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News vom 22.10.2007

What Germany can learn from China

Higher education in China is currently undergoing dramatic change, characterised by heavily increasing student numbers, booming universities and high levels of investment in elite education. On the other hand, China is facing an equally dramatic demographic change due to the one-child policy, which will certainly have a massive influence on the higher education landscape. The tension between training for the masses on the one hand and the struggle for excellence on the other is mirrored in Germany on a different scale. The current phase of considerably increasing student numbers until 2020 will be followed by a period of declining numbers, in which universities will have to engage in new strategies. They will be forced to recruit international students to a much greater extent. An insight into the Chinese situation can be helpful, also with respect to the fact that since 2003 the number of Chinese first year students in Germany has been substantially declining. The CHE has therefore carried out a study on the educational system in China.

The CHE working paper entitled “Higher Education in China in the light of massification and demographic change: Lessons to be learned for Germany“ offers an overview on the entire Chinese education system including adult training. The paper examines the history of the development of higher education with respect to the change to Occidental or Soviet models; it analyses the present higher education system and its institutions as well as the distribution of students, reveals problems, and addresses challenges. The development is as impressive as it is challenging: student numbers increased from less than 4 million in 1990 to more than 20 million in 2005. At the same time, study fees increased from 18 yuan per annum to presently 450 yuan per annum. Also, the number of students abroad jumped from 40,000 to 120,000 between 2000 and 2005. And of more than 10 million pupils wishing to study, only 5,6 million will obtain a study place. Equally impressive are the measures from the Chinese government to offer study places for the masses and at the same time strongly promote elites. For this reason, the paper deals with the reform projects “Project 211” and “Project 985”, which are dedicated to the promotion of excellence in China. An additional 6.4 percent of the annual expenditure on the higher education sector is being invested into these projects.

In a few decades, in China as well as in Germany, 30 percent of the population will be older than 60. For this reason, the issue of “life-long learning” will play an increasing role. The study presents the first steps of the Chinese government in dealing with future demographic challenges.

Finally, the paper develops ideas about the lessons Germany could learn from the Chinese experience and which activities could be useful in terms of making the most of the emerging potential. For the “Nine + Nine” initiative, nine Chinese and nine German universities came together in Berlin in October 2007 to hold a German-Chinese conference emphasising how important understanding China is for the German higher education landscape. The study intends to contribute to this mutual understanding.

Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

Publication in relation to this news
  • Brandenburg, Uwe; Zhu, Jiani: Higher Education in China in the light of massification and demographic change, Gütersloh, 59 Seiten,
    ISBN 978-3-939589-60-0,
    ISSN 1862-7188

Printable version

Britta Hoffmann-Kobert
Britta Hoffmann-Kobertmehr
Phone: +49 5241 9761-27
Fax: +49 5241 9761-40
Email: britta.hoffmann-kobert

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