Hukou decentralization and migrant students’ educational opportunities : case studies in Beijing and Shenzhen, China

  • Bo LI

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


Since the 1980s, ongoing reforms in China’s hukou system have drawn increasing attention from various parties, and a consensus generated during the reform period refers to decentralization practices. This research, with reference to new class and social class theories, investigates how social policies alongside decentralization of administration within the hukou system in Beijing and Shenzhen impact on educational opportunities for migrant students. Based on a total of 29 in-depth interviews conducted in these two cities, this research details the differentiation of decentralization practices and influences from two perspectives: 1) financing in private education; and 2) regulation in public education. In terms of financing, the paucity of subsidy policies and additional sponsorship expenses worsen the educational context and prospect for migrant students in Beijing. Comparatively, the Shenzhen government has made and implemented a set of welcomed subsidy policies for migrant students who receive private education, which financially dismantles separation between public and private education and equalizes educational opportunities for migrant students in the megacity. In terms of regulation, accessing public education through hukou conversion is more practicable for migrant students in Shenzhen than Beijing. Nonetheless, homeownership has emerged as an increasingly overweight reference metric in public education access in Shenzhen, which undermines egalitarian policy intentions and effects in hukou conversion practices. With reference to the analysis of the interview transcripts, this research concludes that migrant students are confronted with different inequality of educational opportunities in these two cities, despite the fact that both subnational governments have fully carried through hukou decentralization that has been deemed as an effectively administrative approach to equalize public services delivery, such as basic education.
Date of Award28 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorKa Ho Joshua MOK (Supervisor) & David Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor)

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