases can be seen particularly in the newly founded independent colleges, which used to be called second-level colleges (Erji Xueyuan in Chinese) within or attached to existing regular universities Futao Huang 2005