Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 February 2009
The Radio and Television Universities of China, better known there as dianda, are now well established and growing rapidly. Dianda have been the subject of a number of articles, but, although the amount of comment on their operation has grown over the years, the focus has been on describing this operation. No attempt has been made to relate in detail the developments to the whole of higher education in China. Dianda warrant detailed consideration, not only because of their importance to the development of higher education in China, but also because they form the largest distance education system4 in the world. The size is indicated in the figures for student enrolment in three-year full-time degree programmes (at zhuanke level) since the founding of dianda, shown in Table 1. These programmes are offered in all provinces except Tibet, relying mainly on television lectures, backed up by text-books and face-to-face teaching. It is an extremely decentralized system, largely confined to urban areas, with local centres being responsible for student administration. (The central administration in Beijing has no individual student records.) The degree programme in the first four years was offered only by the science and technology department and included electrical and mechanical majors, and less commonly physics and mathematics. In 1982 over 78,000 students graduated. Social science courses in economic management started in 1983 and in future years it is hoped to introduce a wide variety of courses, shifting the balance away from science and technology.
1. Although the title in English refers to universities, in fact they are one single entity. The plural form derives from the fact that the structure reflects a considerable degree of decentralization; the provincial radio and television universities (28 in all) have a degree of independence from the Central Radio and Television University. See Hawkridge, D. and McCormick, R. “China's television universities,” British Journal of Educational Technology, No. 3, Vol. 14 (10 1983), pp. 160–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar for the most recent account of this structure.
2. The full title in Chinese guangbo dianshi daxue is shortened in the usual way for universities to dianda. This has the added advantage for the staff, because it covers over the fact that almost no radio broadcasting is used in the teaching. This article will adopt the name dianda.
3. Hawkridge and McCormick, ‘China's television universities’; McCormick, R., “The Central Broadcasting and Television University, PRC,” in Rumble, G. and Harry, K. (eds.), The Distance Teaching Universities (London: Croom Helm, 1982)Google Scholar; Epstein, I., “Educational television in the PRC: some preliminary observations,” Comparative Education Review, 06 1982Google Scholar; McCormick, R., “The Chinese Television University,” The China Quarterly, 03 1980Google Scholar.
4. There is some debate about the best term to describe forms of education which involve a degree of separation between the teacher and learner (see, for example, Rumble and Harry, ibid. pp. 11–14, for a discussion of the term). Here it is used to cover a variety of forms including, study through correspondence, broadcast media and audio-visual replay facilities. All of these can be used by “conventional” educational institutions, but it is assumed that the amount of face-to-face contact between teacher and student is substantially lower in a distance education institution. This interpretation in fact poses problems for denning dianda as a distance education institution.
5. This term also presents some definitional problems. Here the division between the regular and the non-conventional sectors is taken from State Council Bulletin No. 11 (1983) pp. 492–93Google Scholar. The institutions in the non-conventional sector are listed as: “Radio and TV University; Correspondence University; Evening University; Factory-run Staff and Workers University; County-run Peasant University; Management Cadre University; Education or Teacher Inservice Colleges etc.” In fact this Bulletin rather confusingly refers to what I have called the “regular sector” as “full-time higher education schools” (quanrizhi gaodeng xuexiao). This is confusing because, for example, dianda students also study full-time. It describes the above list as: qita xingshi juban de gaodeng jiaoyu (higher education set up in other forms).
7. Lo, ibid. Table 5.1 p. 19. This source indicates that the massive intake of 1978 was made possible by the opening of some 200 “new” institutions. During that year the average number of students per institutions fell from 1,558 in 1977 to 1,431. Thereafter the number climbed until by 1981 it was 1,817.
8. Ogden, S., “Higher education in the PRC: new direction in the 1980's,” Higher Education, Vol 11, No. 1 (01 1982), pp. 85–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Pepper, S., “China's universities,” Modern China, Vol. 8, No. 2 (04 1982), pp. 147–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Bastid, M., “Chinese educational policies in the 1980s and economic development,” The China Quarterly, No. 98 (06 1984), pp. 189–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
9. Those who fail the college entrance examination are encouraged to go to the non-conventional sector. (Xinhua ribao (New China Daily), 2 August 1981, p. 1.)
