China's move to mass higher education since 1998: Analysis of higher education expansion policies

Jin JIANG, Guoguo KE

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Under the knowledge‐based economy, higher education plays an important role in cultivating talents and enhancing national competitiveness. Compared with other countries, China is a latecomer in the expansion of higher education but has undergone considerable transformation from elite to massification in a short time since 1998. Most important, China's higher education expansion is not limited to the undergraduate level but includes junior college and postgraduate education. This dramatic development in higher education is also simultaneously affected by marketisation and decentralisation. Moreover, the unprecedented growth and achievements of the reform drew scholars' attention to this inspired case of the consequences of educational expansion. However, few studies analyse higher education expansion policies. This study analyses educational policies since 1998 to understand how the move to mass higher education was achieved through marketisation and decentralisation with the strong control of the central government. Drawing on policy analyses, this study suggests that the higher education expansion in China exhibits the characteristics of the East Asian model, which is shaped by the strong nation‐state structure with instrumentalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-437
Number of pages20
JournalHigher Education Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date11 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr Jin Jiang acknowledges the support from the Start-up Grant (162660) from the Hong Kong Baptist University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • decentralisation
  • educational expansion
  • higher education
  • marketisation
  • policy analysis


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