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Expansion and Equality in Access to Chinese Higher Education: A Cultural Perspective

Abstract: This study is a sequential multi-methods research effort which examines the issue of equality in Chinese higher education after the recent expansion, and explores how educational equality has been shaped by policies which reflected the shifting value orientations of the government since 1949. Quantitative methods were used to discover the current patterns of educational equality. The dataset is derived from a survey carried out under a project supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Logistic regressions were conducted to discover the relations between students’ social background characteristics and their likelihood of studying in different part of the differentiated higher education system. The findings show that while overall access has increased greatly, advantaged groups have maintained their advantage in gaining entry to higher status universities and attractive disciplines. The study went deeper to explore the changing patterns of educational equality through historical analysis of policy using the lens of culture, since social phenomena are context-based and culture is a deep yet decisive force which has previously been given inadequate attention in relation to this issue. Applying a multidisciplinary approach, an indigenous analytical framework was developed which identified six dimensions of culture relating to educational equality, and Chinese cultural values were then organized along these dimensions. This framework was used to explain the results of the quantitative analysis at a deeper level. It was also used to construct ideal types of elitism and populism as a means of analyzing the historical process of policy change. The study found that policies regarding educational equality swung between these two poles in post 1949 China, due to an internal tension in the Chinese cultural value system which was in turn stimulated or provoked by diverse external influences. Four major modes were identified: politically restrained elitism, politically restrained populism, inclusive elitism, and a tendency toward harmony. This approach represents an original attempt to develop an indigenous framework to interpret educational equality through a cultural lens. The dissertation also seeks to contribute to knowledge and theory development in the comparative research on educational equality more widely, and to provide insights that may inform policy making.

Author: Jian Liu

Source: University of Toronto - TSpace

Size: 1.95 MB
Last Updated: July 31, 2015