China boasts the world's largest higher education system, and has more college students of all types and levels than any other country. More than 20 million students are studying and living on college campuses across the land. Notwithstanding its ever expanding higher education and a gross enrollment rate running as high as 19%, the college entrance examination still poses a tough competition for aspiring students. Those who have made it are luckier than their peers who have failed. They are “God's favorites” in People's eyes, the pillars of the country, and the hope of the nation. As a whole, college students themselves likewise feel proud and superior with a strong enterprising spirit and a sense of responsibility and justice. They are quick-witted, open-minded, and sympathetic. Most of them cherish lofty ideals and study hard. Yet, in a fast-changing social environment, they often find themselves in an ambivalent state of mind: they feel superior but at the same time upset about the pressure of finding employment; they hope to contribute to society but are also concerned with their own personal gain. Obviously, the life and mentality of present-day college students in China are undergoing profound changes.
The National Entrance Examination (NEE) is the principal avenue for would-be students to get into regular (as distinguished from vocational and adult) higher education institutions (including junior colleges). The NEE takes place at an appointed, identical time throughout the country, with the examination papers drawn up in line with the national syllabus for examination by a body appointed by the state administrative department for education. There are complementary avenues for entry into higher education institutions, including enrollment by higher education institutions at their own discretion. In 2004, twenty-eight universities under a pilot project were given a 5% quota for such autonomic enrollment. They can enroll without examination outstanding senior secondary school students based on the recommendation of their original schools, and are allowed to give separate examinations for a few special fields of study. To further improve the higher education admission system, the government is stepping up efforts to explore a multi-faceted evaluation system based on academic examination.
The NEE for regular higher education institutions is normally held nationwide in early June each year, with a few provinces holding it twice in spring and autumn. A notable trend in the NEE reform over the past few years has been to put more emphasis on testing the students' character and capabilities with a view to readdressing the phenomenon of subject partiality found prevailing in elementary and secondary education. In choosing the subjects for examination, a “3 + X” scheme is being pushed through, where “3” represents the three subjects that all examinees must take: Chinese, mathematics, and foreign language; and “X” represents one comprehensive subject and any one or more subject(s) chosen from among the following six subjects: physics, chemistry, biology, politics, history, and geography. The “X” is to be determined by the recruiting universities in light of the requirements and features of the specialties they are offering. The examinees need to consider their own conditions and characteristics of study before applying for certain schools (specialties) and attending the relevant examinations. The comprehensive subject, designed on the basis of knowledge learned at the secondary level, is to test the examinees' overall grasp of and their ability to apply what they have learned. There are three types of comprehensive examination: the liberal arts comprehensive, the science and engineering comprehensive, and the indiscriminate comprehensive. Apart from the unified NEE, efforts have been made to give more autonomy to localities in setting the examination papers so as to better highlight the special characteristics of different localities and universities (specialties). In this spirit, in 2004, eleven provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Jiangsu, were authorized to set examination papers on their own on a trial basis. Another decision is that, starting from 2004, the NEE for adult universities (for junior college students and undergraduates) will be held in October each year.
Preferential policies have been worked out for applicants from socially vulnerable groups, such as disabled people and people from minority ethnic groups living in border and outlying areas. The government has established thirteen universities which exclusively recruit students from minority ethnic groups. All higher education institutions across the country are open to applicants from minority ethnic groups, with the admitting scores lowered somewhat for them. Due care and support have been accorded to outstanding senior secondary school graduates, examinees who have received a title for a heroic deed, and model workers. Easy access (for example, exemption from examination) has been provided to scientific and technical innovation prize winners and graduates from certain special disciplinary classes set up by the Ministry of Education in a few key secondary schools. Specific favorable policies have been made for examinees applying for the fields of study which may involve hard working conditions like agriculture, forestry, hydraulic engineering, geology, mineralogy, petroleum, navigation, and military engineering, as well as certain particular specialties like the military, aviation, public security, national security, art, and physical culture. These measures have helped ensure social justice and fairness in recruitment as well as an adequate supply of personnel needed in various fields of endeavor. The past few years have seen a constantly improving NEE policy to better embody consideration for the examinees. Notably, in 2001, restrictions on marital status and age were lifted, as was the restriction that secondary vocational school graduates could only apply for post-secondary vocational schools.
