Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Daxue Blog: Coming Soon

Over the coming months thedaxue.org will awaken from its slumber and publish a series of blog posts aimed at clarifying the vast terrain of Chinese Higher Education. 

The series of posts will hopefully be of interest to academics, scholars, university administrators, international officers and anyone with a passing interest in the sprawling web of institutions that constitute Chinese HE.

In addition, we'll be looking at some of the major issues facing Chinese HE, including the challenges of enacting meaningful transformation of Chinese HE and issues arising from its continued reform at the national, regional and global levels. 

A broad range of topics to be covered will include (subject to some adjustment):

1.     CCP and PRC Vision for HE Reform

2.     The Elite HE Sector

3.     Provincial and Municipal Universities

4.     The Private "Minban" Sector

5.     Vocational Education

6.     Higher Education Law and Regulations

7.     Internationalization of Chinese HE: Partnering with Chinese Universities

8.     Internationalization of Chinese HE: Recruiting Strategies

9.     Internationalization of Chinese HE: The Shadow Int'l Education Industry

10. Research in the Chinese HE Sector

 Articles may focus on these issues or cut across several topics.  If any readers have specific requests for information or blogposts they'd like to see, they can email Mike Gow at: thedaxue@me.com 

These posts will aim to demystify the Chinese HE sector and provide some a resource of basic information on the sector.  The blogposts are not intended as academic articles, but primarily to serve as an entry point for anyone interested in this field.  I also hope that any scholars (especially those who, like me, are at the beginning of their academic careers) can get in touch with a view to working towards a greater understanding of the Chinese HE sector. 

Also, any comments, feedback or ideas for blogposts or proposals for guest blogposts, please email me at the above address. 

You can also now FOLLOW thedaxue on Twitter. 

@DaxueBlog

@mikeygow


That's all for now. 

 

MG

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Elite Expands: CAS and CAE admit 103 new academicians to their ranks

Qiushi, the CCP's fortnightly magazine (published online at www.qstheory.cn), has published reports on the latest engineers and scientists to be admitted to the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE, 中国工程院) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS, 中国科学院).  

In total, 103 newly minted academicians were announced, with 51 making being annointed by the CAE, and 53 rising to the upper-echelons of China's science elite through admission to CAS.  

The youngest appears to be 45 year old Professor XIE Yi of the University of Science and Technology China (USTC), Hefei, Anhui.  In addition to being very young to be elevated to CAS, Professor XIE is one of only three women selected this year out fo 53 new additions.  Professor XIE completed her PhD in Chemistry at USTC following her undergraduate studies at Xiamen University.  She held a postdoc at SUNY and is also a Changjiang Scholar (sometimes referred to as Yangzi or Cheung Kong scholar), a presitigious appointment made through the Ministry of Education and in recognition of academic excellence in her field.  Professor Xie has been a full Professor at USTC, one of China's presitgious C9 universities, since 1998, making her only 31 at the time of that appointment.  Impressive stuff and a possible future university President, or maybe even Vice Minister or Minister (MoE or MoST).  

The CAS, CAE and CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) are the true elite in Chinese academic circles.  Those with academician status not only hold extremely high status within the academic field, they also move seemlessly between academia and state.  In most cases, academicians advise government and shape discourses on the development of their field, while many academicians also shape policy through their bridging of the academic and officials circles.  

It should also be pointed out that many key performance indicators set by university management will include how many academicians are currently at the institution. The China Alumni Association Report contains a ranking of universities in China, which I believe is the most accurate reflection of public opinion on the status of China's elite universities.  The measurements utilised include no. CAS, CAE and CASS academicians, no. of alumni holding senior government posts, and no. of alumni worth in excess of RMB100m.  Academicians are held in the same esteem as officials holding Vice-Minister posts and above, and as captains of industry who have made their fortunes in the post-reform era.  

But crucially, they are also essential for bringing in the mega-bucks research grants such as the 973, 863 Major and Supporting sci-tech projects funded through the Ministry of Science and Technology.  

They are the real movers and shakers of academia, capable of influencing, perhaps even setting, the research agenda through their input to government policy. 

Original language article (Chinese only): http://www.qstheory.cn/kj/jyll/201312/t20131220_304598.htm  

MG





The Daxue -Times Higher Education Article

Today's Times Higher Education on the rise if China's HE sector by John Morgan.

Includes some info from a 2hr discussion with John in Chinese HE a few weeks back in Shanghai.

