China caps fee in nod to roots

March 18, 2005

The Beijing Municipal Government has capped tuition fees in the capital to ensure that higher education remains accessible to poor students, writes Michael Delaney in Beijing.

Most of the capital's higher education institutions must now keep their annual fees between 4,200 and 6,000 yuan (£2-£390), according to a joint statement issued by the city's Municipal Prices Bureau, Finances Bureau and Education Commission.

Tuition fees for most students will be at the lower end of that bracket, but key universities may be allowed to charge up to 5,000 yuan if various education departments grant approval.

Fees may be increased for popular subjects such as sciences, engineering, foreign languages and medicine, but will be capped at 6,000 yuan.

Beijing's most prestigious universities - Tsing Hua, Peking, Renmin and the Beijing Teachers' University - have agreed to set their fees at 4,800 yuan a year.

Chinese universities began to charge tuition fees in the early Nineties.

The previous system of free education followed by assignment to work units after graduation was said to be "incompatible with the growth of a market economy".

Chinese higher education has developed rapidly in the past five years.

Enrolments increased from 6 million in 1999 to more than 20 million by 2004.

This change in the sector has placed higher education out of the financial reach of a great number of Chinese students, particularly those from the countryside.

A senior education minister has declared that the development of higher education should not be achieved by increasing costs for students. At a recent seminar in Xi'an, Zhang Baoqing, the Vice-Education Minister, said colleges and universities should stop raising tuition fees, which should serve only as a supplement to government investment.

"We should not create a situation where only those with money can enter university. That is not the education for a country led by a Communist Party," Mr Zhang said.

He added that a student now needed about 10,000 yuan a year to study in Beijing to cover fees as well as living costs, transport and books.

In 2003, the Government invested 70 million yuan in higher education, and students contributed 40 million yuan to the system in university fees.

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