11. This view is contrary to Bastid, “Chinese educational policies,” who says that dianda will have no immediate effect on the labour market, but graduation figures belie this.
12. In fact these figures are for correspondence and evening universities. Guangming ribao (Guangming Daily), 15 June, 1983, p. 2. Figures quoted for 1980 give 177,000 in correspondence education. (Education and Science, Foreign Languages Press. Beijing, 1983, p. 96.Google Scholar)
13. China Daily, 23 November 1982. Beijing ribao (Beijing Daily), 22 January 1983, reported that in 1983 the People's University Correspondence College Branch School, recruited 850 students, with the total recruitment since 1980 being 2,200. Another report put the intake at 2,100 with a total enrolment of 5,000.(Guangming ribao, 8 April, 1983, p. 1. This is largely confirmed in Renmin ribao, 19 May 1983, p. 3.)
14. For a survey of pre-cultural revolution correspondence education, see Bruckner, L. I., “Spare-time Higher Education in Communist China with Emphasis on Higher Correspondence Education” (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Montana State University, 1970)Google Scholar.
15. Ogden, “Higher education in the PRC.”
16. However, the growth in television ownership is considerable. In 1979 annual domestic television-set production was around 1.3 million, in 1982 it was over 6 million and in 1983 it reached 6·84 million (State Council Bulletins: No. 4 (1980), p. 109Google Scholar; No. 11 (1983), p. 500; No. 9 (1984), p. 291). In 1984 production was 9·96 million. [Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB) Part 3: The Far East, FE/7900/C/4 (Caversham: British Broadcasting Corporation)]
17. “Dianshi daxue zhaosheng shuliang weishenma xiajiang,” (”Why are the TV University's recruitment numbers falling?”) Guangming ribao, 22 September 1980; “Guizhou Yongan dianjichang ge bie lingdao qiangxing tingban dianda jiaxue ban” (”Particular leaders of Guizhou, Yongan, electrical machine plant forcibly stop dianda classes”), Guangming ribao, 19 January 1983; Wenhui bao, (Wenhui Daily), 7 July 1980, p. 2; “Desire to learn must be encouraged,” ChinaDaily, 14 August 1983; “Yao zhi dai zhigong shang yeyu daxue” (”Must support workers to attend spare-time university” – reader's letter), Wenhui bao, 27 December 1979; “Spare-time study,” China Daily, 13 August 1983.
18. Chambers, D. I., “Spare-time Education in the PRC,” (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Bristol, 1980, Ch. 5)Google Scholar.
19. Guangming ribao, 19 January 1983.
20. For example, Wenhui bao (2 May 1980, p. 2) carried a report on difficulties that was followed by correspondence from readers. (13 and 21 May 1980, p. 2). Again in 1981 an article and commentary (11 September 1981, p. 1) drew more correspondence (17 and 24 September 1981, p. 2).
21. The most recent public statement was in Renmin ribao, 21 August 1983, p. 3.
22. It has been reported however, that in 1980 19 provincial dianda recruited 17,000 (Zhongguo jiaoyu nianjian 1949–1981) (Directory of Chinese Education 1949–1981), Beijing, 1984, p. 614Google Scholar.
23. In 1983, 180,000 students were recruited (Guangmingribao, 15June 1983, p.2)out of 600,000 who took the entrance examination (Guangming ribao, 17 April 198 3, p. 1).
24. However, according to Zhu Guofeng, vice-minister of posts and telecommunications, a truly national satellite system will not be established until the end of the century (China News Agency, 5 October 1983; SWB FE/1256/A/9.) However, it has been reported that the Intelstat satellite above the Indian Ocean will be used as an emergency measure(SWB FE/1342/B1, 12 June 1985).
25. My work while at the Zhongyang Dianda (Central Radio and Television University) was to help the staff develop their expertise in producing such learning packages. The minister of education, He Dongchang, speaking at the first dianda graduation ceremony, suggested that radio and correspondence material should be used to ease television transmission time (NCNA, 8 July 1982 in SWB FE/7076/B11 /12–13).