China has always attached great importance to females' receiving higher education. The education policy ensures females' lawful rights of equality with males. The past few years have witnessed a year-on-year rise in the female student proportion in higher education, with male and female students moving towards an equal ratio (Figure 5.1). Of the total number of on-campus college students in 2004 in China, 6.087 million, or 45.64%, were female (Figure 5.2). This figure did not take into account the over 2 million females attending correspondence, evening, and adult higher education institutions. With regard to the distribution of females in the different fields of study, in the schools that traditionally have more female students—such as foreign languages, medicine, and teachers' training colleges—their percentage remains high, while in the specialties which used to involve few female students, such as mathematics, electronic engineering, and mechanical engineering, the figures show a noticeable increase. Along with the growth in the number of female students studying science and engineering, their proportion in the female-male ratio is also on the rise in these specialized colleges.
Continued efforts have been made to increase college enrollment in China's western regions. In 2004, the enrollment quota for these regions was increased over the nation's average quota, and so was the actual number of students enrolled. In 2004, the number of students from minority ethnic groups recruited by higher education institutions totaled 774,300, accounting for 5.81% of the nation's
total number of recruits.
In recent years, parallel to recruiting domestic students, much has been done to recruit more students from outside China. In some key universities, foreign students make up about 10% of the total student body. The government and school authorities have been creating better conditions for their study and living. Apart from ensuring adequate material supplies, an array of incentives have been put in place (for example, special awards such as Great Wall Scholarship, Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) Winner Scholarship, Chinese Culture Research Scholarship, and Outstanding Student Scholarship) to encourage and attract high-profile international students to study or do research work in China. Many higher education institutions have included the recruitment of international students in their master development plan. While organizing investigations on overseas study conditions for foreign students, money is being pumped into building modern teaching and living facilities for international students. Some local governments and higher education institutions have put the recruitment of international students on their development agenda. The Beijing municipality, for instance, has set the target that in 2005, international students will make up 5% of the city's total on-campus college students.
Admission of graduate students
Applicants for graduate studies have to pass the national entrance examinations, which consist of a preliminary examination and a re-examination (primarily in the form of an interview). To put more emphasis on evaluating the applicants' innovative capacity and enterprising spirit, the preliminary examination has been reduced to four subjects since 2003: foreign language, politics, and two specialized subjects, with the score for foreign language listening and speaking abilities added to the total preliminary examination score. More weight is being placed on the results of the re-examination for which the recruiting schools are urged to further expand the sources of students and to focus more on the candidates' overall character and capability. The higher education institutions with an affiliated graduate school have been given more discretionary power, including increasing the quota of recruited graduate students exempt from examination. The recruitment of doctoral students is undertaken by the higher education institutions themselves and the selection procedure tends to become more diversified with more emphasis on the candidates' academic innovativeness.
Registration and orientation
The students who have successfully passed the NEE will go through the enrollment formalities by presenting the notice of admission and other certificates as required by the schools. Normally, new students start school in autumn, the beginning of an academic year, which ends in July the following year. One academic year is divided into two semesters and students are requested to register at the start of each semester. Pursuant to the stipulation of the enrollment rules, a health checkup will be conducted for the new entrants within three months of their entry into school. The students who are healthy will obtain the student status. Those who have been found with an illness but diagnosed by a competent medical institute as being able to recover and meet the health standards after a short period of treatment are permitted to retain their entrance status for one year if they have made the request and the request has been approved by the school authorities. Every higher education institution has at least one student canteen, and dormitories or apartment houses to provide board and lodging for the students. New entrants (junior college students and undergraduates) of regular higher education institutions have to receive one month of military training and national defense education.
Prior to their college life, the students in China have received an all-round and systematic senior secondary education and built a solid knowledge foundation. However, in view of the huge differences between secondary and higher education, and for the purpose of helping new entrants adapt sooner to the new living and study environment on campus, as well as overcome the slackened mindset that often comes in the aftermath of intense study at secondary school and the tough competition in the college entrance examination, higher education institutions will give them general and specialty-related orientation courses, urging them to value the learning opportunity, study hard, and train themselves in an all-round way so as to get the best out of their college years and prepare themselves for the future. The orientation normally lasts for three weeks and will be given by university leaders, those in charge of student work, class advisors and assistants, and mental guidance teachers.
Length of schooling and tuition fees
The length of schooling is two to three years for junior college students, four to five years for undergraduates, two to three years for students pursuing a master's degree, and three to four years for Ph D candidates. Higher education institutions can adopt either the academic-year system or the credit system. A student is considered to have met the training target if he/she has completed the prescribed courses and passed the relevant examinations or has earned enough credits required (120–140 credits). Students are permitted to schedule their own schooling progress, either extending or shortening it.