Also interviewed are Professor Ian Gow OBE (aka Dad), Philip Altbach Hong Bing and Song Yonghua.

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/feature-china-on-the-fast-track/2009923.fullarticle

Good coverage of different perspectives on academic freedom and China's potential to become a major global HE force.

MG

Monday, 16 December 2013

Xiamen Malaysia Campus - Update

The China Education News (中国教育报) today reported on the continuing development of China's first overseas branch campus.  

Chinese Original Language Source: http://edu.people.com.cn/n/2013/1216/c1053-23849160.htm 

Xiamen University, one of the prestigious Project 985 universities announced in January 2013 that they would establish a full-research would establish a branch campus in the city of Salak Tinggi.   Salak Tinggi is the capital of Sepang District, Selangor, Malaysia and lies approximately 40km to the south of Kuala Lumpur.  

As reported in thedaxue.org back in January of this year, this is the first instance of a Chinese university establishing an overseas branch campus operation.  

In that last report, available here  I argued that this was part of a range of policies aiming to utilise Chinese HE as the vanguard of a soft power strategy, which itself falls within the CCP and PRC strategic scope of China's Peaceful Development (中国和平发展), an idea central to China's development ethos in the 21st century.  These "going out" (走出去) strategies are coupled with "inviting in" (请进来) initiatives to build greater understanding of China and between China and other nations.  

Today's announcement goes into further detail as to the development plan which is receiving full financial backing from the highest levels of the Chinese government.  The Xiamen University Malaysia Campus is to be fully funded by the China Development Bank (国家开发银行), one of the three main policy banks under the direct control of the State Council.   The China Development Bank (CDB) is the most important of China's infrastructure and industrial policy institutions.  CDB Governor Chen Yuan (陈元) holds government rank equivalent of a Cabinet Minister and reports directly to the State Council.  Chen has held the position of Governor of CDB since 1998, and is himself the son of one the CCP's 8 Immortals, Chen Yun (陈云).  The CDB has been repsonsible for all the key infrastructure projects in China in the modern era, including the Three Gorges Dam.  In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that the CDB has been and continues to be the central pillar of China's industrialist policy at home and increasingly abroad.  It has loans in excess of double that of the World Bank.  

XU's Malaysia plan aims to establish a campus covering in excess of 600,000sqm (150 acres) with over 300,000sqm in constructed facilities on that campus and capable of facilitating 10,000 students.  

The plan aims to recruit students at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level, with a first intake of 500 students to take place in 2015.  The first phase will see the following schools developed:

School of Chinese Linguistics and Culture
School of Oceanic and Environmental Studies
Business School
Medical School
School Computer Science

Phase II will see the further introduction of:
School of Chemical and Energy Engineering
School of Electronic Engineering
School of Biological Engineering
School of Materials Science and Technology
School of Cultural and Creative Animation

In addition to the CDB full financial backing, it is reported that RMB200m has been donated by Malaysia's richest man, Kuok Hock Nian, for the construction and establishment of the library at XU Malaysia.  

Furthermore, Xiamen University has some excellent advantages in this region. Firstly, it was established by Tan Kah Kee (Chen Jiageng 嘉庚) as the University of Amoy (Amoy being the old name of Xiamen). Tan was a wealthy and famous Fujian-Singaporean philanthropist and is extremely well-known and revered in SE Asia. Secondly, along with Tan, most of the Chinese diaspora in SE Asia are descended from Fujian immigrants and speak the Fujian dialect or a slight variation on it (known as Hokkien throughout the SE Asian region). This gives an incredibly strong connection to Fujian and Xiamen amongst a great deal of the Chinese population in Malaysia. In fact, knowing how the Chinese HE sector is so strategically controlled, it is impossible to see this as an internal Xiamen initiative. The cultural suitability of Xiamen for this project is such, and when considering the high level ministerial approval needed, that it can only really be viewed as a national-strategic initiative to kick start Chinese HE as a major regional power in the Asia Pacific.



Friday, 14 June 2013

British Inter University China Centre - Introducing Dr Mike Gow

Very happy to announce that my doctorate has been confirmed. This site to be update soon.

