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Topics: Higher education, Education policy, Education in the People's Republic of China Pages: 29 (8552 words) Published: May 22, 2011
November–December 2010


chinese education and Society, vol. 43, No. 6, November–December 2010, pp. 59–85. © 2011 M.E. Sharpe, All rights reserved. ISSN 1061–1932/2011 $9.50 + 0.00. DOI 10.2753/CED1061-1932430603

3 Dongping Yang

An Empirical Study of Higher Education
Admissions Opportunities in China
Abstract: This article cites chinese scholars’ surveys to demonstrate that the disparity between the cities and the countryside, as well as the disparity among different social classes, with regard to higher education admissions opportunities in china is transforming from an explicit imbalance in total quantity to a deeper and more subtle educational disparity. This is manifested in the distribution of students from the cities and the countryside at colleges and universities of different levels and different types. The hierarchy that exists in the system of higher education is roughly as follows: young adults from the privileged classes, with relatively strong cultural, economic, and societal resources, constitute the largest percentage of those in elite universities, whereas the percentage of rural students and young English translation © 2011 M.E. Sharpe, from the Chinese text, “Zhongguo gaodeng jiaoyu ruxue jihui de zhizheng yanjiu.” Translated by Laura and David Truncellito. Dongping Yang is a professor at Beijing Institute of Technology and a dean of the Twenty-First–Century Education Research Institute. His primary research areas include public policy in education, fairness in education, and higher education. 59



adults from disadvantaged backgrounds is gradually declining. rural students are concentrated at localized tertiary institutions with comparatively weak educational resources and educational quality. The drawbacks of the urban–rural dual structure as well as the primary and secondary education system that is divided between elite schools and regular schools, combined with the deficiencies of the university entrance examination system, have intensified the previously existing innovation gaps and class divides. The enrollment expansion for colleges that began in the late 1990s has dramatically changed the face of higher education in China. In 2008, the total enrollment of general higher education for both general and special subjects was 6,076,600 people, 5.6 times that of 1998. The overall number of students in various types of higher education institutions nationwide amounted to 29,070,000, and the gross enrollment rate of higher education reached 23.3 percent, which constituted the largest system of higher education in the world. What the public is concerned about is whether, while opportunities for education are substantially increasing, the disparity between the cities and the countryside has widened or improved, as well as how the newly created educational opportunities are distributed among different social classes. Since the founding of the new China in 1949, the value of equal education has been stressed, and great emphasis has been placed on the opening of the doors of education to the public so that the masses of workers and farmers are able to obtain an education. During the 1950s and 1960s, in the period of the Cultural Revolution, children of workers and farmers had always comprised a relatively high percentage of students at all levels of schools. In 1952, the percentage of students from workers’ and farmers’ families among college students was 20.50 percent. In 1958, the percentage of children from workers’ and farmers’ families among college students was 55.28 percent, and it reached 71.20 percent in 1965 (Ma and Gao 1998). The percentage of students from workers’ and farmers’ families at Beijing University was 30.80 percent in 1957, 64.80 percent in 1960, and 41.50 percent in 1964. During the Cultural Revolution, the percentage reached its peak at 78.60 percent (Li 2003) in 1974.

November–December 2010


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