Higher Education

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 575–592 | Cite as

“Dancing in a cage”: Changing autonomy in Chinese higher education

  • Rui Yang
  • Lesley Vidovich
  • Jan Currie
Original Article


In China, the central government has released a series of key policy initiatives over the last twenty years to foster decentralisation of control over higher education, giving prominence to discourses of increased autonomy for both universities and academics. This article reports findings of an empirical study of changing autonomy in Chinese higher education and it focuses on the effects of these key policy developments in two case study universities. This research was part of a larger study of new power relationships emerging from changing policies on accountability and autonomy in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore, located within a broader context of the impact of globalisation on higher education. The focus on the three regions was selected to begin to redress a Western hegemony in such research. The larger study is premised on the principle that globalisation is characterised by ongoing tensions between global commonalities and context-specific differences, and that it is important not to gloss over the complex and often contradictory national and local mediations of “global” policy trends.


Autonomy China Devolution Globalisation Governance Higher education Policy 


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Financial support by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project is gratefully acknowledged. We thank the reviewers for their valuable insights. We also want to thank the participants in the two Chinese universities that gave us their time to be interviewed. Finally, we are particularly grateful for the assistance and the hospitality provided by Professor Gong Fang and Assistant Professor Qu Mingfeng at the Institute of Higher Education Research, University of Nanjing, and Director Zhao Min of the Higher Education Research Institute at Nanjing University of Science and Technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.Murdoch UniversityPerthAustralia

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