26. This lack of time led one reader of China Daily to ask for more “fast-food” provision to reduce domestic duties! It is also true that the ownership of washing machines is growing, and these will help to save time. In 1982 2,533,000 machines where produced, a 97·7 percentage increase over 1981; and in 1983 the figure was over 3·6 million machines (State Council Bulletin, No. 11, 1983, p. 500Google Scholar; No. 9,1984, p. 291). By 1984 production had reached 5·78 million (SWB FE/7900/C/4,15 March 1985). See Whyte, M. K. and Parish, W. L., Urban Life in Contemporary China (Chicago Press, 1984)Google Scholar, for details of time spent on chores.
27. Chambers, “Spare-time education in the PRC”; Bruckner, Spare-time Higher Education in Communist China.
28. The government clearly do not think they will be, as evident in their negotiating a World Bank loan to fund a major expansion of dianda. (China Daily, 15 January 1983, “World Bank funds College”; Xinhua, 16 May 1983 in SWB FE/7341/B11/11, 24 May 1983.)
29. This was urged upon employing units by the previous minister of education, Jiang Nanxiang (Renmin jiaoyu, No. 5 (1981), pp. 3–6)Google Scholar.
30. Guangming ribao, 16 July 1983, p. 1.
31. Liaoning dianda (Liaoning Radio and Television University)(magazine) August 1982, p. 3. State Council Bulletin, No. 12 (1983), pp. 559–600Google Scholar.
32. The promulgation referenced in note 31 refers to an earlier Bulletin (1980, No. 120) giving these conditions, but I have been unable to tre this. The “No. 120” presumably refers to reference number of the specific promulgation, not the whole Bulletin, but these do not appear to be printed on Bulletins before 1982.
33. Liaoning dianda, August 1982, p. 3.
34. The regulations allow for a unit to “report to the department above for arrangement of transfer and placement” of graduates in this position, but no one I interviewed mentioned this possibility (Liaoning dianda, 1982, ibid.).
35. See past and contemporary descriptions of enrolment: Taylor, R., China's Intellectual Dilemma: Politics and University Enrolment 1949–1978 (Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 1981)Google Scholar. Pepper, S., China's Universities: Post Mao Enrollment Policies and Their Impact on the Structure of Secondary Education (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983Google Scholar. University of Michigan Monograph Series, Centre for Asian Studies).
36. SWB FE/7083/B11/4–5, 21 July 1982. There are also a number of journal articles appearing on the subject of talent demand forecasting e.g. Liu Zhiyun “Rencai xuqiu yuce fangfa chutan,” Jiaoyuyanjiu. No. 9 (1983), pp 12–15Google Scholar; Xuewu, Diao, “Wo guo keji reniwu jinqi yuce,” Weilai yu fazhan (Future and Development), No. 3 (1982), pp 1–7Google Scholar.
37. Wenhui bao, 18 November 1982, p. 1.
38. This latter problem is noted in the earlier quote from Taylor, , China's Intellectual Dilemma, p. 113Google Scholar, fn. 35. Both of these problems were commented upon in the 1950s (see Orleans, L. A., Professional Manpower and Education in Communist China (Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1960), p. 95Google Scholar.
39. In particular their carelessness and lack of understanding of university specialities.
40. There is a third problem, which is of less interest in the context of the above discussion: systems (e.g. coal and railway industry) who run their own universities are reluctant to let their surplus graduates be employed outside their industry and would rather “misallocate” them within it. Thus large enterprises benefit at the expense of small ones.
41. Yulin, Wen, “Gaige rencai peiyang moshi, jie xueke shezhi zhuanye” (”To reform patterns of personal training, utilize academic courses to set up special fields of study”), Gaodeng jiaoyu yanjiu (Higher Education Research), No. 2 (1983), pp. 22–26 and 17Google Scholar.
42. Xuepei, Gao, “Sum up experiences and adopt measure to effectively improve the system of assigning graduates of schools of higher learning,” Gaojiao zhanxian (Frontiers of Higher Education), No. 2 (1982), pp. 7–8Google Scholar(Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), No. 461, pp. 23–27). However, the resulting misallocation may not have occurred only at the graduate assignment stage.
