Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tertiary Education in China: Awakening or Struggling Dragon?

China has six universities that made it into the top-20 ranks of QS, a specialized bureau ranking global universities: Tsinghua University, Peking University are the best mainland universities and Hong Kong University is even the number one in the new Asian list. But notwithstanding this fact, and taking into account the huge growth in number of students, it is still at best unclear what to think of the current state of tertiary education in the country.

Hong Kong doing well in Asian top-11
China Mainland with 2 other universities in top-20 (Rank 12 and 16)


Students work hard and there is a huge rat race going for places in the best universities. Internationally we do see a growing number of Western universities benefiting through a rise in the number of faculty from Chinese descent. This is especially the case in majors with a quantitative or beta background.

Are Chinese Students getting the Education that is required 
to make the country the economic number one of the World?

To a certain extent we believe that China can embark on a similar road as India. The top schools in India are already top by international standards, like for instance the Indian Institutes of Technology or the Institutes of Management. However: growth in China - and India as well - will depend on improved facilities for the AVERAGE student and not just for the tip of the iceberg of most excellent students.

China is fully aware of this challenge and formulated a 10-year plan to ensure that educational reforms and improvements are undertaken swiftly.

LMG believes that - taking into account earlier long-term plans and the way they were carried out - Chinese leadership will be capable of making progress. However: top-level tertiary education is not just about 'organizing', 'learning', 'drilling' and 'plugging in the necessary hours of work'. Tertiary education is about researcn, acquiring new skills, being creative and trying things that no one else tried before. The big challenge is how the Chinese leadership will incorporate these elements in the reform plan, because they are in itself so 'not' China.

Will China attract foreign faculty for that? That might help, but the number of faculty needed is huge and probably not available. Also not because salary levels in China are relatively low when comparing it with salaries for international faculty in for instance the Middle East.

We do therefore limit our judgment to a 'moderately optimistic' verdict. Let's wait and see. Those of you interested in following this trend with us are referred to The China Education Blog for follow-up information (

This article used excellent input from ABC News in which the current state of affairs in Chinese tertiary education was described. Click here for the ABC article.


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