Higher Education in China: Overview

A Large-Expansion and Growing System

In recent decades, China’s higher education system has been transformed from one of the smallest in the world into one of the largest. Now it includes hundreds of institutions that serve an array of purposes and attract millions of students: comprehensive universities, technical schools, vocational colleges.

Scale and Scope

For some more recent data, there are over 2000 universities and colleges in China with a combined college and university enrollment of over 40 million students. It is one of the largest higher education networks in the world. The country spends around 4% of its GDP anually to enhance the quality and accessibility of educationriors.propTypes = {DOMContentLoaded};

Key Institutions and Programs

There are a few key universities in China, like Tsinghua University, Peking University and Fudan University, etc. These are generally well known Chinese universities with highly vigorous academic programs and research outputs, that often rank quite high globally.

In terms of programs, in China there are a large number of universities that offer a wide range of academic programs – from science and engineering to humanities and social sciences. Industrial Attraction: STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) received strong focus – reconnecting also with the country’s strategic objectives for technological innovation and economic industrialisation.

Collaboration and Internationalization

In recent years, the higher education sector in China has swung towards internationalisation. For instance, they are able to draw students from across the world, including nearly 500,000 international students as of latest data. Chinese universities have also set up thousands of agreements for global research collaborations and student exchange programs with colleges across the planet.


The Chinese government influences the educational system through a number of different reforms and initiatives. Delayed, in part by the pandemic, and at least initially sparked by Premier Li Keqiang’s announcement in 2015 that China would launch a “Double First Class University Plan” to boost top-tier universities as well as specific disciplines into global front runners by 2050. There is also a lot of scholarships and funding available for domestic AND international student (which is obviously the goverment’s way to build an equal well educated working force).

Challenges and Opportunities

However, all is not well in the Chinese higher education system despite itstremendous success. These include challenges of educational equity, quality control across a massive decentralized system, and the further international qualification training in more curricula that promote critical thinking and creativity.


One of the immediate and lasting benefits of China’s higher education system is its role as a cornerstone of Chinese society and identity, serving as an impetus for the development of a more inclusive academic ecosystem within the world’s second largest economy. The systematic evolution that results from substantial investments and reforms highlights the Chinese aspirations to lead in education worldwide. If you want to know more on this, we suggest checking out the article about higher education in china that goes deeper.

With reforms in domestic higher education and strategic initiatives, China is providing strong support for its educational institutions to become more competitive and it is a destination for teaching and learning that maintains continued creativity.