Dr Mike Gow, BICC Profile: http://www.bicc.ac.uk/2013/06/13/introducing-dr-mike-gow/

The British Inter-University China Centre (BICC), which provided full funding to me from 2006-12, has updated their website. BICC is a cross-institutional collaborative research centre led by BICC Director Professor Robert Bickers (Bristol). It was established in 2006 as a joint-research centre based across the Universities of Bristol, Manchester and Oxford. The founding Directors were:

Founding Director Dr Frank Pieke (Oxford, now at Professor of Leiden University)
Founding Co-Director Professor Robert Bickers (Bristol)
Founding Co-Director Professor William Callahan (Manchester).

Part of BICC's mission has been to create a generation of Chinese-literate scholars, with several BICC grads already holding academic posts after receiving their doctorates.

BICC also provided postdoctoral funding and research development fellowships to scholars at all three universities. For more info: http://www.bicc.ac.uk/people-3/

BICC's blog and site is a useful source of info and new developments, events, research networks and other info on China-related research in the UK and abroad.

BICC WEBSITE & BLOG: http://www.bicc.ac.uk

MG

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Zhejiang University to establish campus inside Imperial College London

Today (16 May), Xinhua news announced that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Zheijiang University and Imperial College London to establish a campus of Zhejiang University inside Imperial. In London


Below is a translation.  Any errors of translation are mine.  

"Zhejiang University and Imperial College (London) will establish a united college following the signing of 'Zhejiang-Imperial United College Cooperative Memorandum of Understanding'.  Zhejiang University Party Secretary and University Affairs Committee Director JIN Deshui and Imperial PResident (Rector) Keith O'Nions both signed the MoU with Zhejiang Governor LI Qiang, MoE Vice Minister HAO Ping and Zhejiang Vice-Governor LIANG Liming also in attendance.  

According to the agreement, Zhejiang University will establish an overseas campus on the western campus of Imperial College.  This is first case of a Chinese University establishing an overseas campus within the campus of a world-renowned university.  The establishment (of the institution) will begin in 2014.  

Zhejiang University's will establish the campus through social financing and overseas campus infrastructure funds.  As their core work, they will establish two schools for the joint training of postgraduates and doctoral candidates; establish a joint laboratory for the common interest of major research areas at the forefront of international issues, and carry out high-level personnel training, high quality science and research cooperation and pursuit of technological achievements.   

Previously, Zhejiang University has formed relationships for collaborative disciplinary research and graduate cooperation with 16 world-class universities in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan."

It is unclear from the available online information what the specific disciplinary focuses of this institute will be, though with the strong science, technology and medical focus of Imperial College, it would be reasonable to speculate that the emphasis in the PG and Doctoral centres will focus here.  I would also very much expect to see many of the areas reflected in those key areas outlined in the Medium-Long Term Science and Technology Reform and Development Plan of the Ministry of Science & Technology.  This is due to the nature of funding at elite Chinese institutions such as Zhejiang, which compete for national supremacy largely through competition for MoST research grants such as Project 863, Project 973, National S&T Major Projects, and National S&T Supporting Projects.  S&T research funding has rocketed in the 12th 5 Yr plan era (2012-2016), but to give an idea of the sheer financial power of the MoST in directing research agendas in China, and especially at the elite Project 985 universities, MoST committed over RMB200bn to these 4 projects alone between 2006-2011 (11th 5 Yr Plan).  This was supplemented by significant private sector investment, in the case of National S&T Major Projects receiving RMB50bn from the MoST and RMB50bn from the private sector.

Interestingly, this news follows an announcement by Xiamen University that they will establish a campus in Malaysia several months back which is being personally pushed by Jia Qinglin (former PSC Standing Comittee member and Party Sec of Fujian).  The next post will look at the link between China's geopolitical rise and the discourse surrounding "going out (走出去)" as a strategy to promote more favourable ties between China and other nations.  A strategic manoeuvre to promote China's development model as a viable alternative to western-led consensus and Pax Americana?  Or a benevolent long-term plan to combat the perception of China as a threat to western dominance?  HE will certainly be at the vanguard of such soft power efforts and it is intriguing to see two such ventures announced in quick succession.  

