How Universities Work: Understanding Higher Education Organization in Northwest China

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This study explores models of educational management used in postsecondary institutions in the five northwestern provinces of the People’s Republic of China (Shaanxi, Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, and Ningxia). As higher education in the People’s Republic of China expands and undergoes significant changes, a nuanced understanding of the organizational structures in Chinese higher education is increasingly important. This qualitative study included group interviews with university administrators from institutions in each of the five northwestern provinces. Drawing on Birnbaum’s (1988) seminal work describing models of organization in higher education in the United States, the findings suggest four models of organization that are for the Chinese context. These models are: Tiao-Kuai Xitong (Vertical-Horizontal system), Confucian Guanxi, Authoritarian, and Dialectical. The study explores the complexity and diversity that characterizes Chinese higher education with important implications for the ongoing educational reform within China, as well as for developing a more sophisticated contextualized notion of Chinese higher education in the West.


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How to Cite
Berger, J. B., Hudson, K. E., & Blanco Ramírez, G. (2013). How Universities Work: Understanding Higher Education Organization in Northwest China. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21, 64.
Author Biographies

Joseph B. Berger, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Joseph B. Berger, Ph.D. is a Professor of Education and Associate Dean for Research and Engagement in the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he is also affiliated with the Center for International Education (CIE). Dr. Berger’s scholarly expertise focuses on higher education leadership and policy, organizational development, and K-16 systems alignment and evaluation. Internationally, he has worked on projects in Afghanistan, Malawi, China, Russia and Palestine; and consulted with institutions in Colombia, Chile, Egypt, Qatar, and the Philippines.


Katherine E. Hudson, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Katherine E. Hudson, Ed.D., is a Lecturer in the Department of Educational Policy, Research and Administration in the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Her work focuses on issues of organizational development and leadership in higher education, with a particular emphasis on how institutions approach organizational change. Other areas of interest and expertise include issues in higher education related to women, faculty development, and intracultural interactions. Time spent in South East Asia as a youth sparked an early and enduring interest in understanding cultures around the globe; her current passion for exploring higher education in international contexts is a natural extension of this lifelong pursuit. She has recently been active in projects in Palestine and Chile.

Gerardo Blanco Ramírez, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Gerardo Blanco Ramírez is a doctoral candidate in Higher Education Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He incorporates critical and postcolonial perspectives to the study of higher education quality and internationalization. He has served as a consultant on qualitative research methods for non-governmental organizations from Peru and El Salvador and has worked as a practitioner in Mexico and the United States.