43. Mingyuan, Gu, “The development of contemporary higher education and the reform in higher education in our country,” FBIS, No. 459 (22 09 1983), pp. 22–38Google Scholar.
44. Nanfang ribao (Southern Daily), 26 June 1983, p. 1. One suggestion which might have been thought rather incredible, was that a placement meeting resembling the Canton Trade Fair be set up (Wenhui bao, 18 November 1982, p. 1). In fact just such a fair did take place in Shanghai, where employers set up stalls and college placement staff went round to collect information (Guangming ribao, 26 June 1983, p. 1).
45. Wenhui bao, 18 November 1982, p. 1. The suggestion was that this advertising should be done in the newspapers; as yet, no examples in the Chinese press have been located by the author. Qinghua University has, however, produced a booklet giving this kind of information and circulated it nation-wide to several hundred employing units. These units then wrote back denning their needs and how they would use graduates (Renmin ribao, 26 August 1983, p. 3).
46. For examples reported in the press this seems to be confined to vocational courses, for example: “Vocational training in step with economy,” China Daily, 6 May 1983; Wenhui bao, 17 April 1983, p. 1; “Fuzhou daxue yu gi ge bumen qianding le dai pei hetong,” Guangming ribao, 5 December 1980. See also Bastid, , “Chinese educational policies,” p. 209Google Scholar.
47. This reform was suggested in the 1983 job assignment report (Guangming ribao, 16 July 1983, pp. 1 and 3). In Beijing 145 of the 212 best students (out of a total allocation of 15,000 graduates) were given some choice (Guangming ribao, 9 August 1983, p. 1). In addition the report suggested that a college could advertise internally the details of all posts available to its students and allow them to apply for them. The college can then make a recommendation to the employing unit, which makes the final choice.
48. Nanfang ribao, 19 February 1983, p. 1.
49. Guangming ribao, 16 July 1983, pp. 1 and 3. More recently the CCP Central Committee's decision on educational reform recognized the need to implement these innovations, moving away from a rigid unified national allocation system – Da gong bao “Beijing banbu jiaoyu gaige jueding” (”Beijing announces the decision on educational reform”), 30 May 1985, p. 1. See also State Council Bulletin, No. 15 (1985), p. 473Google Scholar.
50. For example, 120 graduates of Xi-An University, a fee-paying college, found their own jobs by placing an advertisement in a journal. They received many offers of jobs. (”Offers pour in after appeal by graduates,” China Daily, 24 March 1983.)
51. “Tamen weishenma neng xunsu zoushang gongzuo gangwei” (”Why is it that they can speedily take up jobs?”), Renmin ribao, 4 December 1982.
52. Renmin ribao, 26 August 1983, p. 3, Guangming ribao, 28 May 1983, p. 3. The examples of advertising quoted in these articles in part concern areas which have newly developed industries (and hence unpopular), though some examples do refer to towns in developed regions of China.
53. Recent general discussions are reported in Renmin ribao, 18 and 22 July 1984, p. 1, and specific measures in Renmin ribao: 2 July 1984, p. 1 (a national talent exchange network); 10 April 1984, p. 1 (a company for flow of talent – rencai lindong); also a job transfer office has been set up in Shanghai (China Daily, 9 August 1984, p. 3). Gordon White discusses such changes in a wider context (”Urban employment and labour allocation policies” in Feuchtwang, S. and Hussain, (eds.), The Chinese Economic Reforms (London: Croom Helm, 1983)Google Scholar.
54. Bastid, , “Chinese educational policies,” p. 212Google Scholar, fn. 8 notes that employers are primarily intrested in funding “short-term, quick-return programmes.”
55. This control is in fact increasing (Pepper, “China's universities,” fn. 8).
57. Quoted in Yulin, Wen “To reform patterns of personnel training, utilize academic courses to set up special fields of study” (1983), p. 22Google Scholar.
58. Wenhui bao, 7 November 1981, p. 2.
59. Wenhui bao, 7 November 1981, p. 2; “Gaodeng yuanxiao zhuanye shezhi, yao shiying jianshi xuyao” (”Higher education colleges” specialisms must suit country's construction”) Wenhui bao, 28 November 1981.