On another note, I wonder how Chinese netizens will react to this news and, particularly, given the history between the two nations, the motto of Imperial College: "Scientia Imperii Decus Et Tutamen (Knowledge is the adornment and protection of the Empire)".  But then, the Zhejiang University motto seems to capture this new venture perfectly: 求是创新* which is translated as "Seeking the Truth and Pioneering New Trails"

* - 求是创新 qiushi chuangxin; lit. seek the truth, create the new)

MG


Thursday, 28 February 2013

A Century of Striving in Chinese HE: Refocusing The Daxue Blog

Last week, I am very happy to announce, I successfully defended my PhD thesis at the University of Bristol.  Far from viewing this as the completion of a major piece of work or some monumental achievement, I prefer to define this event as the completion of training for a challenging expedition that will continue through the remainder of my academic career.  Already, I can feel a change in myself: a renewed optimism about the possibility the future holds, but rather than being characterised by doubt, the successful completion of the PhD has given me the confidence that what I have to say on Chinese Higher Education and related issues is a worthy contribution to understanding both HE in China and contemporary China itself.  The difference, I feel, is not dissimilar to the transformation of Luke Skywalker that occurred somewhere between the end of Empire Strikes Back and the opening gambit of Return of the Jedi.  Obiwan* has taught me well.   

(* - Obiwan, in this case, refers to those people who have guided, supported, helped and suffered with me - and, in most cases, because of me - through this process.  They include my supervisors, Professor Susan Robertson and Professor Jeffrey Henderson at Bristol; Professor Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol and the British Inter-University China Centre; President Youmin Xi at XJTLU; Vice President Yang Minzhu of XJTLU; Professor Zhang Endi of ECNU and the Shanghai Municipal Government; President Emeritus of NYU-Poly David Chang and Cecilia Chang; Dr Sherry Sun and countless other friends and colleagues.  Of course, my greatest thanks go to my wonderful wife, Penny Ding, and to my parents, Ian and Katy Gow, and my brothers, David, Stephen and Peter.  A special mention should also go to my good friends Zhang Xiaojun, Zhang Shaofeng, Xie Qijian, Gui Fang, Holly Snape, Alan Crawford, Dan Hopper, Jon Howlett, Armida de la Garza, German Gil Curiel, Lindsay Shen, Christophe Rouillon, Carole Rouillon, Wei Shen, David Cockayne and Heather Nicholls).  

In view of this epochal event, I believe that it is now time to refocus this blog, away from speculation on developments in Sino-Foreign HE, to focus more widely on actual developments within Chinese HE.  The reasons for this are numerous, but it seems appropriate given that China itself has appears to be changing since the appointment of Xi Jinping as General Party Secretary in mid-November.  There is an unmistakeable "go-get-shit-done" approach emanating from the corridors of power that has many China-watchers and academics cautiously optimistic about the new administration.  Having spent much of the last decade in China, I have known only the Hu-Wen administration.  I was sad to see Hu and Wen go, though we know that the spirit of Hu's Scientific Development Concept will continue to permeate PRC govt policy until it is superceded by a new guiding philosophy promulgated by Xi and his new administration, though there is no indication yet of what this will be or whether it will happen during the term of the 18th Party Congress (2012-2017).  Certainly, we know that Hu Jintao, far from retiring, has merely stepped back from the limelight and that he will continue to play an important role as an emeritus leader in the upper-echelons of the CCP hierarchy.  Both Hu and Wen are now CCP grandees, just as figures like Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji and Song Ping have been over the last decade.  The ceaseless goal of transforming, modernizing and reinvigorating China now passes to a new generation under Xi's leadership, but with the ideational threads of the previous administration still present and ensuring both stability and continuity.  

While there is a great deal of apparent contradiction in the dual goals of, on the one hand, transformation and progress and, on the other hand, stability and continuity, such apparently divergent objectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  It is through this process that the PRC government and leading CCP can ensure that social transformation emerges out of previous, historical structures.  These historical structures, the social, cultural and political conventions and practices which characterise a society at a given point in time, are themselves the conditions out of which new innovations arise in response to pressing problems of the day.  As such problems are unique and specific to given historical juncture, the responses to those problems, such as the new policy developments, will necessarily lead to a process whereby the very social structures, practices and conventions which gave rise to policy innovations and national projects will themselves be transformed as a direct consequence, albeit over a long period of time.  So stability and continuity are, in this sense, fundamental and inalienable components of the Chinese approach to development.  This stands in stark contrast to the Washington consensus approach of shock economic therapy and the imposition of electoral reform in line with neoliberal values.  

