Examples from China in Modernising Higher Education: Part 2

chinese higher education

When you are home to more than 20% of the world’s population, a contributor to more than 15% of global economic output; it is a sign that you have a massive responsibility towards the community. China has displayed its ability to improve its education system over a sustained period of time. As discussed in the first part of this series, the size and interconnectedness of china’s economic activities have enabled this mammoth of a nation to leapfrog many developing economies, including India. And the effects of this development have been felt across the left and the right. Moreover, this surge in the economic condition has directly contributed to China’s higher education. In the recent years, China has managed to leapfrog almost every leading Asian country – Japan, India, South Korea. Student recruitment, Language programmes, short-term programmes, history majors; you name it and China owns it.

No wonder why more European and American higher education centres are planning to open up to Chinese universities in the coming years. China is critical to the state of the global higher education, and India, being its nearest neighbour and one of its fiercest rivals can learn a great deal from it.

1. Surge in international students

The China Education Association for International Exchange made a startling revelation in June 2015. In comparison to 2013, almost 380,000 international students enrolled in one or the other Chinese university; an increase of almost 35%. The universities based in Beijing and Shanghai contributed the most. A majority of those were on short-term, non-degree programmes. China aims to increase this figure to more than 500,000 by 2020. Now the biggest challenge for China is to convert these students to full-time degree courses, which will further boost its reputation amongst the competing countries. And these are not just ambitious targets, set up by the government. They are backed by several policy initiatives, including bilateral partnerships, scholarships and student grants, making more plans available in English, and lucrative job opportunities for the international students.

2. Chinese Higher Education to survive economic slump

The recent worries about the Chinese economy has led to some widespread speculation that the Chinese higher education sector will feel its traction and it will ultimately lead to decline in international student’s enrolment numbers.

Could this be the end of the Chinese growth story? No, I don’t think so. Let me quote another fact from the Economic Times study to validate my point: “In 2014, 1.7 million Chinese students were enrolled in institutions around the world. In that year alone, 459,800 Chinese left China to study abroad; an increase of 11% from the year before. Of those students, the vast majority – about 92% – were self-funded”.

Therefore, the scale of the wealthy classes in China is so huge that the high school and the education sector are unlikely to be affected. On the contrary, the Chinese consider this as an opportunity to study abroad as a precaution for the recession period. Similarly, the Chinese universities have made massive advancements in the recent years, which will enable them to scrape through such testing times quite easily.

3. More international Collaborations

The same study conducted in 2015 revealed another startling fact. Almost 600 Chinese universities are collaborating with American and European institutions to offer a variety of joint programmes for bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. These joint ventures are more of an inspiration for countries like India. India, in comparison to China, hasn’t made any significant collaboration to improve the exchange of students, which will ultimately impact the overall education scenario. In contrast to India’s lacklustre policies, China has been able to create a web of international partnerships.

China was quick to realize the importance of these academic tie-ups with renowned universities of the world. Not only does it help improve the student trust in academic institutions, but also helps build the economy with exchange of students. India also has to realize the importance of cross-border partnerships to enhance the attractiveness and influence of “Study in India” plans. Also, the added dependency of many higher education institutions on the Chinese students to meet their international student recruitment goals means that they will continue to be a dominant part of the international strategies in the short to medium term. In short, the successful Chinese education model can be replicated in a country as diverse as ours. All it needs is a proactive policy agenda from the government and support from higher education institutions.


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