As a non-compulsory education in China, higher education follows a cost-sharing system. The students have to pay a certain amount of tuition fees, which vary from place to place, from school to school, and from one field of study to another, normally falling within the bracket of 2,000 to 6,000 yuan for each academic year. Fees are paid on an annual basis. Tuition fees are comparatively higher for engineering, medicine, art, and some other much-sought after disciplines of learning and lower for such fields as agriculture, forestry, education, and history. The tuition fees contribute 25% of the total higher education cost.
Academic performance examinations
Each semester, students shall take examinations on the courses taught in line with the teaching program, and the test scores will be entered in the student score book and included in their personal files. Examination comes in two forms: test and check. The grading of examination results follows a numerical (generally on a 0–100 scale) or five-scale system (excellent, good, average, pass, and fail). Where the credit system is followed, a student will obtain the credit if he/ she completes the course required by the teaching program and passes the examination. If a student is absent without excuse from or found cheating on an examination, he/she will get no marks and will not be allowed to sit for the makeup examination as is the normal procedure. In case the student does show compunction for the misdeed, he/she can, with the approval of the school's teaching affairs authorities, be given an opportunity to attend the makeup examination prior to graduation. Serious cheating on an examination can result in the student being removed from the school roll. Students who have passed the examinations for one grade are eligible to proceed to study for a higher grade; and those with excellent academic results are eligible to skip a grade. When a student fails the examination of a course, he/she can attend the makeup examination or retake the course pursuant to the school's relevant stipulations.
Specialty or school transfer and suspension of schooling
If a student shows a special flair in a certain discipline of study and transferring to another school or major may help him/her better display his/her talent, he/she can apply for a transfer. If a student is found to have an illness or a physical defect, or has some other special difficulties and cannot continue with the study in the original specialty or school, a change of specialty or school is permitted. However, no transfer is granted in the following cases: new recruits who have not yet completed one semester of study; transfer from an ordinary university to a key university; transfer from a junior college to an undergraduate college; and where there are no justifiable reasons.
Students can apply for a suspension of schooling if they are sick or have special difficulties, or they can do so for a job opportunity or to start up a business. They can come back to pick up their study after a period of absence. A student will be asked to quit school if his/ her academic results fail to meet the minimum requirements of the school. A student who is not satisfied with the specialty he/she is studying can apply to leave the school and re-apply for another higher education institution.
Rewards and disciplinary sanctions
Students outstanding both in morality and learning will be given commendations or rewards of various forms, including public notice of commendation, and conferment of honorary credentials, certificates of merit, medals, awards, and scholarships. Students in violation of the school regulations will, in light of the nature of the offence, be criticized or given disciplinary sanctions in one of the following six forms: warning, serious warning, recording of a demerit, being kept in the school but placed under surveillance, being ordered to quit school, and having their status as student removed.
Graduation, completion of courses, and non-completion of courses
Certificates of graduation will be issued to the students who have, on schedule or ahead of schedule, completed all the courses in line with the teaching program, passed the examinations or got all the credits required, and are permitted to graduate. The degree certificate will be granted pursuant to the provisions of the Regulations on Academic Degrees if the student has passed the oral examination concerning his/her graduation thesis or design. Those who, at the time of graduation, have failed certain courses but not so many as to be required to repeat the year's work or those who have failed to get all the credits required will be issued with the Certificate of Completion of the Courses, which can be exchanged for the Graduation Certificate if, according to school regulations, they later sit for and pass the makeup examinations. Those who have attended college for over a year but quit halfway without completing all the courses required will be issued with the Certificate of Non-Completion of the Courses.
Under the planned economy, college students upon graduation would have automatically been given a job by the state and acquired the status of a government functionary. Since the 1990s, with the phenomenal expansion in higher education and the enhanced market-driven personnel allocation, dramatic changes have taken place in the employment of college graduates—from single-handed government assignments to arrangements made through consultation between colleges and employers, and to bilateral decisions by graduates and employers. Today, college graduates have to find jobs for themselves in the market. At present, a market-oriented, government-supervised, college-recommended, and bilaterally decided employment system has been set up, and job markets for college students are springing up in large numbers and growing in scale. Students have to face the testing of the market upon graduation. Although the college is still responsible for their recommendation, they have to personally enter the job market to select and be selected. Following much investigation and deliberation on both sides and after the signing of a contract, the graduates will be able to report for duty at the employing unit at the agreed-upon time. Each year, as the time of graduation approaches, local governments and intermediary agencies are frequently seen organizing large-scale job fairs, bringing under one roof numerous employing units and colleges.
