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Access to Justice in Higher Education: The Student as Consumer in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 January 2021

Ling Zhou
Research associate, Qianhai Institute for Innovative Research; post-doctoral fellow, Shenzhen University. Email:
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With the massive expansion of higher education in China from the late 1990s onwards, private (“social”) forces have increasingly funded higher education institutions. In today's competitive and commercialized environment, private universities are under increasing pressure to make themselves more attractive to potential students. As a result, private HEIs sometimes resort to misleading marketing practices in order to entice prospective students and hike up tuition fees, despite often providing substandard education. The handling of student–university disputes by the courts and other bodies tends to remain administrative in nature. Students are to be regulated rather than seen as consumers with rights and interests to be protected. The system fails to provide adequate redress for the shoddy treatment and educational service that students in private institutions often receive. This paper suggests that a more “consumer welfare” approach would complement the current institutionally focused, academic administration approach found in mainland China today. Given the problems with many private HEIs in China, it would also reflect more realistically the needs of the emerging “student-consumer.”



自1990 年代以来,随着高等教育在中国的规模化、产业化发展,私人(“社会”)力量越来越多地加入到高等教育机构的资金链当中。在商业化氛围驱使下,私立或民办的高校正在逐步提高自身对潜在学生的吸引力。然而,民办高校有时会使用误导性广告来吸引学生,使得学生需要支付比普通公立高校高出很多的学费,却不能获得与之匹配的教学质量。法院和其他机构用于处 理 “学生与高校” 之间纠纷的方式往往具有较强的行政性。在现行制度下,学生多被认为是需要监管的对象,而没有被视为一名购买教育服务的消费者,其消费者权益并没有得到充分保障。这种体制使得民办高校学生在遭受到的损失时,无 法得到充分的补偿。本文建议以更贴近 “消费者福利” 的民事纠纷解决方式,来处理学生与高校之间的纠纷,补充目前中国大陆以行政为主导的学术管理和纠纷解决模式。尤其是在民办高校的办学中,学生与高校之间的消费关系更为明显,只有认可学生作为消费者的地位,才能更加现实地反映新兴 “学生-消费者” 的需求。

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Copyright © SOAS University of London, 2021

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