Education at all levels is the centre-piece of China's strategy to develop over the next decade.  Both in terms of shifting to a consumer-driven economy and in terms of facilitating hi-tec innovation and creativity in the domestic economy.  These will not be easy to achieve, and major obstacles must be removed, not least the question of sustainability if China is to become a "moderately well off society" for all Chinese people (小康社会).  Yet this is an issue for the whole world, with developed nations having off-shored not only manufacturing to China since the early 1990's, but also pollution.  Renewable energy solutions are being pursued through initiatives t the Ministry of Science and Technology and through major projects in the elite research universities, including Project 863 and 973.  Rather than deride these efforts, we should all be wishing our Chinese colleagues in this field success in their research activities.  

This blog, then, will move to report on developments in the field of HE, drawing on wider questions relating to the challenges facing China in the immediate future and the policy responses and initiatives of the government.  

To close here, I will leave you with an exert from a book written many years ago, but which I believe could almost have been written last week.  In the context of this blog, it is a call to researchers, commentators, professionals, students and scholars interested in China to adopt a constructive approach to dialogue on the challenges facing China.  But we can see the parallels with what is written here and what is happening in 21st Century China.  This transformation of China has been going on for a century, until 1979 as a process of one-step-forward, ten-steps-back. Reading these words which resonate so strongly with the China of today, it is quite unnerving to think that with 5 years of this being written, China was plunged first into a civil war and then into a series of tumultuous events from which it took half-a-century to emerge.  On this basis alone, we should wish China, its people and its leadership continued success in their pursuit of peaceful development:

"The European in China, quite apart from interested motives, is apt to be ultra-conservative, because he likes everything  distinctive and non-European. But this is the attitude of an outsider, of one who regards China as a country to be looked at rather than lived in, as a country with a past rather than a future. Patriotic Chinese naturally do not view their country in this way; they wish their country to acquire what is best in the modern world, not merely to remain an interesting survival of a by-gone age, like Oxford or the Yellowstone Park. As the first step to this end, they do all they can to promote higher education, and to increase the number of Chinese who can use and appreciate Western knowledge without being the slaves of Western follies. What is being done in this direction is very interesting, and one of the most hopeful things happening in our not very cheerful epoch"

Bertrand Russell in "The Problem of China", 1922. 

Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13940/13940-h/13940-h.htm


Thursday, 14 February 2013

The True Meaning of The Daxue: Thorsten Pattberg on the Translation of Chinese Terms

A very interesting post by Thorsten Pattberg of Peking University (ok, ok 北京大学).

Thorsten's work brings his understanding of Chinese philosophy, literature and classical Chinese to inform contemporary efforts to better engage with and understand Chinese culture. He's definitely one of the more illuminating scholars writing on China today.

http://www.east-west-dichotomy.com/how-western-translations-distort-chinas-reality/?goback=%2Egmp_1901356%2Egde_1901356_member_212662753

MG

State Council: Chinese Universities to Introduce Masters and Doctoral Tuition Fees from 2014

The State Council last week announced reform of postgraduate tuition fees throughout the Chinese HE sector. From the 2014/15 academic year, all new postgraduate students will have to pay tuition fees ranging from RMB8k to RMB10k per annum (approx £800 - £1000).

The announcement, following deliberative panels chaired by outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao, signals the end of "free" postgraduate education in China's vast HE sector. Since 2006, the 112 national universities under the direct jurisdiction of the central government have had some latitude in charging fees for admitting Masters and Doctoral students, but this move now extends that to all Chinese universities involved in the delivery of postgraduate.

This will come as a welcome boost to Chinese universities, particularly those universities which are outside the elite Project 211, and/or which are affiliated to provincial education bureaus. The added revenue stream will help Chinese universities to improve teaching and research resources, although they will also be keen to ensure that quality is also enhanced in view of the likely higher demands from fee-paying students.

This year, over 1.8m candidates registered to sit the 2013 Postgraduate National Entrance Examination, held in early January, up from 1.66m students in 2012 and 1.4m in 2011.

Numbers of postgraduate students have risen dramatically over the last 15 or so years. in 1999, a total of 92,200 (Masters 72,300; PhD 19,900) postgrads were registered at Chinese universities. By 2012 that number had risen to 584,416 (Masters 517,200; PhD 67,216).

A rough, back of the envelope calculation would indicate a per annum cash injection to the entire HE sector from PG tuition fees (assuming enrolments are consistent with 2012 figures) rising over a 3 year period of:

2014/2015 = RMB4.7bn
2015/2016 = RMB9.4bn
2016/2017 = RMB10bn
(assuming similar enrolments to 2012, and that Masters continue to be 2yrs, with PhD's also 3yrs. Masters courses run between 2-3 years in China, so the final total for 2016/17 could be between RMB10bn and RMB14.1bn).

