Country cousins miss out

April 1, 2005

China's town and city dwellers are significantly better educated than the rural population, according to a working group for the country's tenth Five Year Plan for national education.

The group's report, Research into Equity Issues in Chinese Higher Education , found that the proportion of residents educated at primary and middle levels, as well as at university, is considerably greater in urban areas than in rural areas.

The Government has been making efforts to keep higher education available to poor students, especially those in the rural interior, although progress has been slow.

The Beijing city government announced a cap on tuition fees late last year.

Other cities have their own fees guidelines. There is, nonetheless, a widespread acknowledgement of the need to keep tuition fees and living costs at an acceptable level.

Concerns have been raised over universities that circumvent fee guidelines with so-called stealth charges, such as miscellaneous administration or service charges.

Chen Zhili, a Chinese State councillor, has called on government officials to further their efforts to stamp out arbitrary fees in education. She also called on regional governments to give more financial support to education, especially in rural areas.

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Universities in most nations are now obliged to prioritise graduate career prospects, but how it should be approached depends on your view of the meaning of education. Academics need to think that through much more clearly, says Tom Cutterham