The increasing expansion in higher education over the past few years has put more pressure upon college graduates with regard to employment. Although the government, higher education institutions and society have joined hands to come up with a variety of ways to promote the placement of college students and the average employment rates have topped 80%, quite a few students have still been facing unemployment for a while upon graduation. Under such circumstances, higher education institutions have put more emphasis on a scientific career-launching education, guiding students in forming
a rational job-seeking concept, and improving their business start-up capabilities. Previously, the first choice for college graduates in terms of employer were state organs, government institutions, state-owned enterprises, foreign-invested companies, and joint ventures, and in terms of geographical location, large cities. They have become more practical and down-to-earth in job hunting, and are considering small and medium-sized firms, township enterprises, low-sounding institutes, the hinterland and western regions, and small and medium-sized cities. Meanwhile, embarking on post-graduate studies or going abroad to pursue further studies have become a means of relieving job-hunting pressures and seeking better job opportunities in the future.
For college students, knowledge learning constitutes a principal as well as foundation-building task in the course of their growth and development. This learning involves not only class-based study but also out-of-class and out-of-school learning, not only book learning but practice- and society-based learning.
Curriculum teaching is a priority for higher education institutions and learning has been arranged primarily around class study in keeping with the teaching programs set by the school. As required by the programs, in the course of a four-year undergraduate study program, the students have to learn the basic courses, the specialty basic courses, and the specialty courses, all told thirty-five to forty courses. It is approximately 3,000 class hours for science and engineering students and 2,300 class hours for humanities and liberal arts students. Teacher instruction is the major form of class learning and what is stressed for the instruction is the systematicness, completeness, freshness, and information capacity of the knowledge imparted. To facilitate the students' learning, most courses have been accompanied by teaching materials and instructional books.
On the whole, Chinese students are earnest, diligent, and hardworking. They value the time and the opportunity of learning. In recent years, along with the changes in the conception of teaching and the way it is organized, many higher education institutions are trying out research-based and explorative study in class, in a bid to arouse students' motivation and initiative in study. As social development puts a premium on a student's competence and overall character while employers set greater store by a job-seeker's independent thinking, power of expression, and social communicating skills, more and more students are setting out to conscientiously train and develop their thinking and expressive capability in class, making classes more lively.
Fully utilizing after-class hours are also a vital avenue for students to gain knowledge and capabilities. Not being content with class study alone, they set out to make the most of the school's libraries, reference rooms, electronic-reading rooms, and the Internet to increase their knowledge and widen their vision. In addition to completing required courses, students are given more learning options: they can choose a second field of study for a bachelor's degree, and more selective courses are being offered in colleges. In extra-curricular studies, English and computer skills are the two subjects to which students devote most time and energy because they are aware of the vital importance of the knowledge and skill in these subjects to the socioeconomic development in the new century and the opportunity they
will bring to personal development. Meanwhile, they act on their own to sit for a variety of professional qualification certificate examinations, such as those for a lawyer qualification certificate, foreign language proficiency grading certificates, and computer skill grading certificates. They join debate contests, social practice, etc., to acquire useful social skills with a view to widening their horizons and adding to their qualifications for future job hunting.
A 5,000-year cultural legacy has shaped China into a land of propriety and righteousness. Through the ages, the Chinese have always valued moral life and the cultivation of values. Moral integrity would always be the first to come to mind when the state, public and individuals observe and evaluate someone's character. The Chinese tradition lays equal stress on morality and capability, and sometimes the stress on moral integrity goes so far as to be the sole criterion when recommending a person for a certain post. In China, moral education begins with childhood. Family, school, neighborhood, and society all set great store by youngsters' moral education as well as the shaping of students' world outlook, outlook on life, and concept of values.
The campus is the first and foremost place where college students receive their moral education and build up their character. In light of college students' psychology and social development, most higher education institutions offer special courses on moral education. A principal organization for imparting knowledge in higher education institutions, the “class” is also a major place for college students' moral education and collective learning. In Chinese universities, each class has an appointed class advisor and a class assistant whose chief responsibility is to look after the students' study and life, especially to follow their thinking and psychological tendencies, and try to help them progress healthily. The Youth League and the Student Union are also major organizations responsible for students' moral well-being. Traditionally, Chinese college students have a strong sense of belonging and cherish the aspiration to bring glory to the collective.
