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The Higher Educational Transformation of China and Its Global Implications

  • Yao Amber Li
  • John Whalley
  • Shunming Zhang
  • Xiliang Zhao

This paper documents the major transformation of higher education that has been underway in China since 1999 and evaluates its potential global impacts. Reflecting China's commitment to continued high growth through quality upgrading and the production of ideas and intellectual property as set out in both the 10th (2001-2005) and 11th (2006-2010) five-year plans, this transformation focuses on major new resource commitments to tertiary education and also embodies significant changes in organizational form. This focus on tertiary education differentiates the Chinese case from other countries who earlier at similar stages of development instead stressed primary and secondary education. The number of undergraduate and graduate students in China has been grown at approximately 30% per year since 1999, and the number of graduates at all levels of higher education in China has approximately quadrupled in the last 6 years. The size of entering classes of new students and total student enrollments have risen even faster, and have approximately quintupled. Prior to 1999 increases in these areas were much smaller. Much of the increased spending is focused on elite universities, and new academic contracts differ sharply from earlier ones with no tenure and annual publication quotas often used. All of these changes have already had large impacts on China's higher educational system and are beginning to be felt by the wider global educational structure. We suggest that even more major impacts will follow in the years to come and there are implications for global trade both directly in ideas, and in idea derived products. These changes, for now, seem relatively poorly documented in literature.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal The World Economy.

Volume (Year): 34 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (04)
Pages: 516-545

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Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:34:y:2011:i:4:p:516-545
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  1. Pedro Carneiro & James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 2010. "Estimating marginal returns to education," CeMMAP working papers CWP29/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  2. Belton M. Fleisher & Haizheng Li & Shi Li & Xiaojun Wang, 2000. "Sorting, Selection, and Transformation of the Return to College Education In China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp756, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  3. Arrow, Kenneth J., 1973. "Higher education as a filter," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 193-216, July.
  4. WHALLEY, John & XIN, Xian, 2010. "China's FDI and non-FDI economies and the sustainability of future high Chinese growth," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 123-135, March.
  5. Yaohui Zhao, 1997. "Labor Migration and Returns to Rural Education in China," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 79(4), pages 1278-1287.
  6. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  7. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & Paul Glewwe & Li Guo, 2000. "Markets, Human Capital, and Inequality: Evidence from Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 298, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  8. Moretti, Enrico, 2004. "Estimating the social return to higher education: evidence from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 175-212.
  9. Whalley, John & Zhang, Shunming, 2007. "A numerical simulation analysis of (Hukou) labour mobility restrictions in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 392-410, July.
  10. Richard B. Freeman, 2006. "People Flows in Globalization," NBER Working Papers 12315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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