The Chinese State Education Commission has released more details of management measures it says are designed to deepen the reform of higher education.
The system is already undergoing huge changes with positive results, education officials say. But they admit growing concern that it still lags well behind the country's economic reforms and social development.
High on the list of problems the system faces are: * Confusion over the responsibilities, rights and interests of sponsors, supervisory bodies and government departments and higher education institutions themselves.
* Serious difficulties with the supply and demand of professional personnel.
* Many higher education institutions are too small.
* The teacher-student ratio is too great in many universities.
* The structure and regional distribution of institutions is irrational.
The commission's latest measures aim to clarify the responsibilities and rights of sponsors, administrative supervisors and institutions, and to do this by 2000.
The role of supervising some universities affiliated to ministries and departments is to be shifted to provincial and municipal governments. The co-management of universities by central and local governments, and cooperation between universities, will be "very much encouraged", officials say.
Universities may cooperate in scientific research, technology development, hiring each other's teachers, acknowledging each other's academic credits and training postgraduates together.
Companies and scientific research institutes are being urged to take part in operating and managing institutes of higher education. The intention is to raise investment, improve quality and generally stimulate the development of higher education, officials say.
Statistics from the State Education Commission indicate that Chinese education has developed remarkably during the eighth five-year plan, from 1991 to 1995, with an enrolment surge of 39 per cent since 1990.
The result is that there are now 4.3 university students for every 1,000 people in China (in the United Kingdom the equivalent figure is about 19.3).
In 1994 state funding for education topped 117.4 billion yuan (Pounds 16.7 billion) - 2.68 per cent of GNP. This represented an increase of more than 100 per cent over 1990.
While rationalisation is sure to take place soon, at present there are 1,100 universities and 1,148 colleges for a country of one billion people.