In moral education, a fundamental principle has been “knowledge and action going hand in hand” and the integration of learning and doing. This is because the objective of moral education lies in teaching people how to become an upright person, a person with moral integrity. Book learning is thus just one aspect and what is more important is putting the moral principles learned into practice and cultivating good moral behavior and habits. Every higher education institution has created a good environment for its students to receive moral education and honor the values in practice. By combining moral education with streamlined school governance, higher education institutions are able to reinforce rules and regulations and discipline in compliance with the law and the code of ethics.
In recent years, providing mental guidance and health education to college students has attracted increasing attention from the government and higher education authorities. Mental health education is aimed at fostering among college students a right and healthy way of life, helping them form a correct attitude towards life and build a sound personality, and enhancing their capability to cope with setbacks and to adapt to the environment. As a testimony to the government's serious concern for this issue, the Ministry of Education issued in 2001 a document, Proposals on Strengthening Psychological Education for College Students, in which the task, working principles, approaches, methodologies, and taskforce building for the work are specified. In 2002, the General Office of the Ministry of Education issued An Outline for Implementing Psychological Education for College Students (Provisional), which provides detailed measures for the implementation of the Proposals. Each regular higher education institution then began to set up a Psychological Health Education and Research Section and a Psychological Consultation Center with full-time teachers and psychologists whose work is to disseminate mental health knowledge and guide students in conducting mental self-readjustments. The students are taught how to deal with various mental problems, psychological barriers, and puzzles they are likely to encounter in their life, study and social communication, as well as how to adopt the right attitude towards love, interpersonal relationships, career, ideals, personality building, and so on.
Campus life is rich and colorful. For college students, it involves more than gaining knowledge, improving capability, and fostering a noble character. They temper themselves in many other aspects by joining student organizations, societies, and recreational activities on campus.
College student organizations include the All-China Student Federation, the Student Union, and the Graduate Student Union. In addition, each higher education institution has dozens of other student societies, covering almost all the fields of study and extracurricular interests. These organizations and societies often organize academic, sci-tech, and recreational and sports activities.
Student organizations not only represent the students' interests, but also are popular organs for students' self-governance, self-education, and self-service. Through them, students voice their opinions, safeguard their legitimate interests, and develop their organizing ability and social communication skills. The All-China Student Federation is the highest national student organization, which has its own organizational system and regulations, while the Student Union and the Graduate Student Union in a higher education institution are its grass-roots units (the Graduate Student Union is formed only where graduate students are recruited). The Student Union and the Graduate Student Union consist of departments of organization, publicity, arts and sports, and life. The leading body includes the chairman, a number of vice-chairmen, and departmental directors who are democratically elected by the students. The Student Union and the Graduate Student Union play an important role in many aspects such as organizing activities, helping students develop self-governing and social communication skills, enriching students' life, serving as a communication channel between school and students, reflecting students' rational claims, and safeguarding their interests.
The class is also a collective and self-governing body for college students. Under the old academic-year system, the “class” served as a “teaching class,” and several such classes made up a grade. Under the current credit system, however, the boundaries between grades have been broken, so that students of different grades taking the same course naturally form a “course class.” Yet, for the convenience of management and collective education, the old “teaching classes” of students of the same grade have been kept; in each class a committee consisting of a monitor and several members is elected to take care of classmates' study, life, and after-hour activities. The class committee is re-elected periodically by voting.
Each higher education institution has many student societies, whose establishment has to be approved by the school authorities, the Student Union, or the Graduate Student Union. Varying in size, these societies each have their own organizational system, regulations, scope, and form of activities. Some are based on fields of study, others out of common interest; some are for theoretical learning, and yet others for social
practice. Membership of such societies is on a voluntary basis and the school often provides certain financial subsidies to these societies. On a single college campus, the number of student societies can range from a few to more than 100 in the case of large universities. The societies' activities, which are flexible in time and form, cover academic exchanges, artistic and sporting activities, social practice, etc. All these activities serve to enrich student life and create a lively atmosphere on campus. The societies are not confined within campus boundaries and there are a number of large inter-college student societies. Some nationally influential student societies and activities are as follows.
