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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Major reform as 600 universities become polytechnics in China



In a bid to reduce the huge number of university graduates with similar academic degrees competing with each other for the same jobs, China has announced that it will turn at least half of its public universities into institutions of applied learning or polytechnics to produce more technically trained graduates.

The radical, wide-ranging move will transform the country’s higher education landscape, education experts said.

Lu Xin, a vice-minister in China’s Ministry of Education, announced the decision to turn 600 of the country’s general universities into polytechnics at a meeting of college and university leaders at the 2014 China Development Forum earlier this year.

She said that in a “gradual transition” to the dual system, the new applied institutions would focus on training engineers, senior technicians and other highly skilled workers rather than pursuing over-academic, highly theoretical studies.

"There is an urgent need to reform our current education system, which has been struggling to provide high quality talents with skills and knowledge that meet demand at the production frontline," Lu said at the forum.

Qiang Zha, an associate professor of education at York University in Canada, said the policy amounted to a move towards a ‘binary’ higher education system of academic and applied institutions, similar to the system in Germany with its research universities and high quality technical fachhochschulen or polytechnics.

“This is a major change from a system where all higher education institutions are measured against one set of criteria,” he said.

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