Frontiers of Education in China

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 245–266 | Cite as

The Dynamics and Macro Strategy of Structural Reform in Higher Education in China: Case Study of Two Critical Periods (1949–1960 and 1998–2009)

  • Jinghuan Shi
  • Lyeong Jo
  • Maobo Hu
  • Jiayi Li
Research Article


The development of the higher education system in China has experienced huge changes alongside the transitions in the socio-economic milieu since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Among the major structural transformations of higher education, the reform during the 1950s and the one from 1998 to 2009 can be seen as two typical cases and manifestations of macro strategy modulation. Both reforms were driven by the need of strengthening and empowering the nation as a whole through the advancement of higher education. But the 1950s reforms featured the perpetuation of state control, highly centralized resource allocation, and authoritarian administration, while the 1998–2009 period reflected the transition from a planned to a market economy in higher education, manifested in an increased weight given to market forces, the enlarged autonomy of higher education institutions (HEIs) and expanded government guidance instead of mere state control. The paper will take the two periods as cases to show why and how the reforms were formulated and what directions they are leading towards.


higher education macro strategy 1950’s college reform 1998–2009 reform 


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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