The Federation of University Sports of China (FUSC)
It is the one and only national popular sporting organization for college students in this country. Its functions: carrying out state policies on education and physical culture, coordinating with and assisting the administrative departments for education in developing college extra-curricular physical and sports training, helping to cultivate an elite athlete reserve for the state and promote college physical culture, enhancing college students' sporting technique and physical and mental health, promoting friendship with other countries' university sports federations and athletes, and strengthening connections and collaboration with the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and Asian University Sports Federation (AUSF). Its line of duties: propagating and implementing state physical culture principles and policies; mobilizing all quarters of the society to care for and support physical and sporting activities in higher education institutions; organizing the National University Sports Games (NUSG) under the leadership of the Ministry of Education; organizing national college students sports competitions and other sporting activities; responsible for external liaisons with FISU, AUSF, and other international university sports organizations; organizing participation in international and Asian university games, and international individual event competitions and activities. FUSC has twenty-four individual event associations including track and field, basketball, volleyball, and football. It plays an essential role in enhancing athletic competitiveness in higher education institutions, improving their sports performance, promoting college student activities for keeping fit, launching sports competitions, and conducting international university sporting exchanges.
The National University Sports Games and national sports competitions
The National University Sports Games (NUSG) is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education, the State Administration of Sports, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, and organized by the FUSC. It has taken place for six times since the founding of New China in 1949. The recent Games covered six to eight sporting events—track and field, swimming, basketball, volleyball, football, table tennis, martial arts, and aerobics, with qualifying competitions held for basketball, volleyball, and football. The past couple of Games saw the participation of thirty-three athletic teams from various provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities that are directly under the central government, Hong Kong, and Macao. The total number of athletes was about 4,000, but this figure would have reached over 5,000 if the coaches, team leaders, judges, and working staff were included. The holding of the NUSG has attracted the
attention of all walks of life. Showing great concern for it, state leaders make a point of writing inscriptions for it, and attending and addressing its opening ceremonies. The motto for the NUSG is solidarity, progress, civilization and education, and its aim is to build students' character and promote their all-round development. Apart from the national Games, 20-odd individual event competitions have been held each year. These cover track and field, basketball, volleyball, aerobics and artistic gymnastics, swimming, table tennis, badminton, tennis, fencing, handball, rugby, martial arts, and traditional Chinese sporting events.
Participating in the Universiade and other individual sporting events
The biannual Universiade is dubbed the “Mini-Olympic Games” for its large participation and high-standard performances. China's university athletic delegation first participated in the event at the Eighth Universiade and has attended each of the fourteen games held since then. In September 2001, Beijing successfully hosted the 21st Universiade, attended by more than 6,800 athletes, coaches, and officials from 169 countries and regions. China's athletic team brought home the most gold medals and ranked first in the overall medals tally. Over the past years, besides collaborating with the State Administration of Sports in sending a team to participate in some of the events in the Universiade, FUSC has taken part in the Universiade's individual event competitions including volleyball, handball, table tennis, badminton, chess, and orienteering, and achieved excellent results in table tennis, badminton, and chess. Through these activities, FUSC has increased its exchange and cooperation with the university sports federations from other countries. In October 2000, FUSC hosted the 2000 (Shanghai) International University Table Tennis Championships, which brought together some 200 athletes and coaches from sixteen countries and regions. China's table tennis team nearly swept all the gold medals in the Championships.
Campus cultural and artistic activities
On-campus student artistic societies have been thriving in recent years. Students act on their own in organizing, promoting and participating in art activities. These activities help in the development of their personalities and cultivate a healthy and mature cultural mentality, and have brought a vivid and energetic cultural atmosphere to the campuses. A college student film festival sponsored by the Beijing Normal University has run ten times in a row; and the campus of Peking University teems with as many as 108 student societies of all sorts. The same practice prevails in other colleges and universities, and a wide range of artistic groups, choruses, dancing groups, orchestras, and so forth has been organized. Regular annual events include aesthetic education festivals, artistic galas, chorus galas, singing and dancing competitions, and art exhibitions. In Beijing and Shanghai, student art troupes have been established at the municipal
level. The Ministry of Education also sponsors college student theatrical, singing and art festivals and competitions, with a view to boosting college students' moral development with the appeal and influence of such activities. Other cultural and art activities organized by the Ministry of Education include: art appreciation lectures; rich and varied campus cultural activities; providing lists of must-read books for college students; theme debates and speech contests; the annual College Students' National “Flower of May” Theatrical Festival and the “Light of the Nation” Concert. College students, on their part, have come up with a host of theatrical works in eulogy of traditional values and the fine social mores of the new age. The vivid art activities serve to educate students in patriotism, collectivism, socialism, and national spirit, disseminate scientific knowledge, promote advanced culture, foster beautiful minds, advocate scientific spirit and uphold justice on campus.
