Keywords: China, higher education, funding mechanisms, sustainability, public goods, university funding, liberalisation, market forces
Higher education: options for future funding in China
The present (and foreseeable) climate within the higher education sector in many countries is one of constrained university funding, increased participation rate targets, stronger quality enhancement frameworks, and a continuing debate on 'who should pay'. These are just some of the changes facing the sector. This is therefore an opportune moment to assess the extent to which China is positioned to cope with the liberalisation of the higher education sector in the context of a globally competitive market – a market that is likely to be underpinned and regulated by the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The argument presented here is a straightforward one – the higher education sector and the government should openly and enthusiastically embrace liberalisation – a failure to do so or to 'tinker' at the edges of the system will run counter to economic logic, current and future market trends, increased participation, enhanced quality, and improved accountability. In short, a healthier and prosperous future for higher education in China is much more of a possibility if it is opened up to market forces than if it continues to be mainly dependent upon the taxpayers.