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.