From centralization to decentralization in Chinese higher education


  • Xiaohong Qian Zhejiang University (China)
  • Jef C. Verhoeven KU Leuven (Belgium)



Since the late 1970’s, the Chinese government has been gradually changing its traditional policy for providing higher education and has begun to emphasize the comprehensiveness of the universities. Interdisciplinary cooperation and the synergization of resources are being promoted, and institutional autonomy is gradually increasing. Schools and faculties have been restored in universities, and new research institutions, research schools, research centers and the like have been established. From a unitary three-level model— university/department/ teaching and research group—before the reform, the organizational structures of the universities have developed a new organizational structure that is more flexible and more open. This more adaptable structure is intended to meet the developmental demands of modern universities with close links being created between their work and regional economic and social development. China has moved from a very centralized educational system in which the main decisions were taken by the central government to a decentralized educational system. This reform is also taking place within the institutions of higher education, and their internal organizational structure has also become more decentralized.


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Author Biographies

Xiaohong Qian, Zhejiang University (China)

Xiaohong Qian was a Visiting Scholar in the Centre for Sociology of Education in the Department of Sociology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (2002- 2003). Before 1999, she was associate research librarian in Zhejiang University and published more than 20 papers in the library and information science field. From 1999 until 2002, she worked at the Office of National Universities in the Ministry of Education in Beijing, where she conducted research on higher education management and published “Current Situation of and Analysis on the Organization Structure of National Universities” with Gao, Wenbing & Wang, Shenxi (in Wu, Jianxiong (Ed). The Innovation of Disciplinary Organization (pp. 61-147) Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press). She has been an associate professor at China University of Mining and Technology in Beijing since 2004.

Jef C. Verhoeven, KU Leuven (Belgium)

Jef C. Verhoeven is Professor of Sociology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and Head of the Centre for Sociology of Education of the same university. He publishes in the field of sociology of education, and more specifically on higher education. He has conducted several projects on higher education (recently, for example, about the merger of colleges of higher education and about the internationalization and commercialization of higher education). He has published several books, chapters in books, and articles in the European Journal of Education, Journal of Education Policy, Educational Management and Administration, Teachers‘ development, Studies in Higher Education, Tsinghua Journal of Education, and elsewhere.




How to Cite

Qian, X., & Verhoeven, J. C. . (2004). From centralization to decentralization in Chinese higher education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, 67.