Let nine universities blossom: Opportunities and constraints on the development of higher education in China

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Abstract

China’s pursuit of global superpower status compels the country to make coordinated efforts across numerous sectors. Global leadership in higher education is one example and provides a case study in how resource support and strategic vision can generate ‘quick wins’ in reputation and rankings. The ascendancy of Peking University, Tsinghua University and Fudan University, among others, has positioned China to attract top-tier faculty and supports local innovation ecosystems through collaborative research capacity. However, universities with global visibility account for only a fraction of China’s university enrollment, and reputational stagnation among universities outside the elite ‘C9 League’ has implications for regional economic development, geographic diffusion of innovation, and workforce competitiveness. This article offers explanations for why China has not developed a cadre of globally competitive non-elite universities in the same vein as many Western countries. Issues explored include the institutional and political contexts of university governance, national strategic focus on high-visibility institutions, near-exclusive emphasis on KPIs measured by university ranking indices, and concerns about academic freedom and their cooling effects on research and faculty recruitment. Copyright © 2021 HERDSA.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Early online date21 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Apr 2021

Citation

Hartley, K., & Jarvis, D. S. L. (2021). Let nine universities blossom: Opportunities and constraints on the development of higher education in China. Higher Education Research & Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2021.1915963

Keywords

  • China
  • Higher education policy
  • Managerialism
  • Political ideology
  • University rankings
  • Knowledge economy
  • Knowledge competition

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