A study of institutional autonomy in selected Chinese universities
The purpose of the study was to examine institutional autonomy within three selected Chinese universities. Research questions were designed based upon the elements of university autonomy (James, 1965), the essential ingredients of institutional autonomy (Ashby, 1966), and a unique feature of Chinese higher education, the Communist Party of China's leadership over universities. The five groups of research questions covered the CPC's leadership over universities, and personnel, academic, student and financial affairs. Findings were examined and interpreted through a framework of substantive autonomy and procedural autonomy, which was modified from Berdahl's (1990) work. Twenty-eight administrators and the CPC leaders at different levels were interviewed. Data were also drawn from university documents, published CPC documents, newspapers, periodicals and books, and the researcher's personal observations. The study found that at the university level the CPC controlled the decision-making power regarding all major issues, and the President took charge of university affairs only under the leadership of the CPC University Committee. At the college or department level, the dean or the head was given full authority to make decisions, while the Party branch played supervisory and safeguarding role to ensure the proper operation of the college or department under the Party's guidelines. The control of these universities by the upper authority was inverse to the ranking of the universities, the higher the status the university, the more freedom it gained. The CPC and the government rigidly controlled all the substantive matters. In terms of procedural matters, governmental authorities controlled the appointment of president and vice presidents, diploma granting, enrollment quotas, and tuition and fee levels. The degrees of autonomy in other procedural matters in personnel, academic, student and financial affairs varied with universities. Generally, the higher the ranking of the university, the more procedural freedom it was granted. Findings indicated that compared with the practice before the market-oriented economic reform, the amount of autonomy the universities had gained was notable, and the national higher education system had moved somewhat from the state-control model to more of a state-supervising model.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeRenihan, Patrick; Billinton, Jack
Copyright DateJune 1998