The China Mathematical Contest in Modeling
The China Mathematical Contest in Modeling (CMCM), initiated by the Ministry of Education and the China Association of Industry and Applied Mathematics, is a popular sci-tech activity for college students across the land. The three-day event has been held in September each year since 1992. Unlike the usual mathematical contest, it features simplified and redesigned actual problems in engineering, management and other fields. Each participating team consists of three members who are supposed, during the contest, to complete a paper comprising problem analysis, model conceiving and building, calculations, and paper discussion.
Electronic Design Contest
The National College Student Electronic Design Contest is co-organized by the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education and the Personnel Department of the Ministry of Information and Industry, and sponsored by the Sony Company. The biannual four-day disciplinary competition, launched in 1997, takes place in September and is open to college students across the country. The contest is held in separate regional venues with identical questions drawn up nationwide. The contest covers virtually all the technological basic courses of the first three years in the branch of electronics and information study. The contest has proved to be a successful practice and has now become the most widely implemented and influential disciplinary competition in the country's higher education field.
“Challenge Cup” National Entrepreneurship Competition for College Students
This biannual event, co-organized by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, China Science and Technology Association, Ministry of Education, and All-China Student Federation, is a popular competition, which is an exemplary guide for the extracurricular scientific and technological activities of college students nationwide. The procedure for the competition is as follows. On-campus college students submit theses or manufactured works in three categories: academic theses in the field of natural sciences, social investigation reports and academic theses in the field of humanities and social sciences (literature and history excluded), and manufactured works of scientific and technological innovation. Experts are then invited to appraise and select the award-winning
theses or manufactured works that show high academic and theoretical standard, practical value or innovative significance. In addition, academic exchanges, scientific and technological achievement exhibitions, and transfer activities are organized.
This competition is open nationwide to on-campus (adult education excluded) full-time students of Chinese nationality formally registered before July 1 of the year when the national finals are held. Eligible applicants include: junior college students, undergraduates, and graduate students pursuing a master's or doctoral degree (in-service graduate students excluded). Up to 2003, eight consecutive competitions had been held.
College students' social practice has been widening and diversifying. In the 1980s, this activity consisted mainly of students going out into society to make social investigations. The early 1990s saw organized volunteers take part in the illiteracy elimination campaign and provide scientific, technological, and cultural services. Since 1997, a program has been launched in which college and secondary vocational school student volunteers are organized during the summer vacations to go to the countryside to provide cultural, technical, and medical services. The program has involved millions of student volunteers who are formed into service-providing groups to work in communities, factories, countryside, and military troops, especially those located in the underdeveloped and impoverished areas. These young students utilize their intellectual clout to disseminate cultural knowledge, help relieve the poor, assist in local education, provide medical care and legal services, and work to help troubled enterprises. In order to make better use of the knowledge of high academic degree students, a further project has been added to the program since 2000: each year some 200 service groups with a total of over 2,000 doctoral students are organized and head off to grass-roots units (mainly in the underdeveloped western regions) to provide volunteer services.
Along with the dramatic expansion of the college student population and the adoption of the new tuition fee charging system in recent years, the number of college students with financial difficulties is rising. Highly concerned with the problem, the Chinese government has adopted effective measures to help economically poor students pursue their studies.
Currently, student loans in China are mainly provided under the state student loans program which is initiated and promoted jointly by the central and provincial governments. The state student loans under the program are a kind of credit loan to be issued by appointed commercial banks to regular college students with financial difficulties to help them cover tuition fees and living expenses whilst in college. The pilot project for the program was launched in 1999 in the regular higher education institutions in some cities. The project was implemented nationwide in September 2000.
Principal preferential policies for student loans are, first, students applying for the loans do not need a guarantor or any collateral as security and, second, that no interest will accrue during their campus years. The latest promulgated policy stipulates that a student can get up to 6,000 yuan in loans per academic year and the repayment is to start in the second or third year after his/her graduation, with the total sum of loans to be paid up within six years. For students who go on to study for postgraduate degrees or second bachelor's degrees, the loan period will be extended accordingly. The state student loan program has become one of the most important measures for the government to provide assistance to college students with financial difficulties.
There are four forms of scholarship available in higher education institutions:
- the scholarship for junior college students and undergraduates;
- the scholarship for graduate students;
- the state scholarship; and
- the scholarships set up by higher education institutions on their own or by public organizations or individuals.