Several news sources report that a new system of student loans will be introduced, that PG student numbers will be limited to 450,000 (making the above figures too high - likely revised down to approx RMB4bn, RMB8bn, RMB8.5bn in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively), and that a national scholarship system will be established to channel talent to key areas of national research priority.

One would hope that much of these funds will be channeled to raising salaries in the Chinese HE sector in order to train, attract and retain the very best Chinese minds in the HE sector. Though this would necessarily involve other changes to the HE sector research funding mechanisms to encourage independent and collaborative research, rather than the research cabals that exist presently. Though that is perhaps an subject for another day.

Mike Gow.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Times Higher Education: Article fails to correctly grasp the nuances of Gaokao

The Times Higher Education published recently an article which drew attention to the very real issue of Hukou residential status and the right to sit the notorious Gaokao examination for entry to China's universities.

The article, penned by Hong Bing, Associate Professor of Journalism at Fudan University, featured some comments by Zhang Ming, Professor at Renmin University and blogger extraordinaire, on the recent initiatives of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou to address this issue.  The following citation is from Hong Bing's THE article:

"In response, education authorities in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the megacities with the biggest migrant populations and the best education resources, finally published their roadmaps for reform in late December. But the plans have been widely criticised for setting high entry barriers for migrant students. Shanghai says that parents who have come to the city as "talents with expertise" and have a home there as well as a steady job may get a residence registration that allows their children to take Shanghai's college entrance exam in 2014. Guangzhou will open its entrance exam to qualified migrant students in 2016. But Beijing's plan didn't have even a timetable for opening its exams to migrant students. According to Professor Zhang, if the plans had been marked like an exam: "Guangzhou passed; Shanghai failed; and Beijing just turned in a blank exam paper.""

Yet this assessment byProfessor Zhang appears to overlook the fact that Guangzhou's efforts are really not that helpful.  I will, in this blog post, attempt to explain why.  

Hong Bing's article highlights the case of Zhan Haite, the daughter of a Shanghai-based migrant worker campaigning for the right to sit the Gaokao in Shanghai where she has been educated.  Under strict regulations, Chinese senior high school students must take the Gaokao exam in the town where there Hukou is registered, the Hukou being the system of household registration.  For Zhan Haite, this would have meant returning to Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province.  


So why is this a problem?  Why not just return to Jiangxi and take the Gaokao (National University Entrance Examination) there?  Well.  Its not that simple.  Welcome to the confusing world of the Gaokao.  

Firstly, although the Gaokao is described as a "national" examination, it is actually provincially administered.  Secondly, each province favours its own applicants for entry to universities located in that province.  Thirdly, the exams themselves differ from province to province (most provinces require a score out of 750, but Zhejiang (810).  And finally, sitting the Gaokao in certain provinces makes it much easier (or much harder) to gain access to a top university.  

Every July, when the Gaokao exam results are published, each province sets a Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 cut-off point.  For entrance to a 4yr UG (本科) programme, students must place above the Tier 1 cut-off point.  Failure to good enough grades ostensibly sentences the student one of three choices: (a) 3yr vocational technical college (大专); (b) going overseas or on one of the many under-the-radar articulation programmes run by private Chinese providers in conjunction with foreign universities, or (c) to re-register at the high school and retake the Gaokao the following year.

This is a stark choice.  Option (a) is a shameful proposition and many students and parents balk at the idea.  Option (b) is expensive.  Option (c) will fill the student with dread at the prospect of another year in the grip of a Gaokao studying frenzy (for a fairly standard overview of what Gaokao means to most Chinese high school students, see this post on sinostand: http://sinostand.com/2013/02/03/the-gaokao-highway-to-hell/ )

So what happens if a student achieves the Holy Grail of a Tier 1 score.  Well, firstly, a Tier 1 score is not necessarily a "good" score.  All it really means is that the student has finished in the top bracket and can apply for 4yr UG study at a fairly good university.  

The table below shows the Tier 1 cut-off points for each province in the Arts and Science streams in 2012 (students must nominate either Arts or Science as the focus of their Gaokao). 


