Present Day Higher Education in China

In 2002, there were slightly over 2000 higher education institutions in PRC. Close to 1400 were regular higher education institutions (HEIs). A little more than 600 were higher education institutions for adults. Combined enrollment in 2002 was 11,256,800. Of this close to 40 percent were new recruits. Total graduate student enrollment was 501,000. The number of graduates from Chinese higher educational institutions increased from 1 million per year in 2000 to 7 million per year in 2010.

In 2005, there were about 4,000 Chinese institutions. Student enrollment increased to 15 million, with rapid growth that was expected to peak in 2008. However, the higher education system does not meet the needs of 85 percent of the college-age population.

Since 1998, 10 universities have been targeted by the Chinese government to become "world-class" -- including Peking and Tsinghua universities. To achieve that goal, the government promised to increase the education allocation in the national budget by 1 percent a year for each of the five years following 1998. When CPC General secretary Chinese president Jiang Zemin attended the 100th anniversary ceremony at Peking University (Beida) in 1998 and the 90th anniversary ceremony at Tsinghua University in 2001, he emphasized this ambitious goal of advancing several of China's higher education institutions into the top tier of universities worldwide in the next several decades.

In the meantime, China has received education aid from UNESCO and many other international organizations and sources, including the World Bank, which loaned China $14.7 billion for educational development.

Since 2007, China has become the sixth largest country in hosting international students. The top ten countries with students studying in China include South Korea, Japan, USA, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, India, Indonesia, France and Pakistan. The number of international students studying in China often ranges around 200,000.

In spring 2007 China planned to conduct a national evaluation of its universities. The results of this evaluation would be used to support the next major planned policy initiative. The last substantial national evaluation of universities was in 1994. That evaluation resulted in the 'massification' of higher education with a renewed emphasis on elite institutions and education through initiatives like Project 985 in the late 1990s and the Thousand Talents Program which was launched in 2008. Since 2010, in some of the elite institutions, there has been an attempt at introducing some aspects of an American-style liberal arts curriculum for selected students.

According to data from 2015 of the People's Republic of China Ministry of Education, there were 2,845 Chinese National Higher Institutions, including 2,553 National General Colleges and Universities and 292 Adult Higher Institutions. The number of enrolled college students including undergraduate students, master and PhD students was 23.91 million in 2012. From 2010 to 2015, the Chinese graduates continued to increase dramatically with almost 7.5 million new graduates entering the job market in 2015. Investment in education accounted for about 4% of total GDP in China in 2015. The Chinese government has been more concerned about education, particularly higher education, in the last decades.

International students have enrolled in over 775 higher education institutions in China. Until 2014, there were more than 377,000 foreign students from 203 countries or regions study in China.

Although numbers of students have been increasing there are some serious concerns about the quality of education they are receiving and the skills they have at graduation. One study estimates that only 1.2 million of 15.7 million university graduates (or 7.6%) have skills that are valued by international markets for human capital. In other words, the vast majority of students educated in Chinese universities do not have adequate skills to compete in anything but the most local Chinese industries.