Higher education in China has been profoundly influenced by the higher education systems of America and Europe, but it has unique characteristics. I will only focus on higher education institutions (HEIs) and admission to higher education in China.
There are two types of higher education institutions (HEIs) in China: regular HEIs and adult HEIs. In 2015, there were 2845 HEIs. Out of these 2553 were regular HEIs and the other 292 were HEIs for adults. These HEIs are run by central ministries and agencies, local authorities, non-government (“minban”) institutions, and partnerships with foreign universities and colleges.
Only a very small number of non-governmental institutions are authorised to offer degrees recognised by the Ministry of Education. The others are preparing students to sit examinations for a recognised degree under the government self-study examinations system, and offering training in knowledge and skills of importance to the Chinese economy.
1. Regular HEIs
Regular HEIs includes HEIs offering degree programs (universities, specialised institutions, and independent institutions) and higher vocational colleges. The purpose of vocational universities is to address the manpower requirements of the community in which they are located.
For regular HEIs, admission is based on scores obtained in the unified national higher education entrance examination (Gao Kao) in June; curriculum guidelines are prepared nationally, and the number of student places available in specific programmes at specific institutions is based on economic needs as determined through central government planning; and most graduating students were assigned a post of employment by the government in the past, but this is changing.
2. Adult HEIs
Adult HEIs includes administrative colleges (offer adult middle school and higher education programmes for government officers), correspondence departments and attached evening colleges (offering part-time adult higher education programmes through correspondence and attached evening colleges), employees’ colleges (offering credentials to staff/workers), independent self-study examinations (the only form of higher education in China with an entirely open admissions policy), radio and television universities (offering multi-media courses through radio, television, print, audio-visual materials and computer networks on a nationwide basis), and spare-time universities (offering sub-degree level programmes undertaken in the students’ spare time).
The Adult Education Guidance and Coordination Commission, formed by the State Education commission in 1986, administers adult higher education. In most cases the admission is based on the unified national higher education entrance examination for adult (Cheng Kao) in October. Enrolment quotas are not part of the central government plan and the graduates are not assigned employment by the government.