60. Renmin ribao, 22 August 1983, p. 3.
61. Wenhui bao, 9 May 1980, p. 2.
63. Guangming ribao, 16 March 1983, p. 3.
64. Wenhui bao, 15 January 1980, pp. 1 and 2.
65. Wen Yulin, “To reform patterns of personnel training.”
67. This could also be seen as part of the reinstatement of the place of theory in higher education after its denigration during the Cultural Revolution (Ogden, , “Higher education in the PRC” 1982Google Scholar; Unger, J., “The Chinese controversy over higher education,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 53, No. 1 (1980), pp 29–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar).
70. Ligong ke 1983 ji jiaoxue jihua (Science and Technology 1983 Cohort Teaching Plan), Zhongyang Guangbo Dianshi Daxue (Central Radio and Television University), Beijing, 1982 mimeographGoogle Scholar. A comparison of the subjects listed in this document with those for a university course shows a similar balance of theoretical courses.
71. This is based on the obvious assumption that the fixed costs are high and the variable (direct student) costs low; an assumption which is true in the case of the British Open University. It is not altogether clear that this is true in China, with low cost television production, high paper costs for book production and locally provided experimental facilities. However, all other things being equal, it is still true that courses with wide appeal are morecost-effective.
72. The need for more student choice is also advocated in the conventional higher education sector (Renmin jiaoyu, No. 2 (1980), pp. 38–41Google Scholar).
73. Nanfang ribao, 16 July 1979, p. 1. This article actually referred to “July 21st” workers universities, which since 1978 have ceased to be so called.
74. This paragraph on independent thinking, etc. is based on the following articles, unless otherwise stated: Renmin jiaoyu, No. 2 (1980), pp. 38–41Google Scholar; Wenhui bao, 15 January 1980, pp. 1 and 2; 8 June 1980, p. 1; Guangming ribao, 17 June 1983, p. 4. There is, not surprisingly, a large literature on this area in the academic literature, and this is the subject of further analysis. However, preliminary work suggests it is little more revealing than the above four articles.
76. Guangming ribao, 17 June 1983, p. 4.
77. Farnes, N., “Student-centred learning,” Teaching at a Distance, No 3, 05 1975, pp. 2–6Google Scholar.
78. In this article only higher education self-study will be considered, there are reports of middle school level self-study, but most writing is on higher education, reflecting the balance of activity.
79. Renmin ribao, 1 November 1980, p. 4 announced the formation of the Beijing committee; Guangming ribao, 11 December 1980, p. 2 announced Liaoning's; Beijing ribao, 24 May 1983, reported the results of the trial in the four areas. State Council Bulletin, No. 12 (10 07 1983), pp. 533–35Google Scholar gives a brief account of the trials. Ningxia also claimed to be setting up a system (Guangming ribao, 30 December 1980, p. 1) but the reports of the trial do not mention it.
80. Beijing ribao, 24 May 1983.
81. Initial notification of this was given in: Guangming ribao, 19 December 1982, p. 1, and formal notification through State Council Bulletin, No. 12 (10 07 1983), pp. 533–35Google Scholar.
82. State Council Bulletin, No. 3 (31 03 1983), pp. 100–102Google Scholar, laid down conditions for the treatement of graduates from the non-convertional sector. It also indicated the need for provinces (etc.) to set examinations for them, and the self-study legislation formalizes this.
83. Ming bao (Hong Kong), 31 01 1984Google Scholar, “Zixue ying gaokao hege shiyi wan” (”Under the national committee subject committees were set up”) (Guangming ribao, 27 May 1983, p. 1).