In 1986, the pilot project for adopting the scholarship system was undertaken in some of the higher education institutions, and in July 1987, the scholarship system began to be universally implemented for undergraduates in all regular higher education institutions. The scholarship for junior college students and undergraduates consists of three types: one for outstanding students, one for students in the fields of study specified by the state, and one for students going to work in state-assigned areas. The scholarship for outstanding students, which has three grades, is to be awarded to the students who excel generally or in a certain aspect whilst in school. The scholarship for students in the fields of study specified by the state is aimed at encouraging students to apply for such fields of study as teachers' training, agriculture, forestry, ethnology, physical culture, and navigation. The scholarship for students going to work in state-assigned areas is aimed at attracting students to work in border and poverty-stricken areas after graduation.
The scholarship for graduate students, which began to be awarded in 1991, includes the general scholarship and the scholarship for academic excellence. The general scholarship is universally granted, the amount varying according to the type and level of the graduate students' academic degree and the students' work experience, with a view to ensuring their basic living needs. The scholarship for academic excellence is awarded to those showing outstanding performance in academic study and research. The standards for the amount and the ratio of recipients are to be decided by the schools themselves in light of their actual conditions.
The state scholarship was put into practice in regular higher education institutions in 2002, with resources coming mainly from the central fiscal budget. It is a grant gratis provided by the state to full-time regular college students and junior college students in need who are outstanding in both morality and learning. The scholarship consists of two grades and is granted to a fixed number of 45,000 students per annum, of whom 10,000 students get the first grade scholarship of 6,000 yuan each, and 35,000 students get the second grade scholarship of 4,000 yuan each. Further, the state scholarship recipients will be exempt from paying tuition fees for the year. As an effort to widen the scope of the state financial assistance beneficiaries, starting from 2004, the state scholarship began to be replaced by the state financial assistance award. With an annual amount of 1 billion yuan from state fiscal appropriations, the financial assistance award will be used to provide financial subsidies to full-time undergraduates and junior college students who are law-abiding, diligent but need financial help. The award is mainly to cover their daily food expenses. Each recipient receives 150 yuan per month, which is issued for ten months in a year.
Higher education institutions provide some part-time work positions on campus for financially difficult students so that they can earn some money to cover their study expenses. These positions include serving as teaching assistants for the work of teaching, research, and management, working in laboratories and school-run enterprises, providing logistic services, and doing work for the public good. However, it is prohibited to provide students with works high above the ground and dangerous jobs related to certain professions and industry that involve serious pollution or radiation and are liable to cause them physical harm.
To ensure stable and reliable resources for the work-study activities, higher education institutions set up funds pursuant to the relevant state regulations for the students' on-campus work-study remuneration. The higher education institutions can set the remuneration standards in light of the local payment standards for similar work or positions as well as the student's actual living conditions. Proceeding from the spirit of providing subsidies to students in need, the work-study remuneration standards should be in principle no lower, though they may actually be higher, than the local standards. Presently, most higher education institutions have set up bodies and put special persons in charge of this work.
Subsidies for students with financial difficulties
These subsidies serve as a complementary measure to the financial aid policy in higher education institutions. They are contingent, onetime financial subsidies provided gratis by the governments of different levels and higher education institutions to students with financial difficulties in special and emergency cases.
Reduction and remission of tuition fees
In order to help some students with extreme financial difficulties to finish their college schooling and as a measure in the reform of the higher education fee collecting system, the government issued the Circular on Reduction and Remission of Tuition and Miscellaneous Fees for College Students with Financial Difficulties in 1995. The target recipients are students from minority ethnic groups with extreme financial difficulties, especially those who are disabled, and children of martyrs or servicemen. The specific amounts for reduction or remission shall be decided by individual schools themselves. As one of the important measures for helping students in need to pursue higher education, the reduction and remission of tuition fees should be carried out by higher education institutions in light of their own conditions and other relevant policies.
To ensure that all new students from poor families can enter school without difficulties, the Ministry of Education further stipulated a few years ago that all higher education institutions should set up a “green passage” scheme, according to which newly recruited students with financial difficulties must be registered even if they cannot pay the tuition fee right away, and after registration and based on verified individual conditions, different financial assistance measures will be taken for those students.
10% of tuition fees for use as subsidies
The Ministry of Education has stipulated that all higher education institutions should set aside 10% of their total income from tuition fees as a special fund, which will be used for providing subsidies in various forms to students with financial difficulties.
All the aforesaid financial assistance policies and measures have contributed significantly to ensuring that virtually all the impoverished students can pay their way through higher education studies.