Province
Total
Arts
Tier 1 Pass
Science
Tier 1 Pass
1
Guangdong
750
589
78.53%
585
78.00%
2
Anhui
750
577
76.93%
544
72.53%
3
Shandong
750
573
76.40%
582
77.60%
4
Hebei
750
572
76.27%
564
75.20%
5
Hunan
750
571
76.13%
520
69.33%
6
Jiangxi
750
570
76.00%
547
72.93%
7
Liaoning
750
563
75.07%
517
68.93%
8
Hubei
750
562
74.93%
551
73.47%
9
Zhejiang
810
606
74.81%
593
73.21%
10
Henan
750
557
74.27%
540
72.00%
11
Fujian
750
557
74.27%
546
72.80%
12
Hainan
900
668
74.22%
614
68.22%
13
Shaanxi
750
556
74.13%
517
68.93%
14
Chongqing
750
554
73.87%
522
69.60%
15
Tianjin
750
549
73.20%
530
70.67%
16
Shanghai
600
438
73.00%
632
72.00%
17
Guangxi
750
544
72.53%
528
70.40%
18
Guizhou
750
539
71.87%
470
62.67%
19
Shanxi
750
539
71.87%
530
70.67%
20
Gansu
750
533
71.07%
517
68.93%
21
Jiangsu
480
341
71.04%
340
70.83%
22
Jilin
750
529
70.53%
515
68.67%
23
Heilongjiang
750
526
70.13%
514
68.22%
24
Yunnan
750
520
69.33%
465
62.00%
25
Sichuan
750
516
68.80%
518
69.07%
26
Beijing
750
495
66.00%
477
63.60%
27
Xinjiang
750
493
65.73%
445
59.33%
28
Inner Mongolia
750
492
65.60%
469
62.53%
29
Ningxia
750
489
65.20%
440
58.67%
30
Qinghai
750
433
57.73%
401
53.47%
31
Xizang (Tibet)
750
320
42.67%
280
37.33%
Province Municipality or Autonomous Region
省,市,自治区
Key Universities*
重点大学
Standard Universities 一般大学
Minban Universities
大学

TOTAL
总计
Beijing 北京
27
26
9
62
Jiangsu
13
29
20
62
Shanghai 上海
9
20
15
44
Shaanxi 西
8
24
17
49
Hubei 湖北
7
27
9
43
Liaoning
6
33
10
49
Guangdong 广
5
29
22
56
Sichuan 四川
5
25
9
39
Heilongjiang
5
19
7
31
Hunan 湖南
4
20
10
34
Tianjin 天津
3
15
1
19
Jilin 吉林
3
21
3
27
Anhui 安徽
3
26
9
38
Chongqing
3
12
6
21
Hebei 河北
3
30
11
44
Shandong
2
35
24
61
Fujian 福建
2
16
18
36
Shanxi 山西
2
14
5
21
Jiangxi 江西
2
16
6
24
Zhejiang 浙江
1
24
11
36
Henan 河南
1
29
10
40
Gansu
1
12
1
14
Yunnan 云南
1
16
6
23
Guangxi 广西
1
18
8
27
Inner Mongolia/Neimenggu 内蒙古
1
9
5
15
Xinjiang 新疆
1
10
2
13
Guizhou
0
14
1
15
Ningxia 宁夏
0
4
2
6
Hainan 海南
0
5
3
8
Qinghai 青海
0
3
0
3
Tibet/Xizang 西藏 **
0
3
0
3
TOTAL
119
584
260
963



There are some other important aspects here.  The Tier 1 cut-off point is calculated according to filling university places, so although the Tier 1 cut-off remains fairly constant (+/- 10%) on an annual basis, students who expect an overall grade around the Tier 1 cut-off face an anxious wait to find out if they've done enough.  It is one of the most difficult aspects of recruitment trips in China to tell a student with 1 or 2 marks less than needed that you cannot accept their application.  There are usually tears, and lots of them.  

Secondly, Shanghai and Beijing have most of the top universities in China, they also have HE enrolment rates upwards of 80% (including 4yr and 3yr programmes).  It also has a much lower number of university applicants for a much greater number of places compared to provinces such as Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Guangdong.  In addition, the schools are often much more advanced in terms of facilities, HR and financial resources and generally of a consistent standard.  So while Shanghai requires a score of 73% or above in Gaokao Science (72% in Arts), the chances of being accepted to a prestigious institution are much greater (one of my research projects in the pipeline is to conduct in depth quant analysis of the Gaokao system, taking into account all of these factors, and to try and understand the impact of regional Hukou registration on university entrance).  

