Working Paper 5
Massification of higher education: challenges for admissions and graduate employment in China
Published July 2016

Professor Ka Ho Mok and Dr Jin Jiang from Lingnan University examine the extent to which the massification of higher education in China has created greater challenges for university admissions and graduate employment.

Professor Mok and Dr Jiang show that in recent years doubts have arisen over the extent to which higher education massification has increased equality in admissions and improved graduate competitiveness in the job market. Interviews with recent graduates – termed the ‘working poor’ – reveal a widespread dissatisfaction with higher education development in China.

The paper argues that the transformation of China’s higher education system from elite to mass form has been accompanied by a strong tide of privatisation and marketisation. A university education increasingly places a significant financial burden upon individuals and their families.

The paper examines the extent and effects of inter-generational transfer of assets and resources in meeting this burden. As well as being monetary, such resources also include social and cultural capital. These confer an advantage upon those with existing assets – the upper classes – and affect university admission, as well as a graduate’s job opportunities and upward social mobility.

From this perspective, the expansion of higher education may therefore not promote fairness but may instead intensify educational inequality. The paper concludes by arguing that governance frameworks must account for the imbalance in social opportunities and outcomes to enable greater educational equality.