{Yang Rui, 2004}

When Deng Xiao-ping and the “pragmatist” faction reversed Maoist policies in late 1976 and set China on a more rational, economic-oriented path to modernization, one of the first tasks undertaken was restoration of the educational system (Reed, 1988). Although Deng’s reform agenda was officially inaugurated at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee held in December 1978, changes in the education sector had preceded it. By that time, almost all the decisions necessary to recreate the regular education system in its pre-1966 state had already been announced, and implementation was well under way (Pepper, 1990). Entrance exami- nations to colleges and universities were re-introduced, and professional standards and expertise were made respectable again. These post-Maoist changes in educational policy saw the re-emergence of the old “regular” system with its residues of foreign models (Hayhoe, 1984).

The Chinese higher education system has long been highly central- ized, with education provided by the central and local governments, respectively, under their direct administration. It has been viewed as a dis- advantage of the system that the state undertook too much responsibility and the schools lacked flexibility and autonomy to provide education according to societal needs. The central departments and local govern- ments provided education separately. The structure of education was seg- mented with overlapped disciplines and very low efficiency of institutional operation. Therefore, structural reform has been the core of China’s higher education reforms in recent decades.

At the same time, in line with international practice, significant progress in implementing the reform agenda is also seen in other aspects of the higher education sector. The costs of higher education are increasingly shared with students and families via tuition and fees. Means-tested grants and student loans are now available, and are on the Chinese higher educa- tion policy agenda. Private sector institutions continue to grow where they are not prohibited by the law. Cost-effective, market-responsive learning is widely occurring in most institutions. The financing of universities is taking into account measurable output indicators, and the government is devolving expenditure authority to the universities, and entrepreneurship is growing fast within every university at the institutional, departmental, and individual faculty levels.

The reform and development of higher education in the last two decades has resulted in significant achievements. A higher education sys- tem which encompasses basically all branches of learning, combines both degree and non-degree education and integrates diploma, undergraduate


Deng Xiao-ping started his regulation of education immediately after the Cultural Revolution. In August 1977, Deng said at a national symposium of science and education that “this year we should make a resolution to recruit university students directly from senior secondary graduates. . . . Such direct recruitment in my view is a good way to turn out talents and produce results” (National Education Research Institute, 1984, p. 499).

On October 12, 1977, the State Council and the Ministry of Education issued two policy documents respectively concerning the recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students. In the winter of 1977, some 5,700,000 candidates sat for higher education entrance examinations, with 273,000 being admitted. Candidates increased to 6,100,000 in 1978, with 402,000 actually enrolled, which was another peak year in history (National Education Research Institute, 1984, p. 519).

Over the period, China’s higher education grew accordingly. Students in regular and adult higher learning institutions and in examination- based self-study higher education increased six times from 1,320,000 to 9,530,000, with an average annual rate of 9.9 percent. Higher education enrollment ratios increased from 1.56 percent in 1978 to 11.2 percent in 1999. By 1999, the ratio of students in higher education to those in secondary schools was 1 : 7. This has been termed as the “pre-mass” stage between the extreme elite and mass higher education (Knowles, 1978, pp. 2770–2773).

In the late 1970s, the Chinese government realized the widening gap between the increasing societal demand for higher education and its limited financial capacity to provide sufficient funding for such education. One way to solve this problem was to further build up radio and television universities. For this purpose specifically, China bought a communica- tion satellite in 1978. By 1997, China had established a national television higher education system, with the CBTVU at the top and 44 institutions at provincial level, 831 branches at prefectural level, and 1,699 branches at county level.


China's education reform in the 1980's: Suzanne Pepper

abolish class struggle with intellectuals

"In all other respects, the university system that was reestablished between 1977 and 1980 essentially replicated the antebellum model of the 1960s, which was essentially the same as the Sino-Soviet compromise variation that had emerged from the early 1950s pro-Soviet period. Hence, all of that system's centralized features abolished during the 1966-76 decade were restored. These included the national unified college entrance examinations, unified enrollment and job assignment plans, unified enrollment and job assignment plans, unified curricula, and systematized rules and regulations for everything." p 131

{Xiufang Wang 2003, 170}

Since 1976:

This was achieved through teaching plan and teaching outline. The plans were comprehensive curriculum guidelines, with training objectives, length of studies, teaching and studying requirements, teaching schedules, course arrangements, subject linkages and teaching methods. These plans, which were constructed by the Ministry of Education, or the relevant ministries in charge of universities, were to guide professors in outlining courses and selecting textbooks. 

Each subject within the teaching plan then had its corresponding teaching outline, spelling out national unified requirements. These outlines were composed of three components:

significance, objectives and requirements for setting up a specific subject of teaching, principles of compiling textbooks, methodologies and salient questions for teaching

teaching procedures, including all course content, key topics, class hours for each teaching unit, arrangements for required assignments, practicum and experiments

reference materials, teaching tools, equipment, facilities 


usually by universities or groups of experts come together from task from related universities. Teaching outline is also main criterion for evaluating quality of teaching.

Teaching materials:

Gov't officials also fully in charge of teaching materials. Textbook compiling and editing comission approves new material. 


{Hayhoe, 1987}

In 1979 the 1963 "Decision on unifying management in higher

education" was affirmed by the Central Committee as correct and

once again the Ministryof Educationwas given the role of regulating

nationallystandardteachingplans,teachingoutlinesandtextbooks.7 The introductionof new knowledgelinked to modernizationrequire-

mentswasachievedbythesimpleexpedientofaddingnewspecializa- tions. The total number of specializationsgrew from 601 to 1965 to

1,039in 198078inaprocessregulatedbytwodepartmentsofhigher education within the Ministry of Education. While it administered only 38 higher institutions directly, it made all major curricular decisions for the 226 institutions administered by other national ministriesand the 411 administeredby provinces,municipalitiesand autonomous regions.79

The Sixty Articles were also revived and circulatedfor discussion among higher institutions. After minor modifications they were acceptedby the Ministryof Educationas the correctguidelinesfor the development of the higher education system. These modifications contain within them some of the seeds of greaterchangesto come. The most significant one is that universities are to be centres of teaching and research, not only of teaching. Intellectuals are to be regardedas part of the workingclass which indicates greaterfreedom

for them than the mere guarantee of free academic debate in the earlier version. University presidents are to have greater powers, though the Party Committee's supervisory role remains important, and finallypolitical education is redefinedin a more open way.80