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China to limit growing enrolment in state higher education

The Chinese State Council decided last month to cap university enrolments in an attempt to control unemployment and increase quality in higher education. The number of enrolments sky-rocketed in the last few years, going from approximately seven million in 1998 to today’s 23 million. The Chinese press argues that this rapid increase brought about some problems, like scarce availability of infrastructure, increased workload for teachers, and ultimately, the decrease in the quality of university graduates. Beside the above-mentioned issues, one major problem is that it has become very difficult for the Chinese job market to absorb the high number of graduates, with some estimates of up to 30 per cent graduates each year being unable to find appropriate employment. The State Council announced that more efforts will be made to improve vocational training and adult education, in order to facilitate the employment of young people who cannot go to university.

The move of the Chinese State Council may however also be due to motives other than worries over the increase in unemployment of graduates and decrease in quality of higher education: it would be difficult for the Chinese government to keep the same pace and continue to provide a rapidly growing number of publicly funded places in higher education. Like in other Asian countries (eg Indonesia, Malaysia, India etc), independent sector providers may have to cater more and more for an increasing demand for higher education in the future.

China Internet Information Centre