April 27, 2023
China experienced a negative population growth in 2022 while India is becoming the the most populous country in the world. How China may shift the advantage to quality insteadof quantity of its human resource in the global competition? How its higher educational system may cope with the population dynamics and what are the opportunities for universities of Thailand? Prof. Dr. Tang Zhimin, the director of CASPIM, acquired insights in his recent conversation with Professor Lin Pinghua, President of Pujiang Institute in China.
Chinese population entered the period of negative growth (-0.60‰ or -9.56 million) in 2022. According to the prediction based on the 7th census in 2020, number of people with school age for higher education (between 18 to 22 years old) will be peaked in 2032 and decrease rapidly afterwards. In 2022, the applicants and graduates of higher education in China reached its historical hight of 11.93 and 10,76 million respectively.
The government is planning along the population dynamics. Its strategies include:
1)restriction on permissions for new undergraduate programs;
2) control and close down branch campuses of university in other cities; and
3) enhance vocational education.
In 2021, among the 44.3 million students enrolled for higher education in China, 42.73% are ordinary undergraduate (普通本科), and 36.19% are in higher vocational education (高等职业教育). The latter covers vocational bachelor students (职业本科), and students for vocational diploma (大专) with three year education in Higher Vocational College (高职/高专). The vocational bachelor degree (职业本科) was launched in 2019. Thirty two Higher Vocational Colleges (高职/高专) were upgraded into universities to offer such bachelor degree in the past three years.
The emerging structure of higher education in China would be in three layers:
1) the traditional research universities;
2) the application oriented universities which are new universities established during the “big expansion” around 1999, plus the independent college (独立学院） in transfer （转设） ; and
3) higher vocational education.
However, students with higher vocational education not only receive lower social recognition but also less pay. In 2019, those with a vocational diploma made an average monthly salary of 4,295 yuan per month, compared with 5,440 yuan of those with a ordinary undergraduate degree. The unpopularity reflects the inability of higher vocational veducation in China to deliver qualified graduates according to the demand in the markets.
A case to the point is the transfer （转设） of independent colleges (独立学院） .An independent college is a child of private investment and a normal university. In 2020, the Ministry of Education decided to phase out this form of higher education. The original plan is to turn independent colleges into private or public universities offering vocational bachelor degrees. It was fiercely resisted by the students and the plan was grounded in 2021.
Could foreign players help? Although the operation of foreign universities are strictly regulated in China by Ministry of Education according to the “The Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Chinese-foreign Cooperative Education”, news in 2021,
however, showed Beijing municipal government was authorized to encourage the establishment of institutes catering for adult education and vocational skills by foreign investors.