84. Conventional: Beijing University (Beijing ribao, 6 February 1983)Google Scholar; Fudan University (Wenhui bao, 26 April 1983, p. 3Google Scholar; Guangming ribao, 16 April 1983); Shanghai Foreign Languages Institute, Shanghai Finance and Economics Institute, Tungji University (Guangming ribao, 16 April 1983)Google Scholar; Shanghai Education Institute (Wenhui bao, 25 November 1981)Google Scholar. Non-conventional: Zhongshan Spare-time College, Beijing (Beijing wanbao, 28 12 1982)Google Scholar; Beijing University Branch School (Beijing ribao, 5 04 1983)Google Scholar; Beijing Working People's Cultural Palace (Guangming ribao, 3 03 1981, p. 2)Google Scholar; Fudan University Branch School, Jiaotung University Branch School. (Guangming ribao, 16 04 1983.)Google Scholar
85. Bin, Chen, “Gaodeng jiaoyu kaoshi zixue zhidu yanjiu” (”The study of the system of higher education self-study examination”), Jiaoyu yanjiu, No. 5 (05 1982), pp. 18–21Google Scholar.
86. This monthly magazine was originally named Rencai (the first three issues) and first published in January 1983 by the Workers Publishing House.
87. This is published monthly by Guangming ribao Publishing House and started in July 1983. (Guangming ribao, 14 July 1983, p. 1; 8 May 1983, p. 1.)
88. This university claimed to have recruited nationally 100,000 students in 1982 (Wenhui bao, 16 April 1982, p. 1).
89. Guangming ribao, 3 July 1983, p. 1.
90. Again this has no direct link with the self-study examination system though self-study students need not register with the university, and can presumably sit the self-study examinations, rather than the university's. (Renmin ribao, 20 July 1983, p. 1.)
91. Zhongguo qingnian bao (China Youth) carries a regular column, on a Thursday three times per month, called ‘Self-studier's companion’ (Zixue zhi you). Wenhui bao also has a column on self-study, e.g. 10 November 1981, p. 4.
92. The references given in supra, fn. 84 are examples of these.
93. Wenhui bao, 10 February 1982, p. 2; 20 March 1982, p. 2.
94. Wenhui bao, 11 March 1982, p. 2.
95. Xinhua ribao (Jiangsu), 3 January 1982, p. 1; 15 February, 1982, p. 1; 28August 1982, p. 4.
96. 11 June 1983, p. 4.
98. During the trials it was reported that students were awarded from one to seven single-subject certificates (Beijing ribao, 24 May 1983 “Gaojiao zixue kaoshi dui meige gongmin kaifang”). I have already quoted figures for the trials which indicate the very least an average of 1·6 certificates per candidate; using this the overallpass-rate for the 1984 figures would be 28%.
99. The following figures have been published: Beijing, 34 5% (Guangming ribao, 9 June 1983, p. 2), 60 8% (Guangming ribao, 25 January 1983, p. 1); Shanghai, 38 8% (Wenhuibao, 1 March 1983, p. 4);Tianjin, 47 5% (”Tianjin dui 287 ming gaojiao zixue kaoshi hege zhe banfa zhengshu” (”287 pass the higher education self-study examination in Tianjin”), Guangming ribao, 9 January 1983).
100. There is as yet no published information on the relationship between single-subject certificates and a complete degree programme, i.e. a credit system.
101. A reported case of a student passing some self-study courses mentions his watching dianda television programmes(Guangming ribao, 13 July 1983, p. 2).
102. This is done at a provincial level. In Guangdong, for example, this has been done annually for at least four years (Nanfang ribao, 2 August 1980, p. 1; 17 December, 1981, p. 1; 5 June 1982, p. 1; 6 June 1983, p. 1) and in Shanghai it was reported in 1982 (Wenhui bao, 15 April 1982, p. 2).
103. Radio and Television Universities in China, CRTVU (1984), p. 2. It is ofcourse not possible to make a cause-effect link, because the decline in numbers could be explained in at least three ways: restrictions placed on entry to single-subject examinations by local dianda staff; high failures among these students deterring new students; the increase in other opportunities for self-study.
104. Correspondence education may also grow in importance, particularly if it develops within the self-study examination system.
105. Chambers, “Spare-time education in the PRC”; Bastid, , “Chinese educational policies,” p. 212Google Scholar.
106. In the context of vocational education to produce middle and lower level technicians Bastid (”Chinese educational policies” p. 217) similarly notes the conflict of aims between, on the one hand, the need to keep such youth off the job market, and the preparation of them for well defined jobs on the other.
107. Guangming ribao, 15 July 1984, p. 3.