College is a Rich, Han, Urban, Male Club: Research Notes from a Census Survey of Four Tier One Colleges in China
The China Quarterly
The opportunity to attend college and earn a degree has increased dramatically in China. However, that does not mean that everyone has an equal opportunity. Historically, there has been well-documented systematic discrimination against minorities, women and the rural poor. The main question of this paper is whether or not this discrimination has persisted since the recent expansion of China's tertiary education system. Using a census of incoming freshmen from four tier one universities, this
... iversities, this paper assesses if certain types of students are over-represented while other types of students are under-represented. Comparing the shares of students from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds from our primary survey data with government generated census statistics, we conclude that poor, minority and rural female students are systematically under-represented. In contrast, rich, Han, urban males are dominant in college. professional colleges were founded, nearly doubling the number of tertiary institutions in China. The enrolment rate of colleges has also increased by more than five times from about 3 million students in 1997 to over 17 million in 2007. 2 Statistics from the Ministry of Education support these numbers. The aggregate gross enrolment rate at the higher education level increased more than sevenfold between 1990 and 2006, from 3.4 per cent to 22 per cent. This means that in 2006, more than one out of five students in the 18-to 22-year-old cohort had the opportunity to achieve a higher education. 3 One reason for this expansion was to provide opportunities for a broader, more diverse set of students to attend college. There are many policy documents that explicitly state this as one of the goals of China's higher education policy. For example, in one policy, the Initiative for the Development of Chinese Women, China's leaders asserted that if women were ensured the right to pursue higher education, this would help make them more equal in political, economic, cultural, social and family affairs. Similarly, one of the goals of The Law of Higher Education (1998) is to help students from poor areas and students of minority ethnic origins in their pursuit of college degrees. Although China has always maintained an ideology that has stated equality as one of its main goals, there has been research in the past that has questioned the effectiveness of these policy pronouncements, especially in the case of higher education. Emily Hannum et al. have shown that minorities have been systematically excluded from colleges. 4 Yaohui Zhao has concluded that rural students have less of a chance to go to college than urban students. 5 There is research on the challenges of womeneven those with urban registered residence (hukou 户口)being systematically squeezed out of certain disciplines in college. 6 While these works clearly show that China's higher education institutions have not treated all students equally, most of the studies predate the recent expansion of the college system. There have been few studies that have examined China's renewed policy commitment (at least in principle) to provide educational opportunities for all. Among the studies that have addressed these issues, almost none have provided any systematic, evidence-based data on the topic. The purpose of this research note is simple. We want to report on the results of a recent comprehensive survey of all incoming freshmen in four tier one colleges in Shaanxi, Sichuan, and Anhui. In this survey, we collected information that will allow us to categorize each student as: urban or rural (by hukou status); male or female; Han (汉) or non-Han; rich or poor. We then assessed if certain types of students (for example: Han, male, urban, rich, or some combination thereof) are over-represented while other types of students (for example, minorities, female, rural, or poor) are under-represented.