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Universities get more autonomy

2014-10-10 08:35 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Pessimism lingers regarding effectiveness

China's top education authorities have approved new regulations for nine top universities, which seek to increase the schools' autonomy, while observers have expressed concern about their effectiveness.

The nine universities include the country's top two universities, Peking University and Tsinghua University, the Ministry of Education announced on its website on Wednesday, adding that the newly established regulations will help the systematic reform of higher education and aid academic development.

Since 2013, a total of 32 universities have already seen their new regulations, which were drafted by the universities themselves, approved by the authorities.

All other Chinese universities are scheduled to establish their own regulations by the end of next year, according to the ministry.

To run a university according to its own regulations is the foundation of academic independence, Professor Xiong Bingqi, an expert in higher education at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told the Global Times.

With these new regulations, the universities' management is supposed to operate with a higher-level of academic autonomy than previously, he added.

Peking University's new regulations indicate that more power over school management should be delegated to students.

The university set up a supervision committee for the first time to deal with disciplinary violations by students and school staff. The committee consists of students, teaching staff, members of non-Communist parties and the university's disciplinary watchdog.

Under its new rules, Peking University students also have the chance to become members of the school's academic board, allowing them to supervise the election of academic staff and investigate academic corruption, along with professors and delegates appointed by the university president. The number of delegates appointed by the president cannot surpass 15 percent of the board members.

No details have yet been revealed regarding any selection standards or what proportion of the board will be made up of student delegates.

Although the university is encouraging students to join these new bodies, students seem to be less enthusiastic, judging by the responses of students reached by the Global Times.

"We know very little about how those student delegates will be selected and who will select them. Even if we can participate in discussions about university affairs, the administrative staff will still be in charge of making any decisions," a history postgraduate student studying at Peking University, surnamed Huang, told the Global Times.

Tsinghua University has also emphasized its autonomy as it highlights the importance of budget independence.

Xiong expressed pessimism about the enforcement of these regulations as these universities' officials are still appointed by the government and universities are still entirely government-funded.

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