If you look at the distribution of universities offering 4yr UG study across China's provinces and municipalities, it helps demonstrate these issues.  




The 119 Key Universities listed in the table above refer to those universities which are members of the prestigious Project 211 group of universities.  This group of 119 also includes the 39 Project 985 elite universities, which in turn includes the C9 Group of China's most famous universities.  

While I don't have exact numbers for Gaokao candidates in each province for 2012, we can look at Jiangsu, Shanghai, Guangdong, Shandong and Zhejiang provinces (the wealthiest provinces in China's coastal region) to illustrate the point.  

Population Top Universities Total 4yr Universities
Shanghai 23m 9 44
Jiangsu 79m 13 62
Guangdong 105m 5 56
Shandong 95m 2 61
Zhejiang  55m 1 56

This system is also subject to the system of "quota negotiation" between provinces.  For example, as Shanghai has many of the most desirable universities, it is in a position to demand uneven swaps with other provinces.  Shanghai can negotiate to send, for example, 100 students to Shandong province, but take only 50 from Shandong province in return due to its bargaining power.  This also favours Shanghai Gaokao candidates at the expense of their compatriots in other provinces.  

OPENING THE GUANGZHOU GAOKAO - ZHANG MING'S COMMENTS

Zhan Haite's case, and the article written by Hong Bing, highlights the opacity and the lack of equality of opportunity in China's Gaokao system.  It is certainly a joke to describe the Gaokao as a national entrance examination, as it is administered provincially and there is a strong bias towards students from certain provinces.  

However, the comments of Zhang Ming, a Professor at Renmin University, towards the end of the article, fail to full recognise the nuances of the system and, to a certain extent, jump on the equal rights bandwagon.   Zhang Ming, for those who haven't heard of him, is one of the most prominent bloggers in academia. He writes extensively on a range f issues, including IR, politics, economics, foreign affairs and HE.  He's one of those spiky and thorny provocateurs that the foreign media love to go to on a range of issues, but who probably has an unhealthy number of enemies in China thanks to his outspoken nature.  Its fair to say, I like him a lot.  His blog can be found here: http://blog.sina.com.cn/zhangming1 

Firstly, this is because Guangzhou itself is not a municipality, but a provincial capital city.  Secondly, because Guangzhou has a huge population with comparatively few top universities.  Thirdly, because the migrant workers in Guangzhou would in many cases, be further disadvantage by taking the Gaokao exam in Guangzhou (for example if they are Hukou residents from any province other than Guangdong, the pass mark required for a Tier 1 score is lower than that required for Guangdong).  Of course, it requires further statistical analysis to assess whether or not migrant workers in Guangzhou would stand a better chance of admission to a good university, but this will require a major investigation and analysis of quantitative data, as well as attempting to understand the impact of resources on educational quality.  

So alterations to the Guangzhou policy on allowing migrant worker children to sit the Gaokao exam is misleading.  It is certainly possible that it will further disadvantage those children and lessen the chances of acceptance to a top university or even gaining access to 4yr UG education at all, especially with such a high Tier 1 cut-off point of 78%+.  This is also probably the reason we see students like Zhan Haite lamenting the fact she cannot take the exam in Shanghai, where it is quite clear that the Shanghai Gaokao offers much better opportunities (lower pass rates, lower competition for places, more prestigious universities) than in other provinces.  

Reform of the Gaokao system is certainly something which many people in China would like to see.  The real issue is, however, insatiable demand and lack of supply of quality education.  Guangzhou has 5 universities deemed top tier to cater for a population of 105m people.  Even here, only Sun Yatsen and Jinan universities are truly deemed to be outstanding institutions.  There simply are not enough good universities in China to cater for demand and while enrolment rates currently stand at 26%, expected to reach 40% of university-age students by 2020, the gross enrolment rates in major urban centres such as Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other major cities is already well in excess of 80%.  

The Gaokao exam, however, is likely to stay.  And the overwhelming reason for this is that it is, for all its foibles and inconsistencies, a strong bulwark against the tide of academic dishonesty.  It is, practically impossible, as well as criminal offence, to cheat on the Gaokao exam.  It is also now very difficult for corrupt practices within universities to be manipulated by unscrupulous admissions officers, i.e. admitting students for bribes.  And this is why the Gaokao will not be disappearing anytime soon.  What needs to happen is a debate as to how the inequities of the university application system may be addressed, but first we need to really understand the system at the national level and where those inequities lie.  

MG