The Higher Education System in China


Education and the higher education system in China are different in many ways. We have written about the experience of foreign students going to China to study. The country itself is now highly regarded around the world for its education. This is not a surprise!

However, before you go to study in China, you should ask yourself a few questions, such as the advantages of the Chinese higher education system, the nature of the institutions, and what makes them different from each other.

The Chinese higher education system includes a variety of educational institutions such as universities, colleges, and vocational schools of higher education.

The higher education system in China

The management of higher education institutions is divided into several categories.

Some of them are under the direct control of the Ministry of Education, while others are under the control of provinces and municipalities. Others are managed by cities, as well as by local governments.

There are more than 2,500 higher education institutions in China, of which more than 1,200 are ordinary universities, more than 250 are independent colleges and about 1,400 are higher vocational colleges.

Below are the different higher education institutions in the country.

Mainstream Institutions of Higher Education

These are government-funded universities run by local governments and central education ministries and agencies in China. They offer programs that provide students with a recognized degree and training to improve their skills to be useful to the Chinese economy.

These universities offer programs of study such as agriculture, commerce, engineering, technology, and navigation, among other diverse programs.

Specialized Universities

Chinese universities offer several specializations and degrees in different programs for students and scholars seeking an education that meets all requirements.

University Programs

Universities offer degree programs in fields such as arts, pharmacy, humanities, natural sciences, medicine, law, political science, and other various academic degrees.

Independent Colleges

These institutions receive no government funding and work with other renowned universities, private institutions, and the business sector in China. Thus, compared to regular universities, they have higher tuition fees.

Professional universities

Vocational universities are part of the Chinese higher education system. These universities are ideal for providing outstanding training to students who wish to work in various industries.

Graduates from this type of university usually receive degrees that are part of the integrated programs of professional universities.

Institutions for adults
This category includes:

  • Administrative colleges provide adult middle and higher education programs to state employees.
  • Administrative colleges offering middle and higher education programs for adults to state employees.
  • Independent self-study institutions.
  • radio and television universities.
  • correspondence departments and attached evening colleges.
  • Recreational universities, offer sub-degree programs to students who have free time to study.

Private institutions

There are 300 private higher education institutions in China. Like independent Colleges, they are not operated by the government or the state. Therefore, they tend to charge higher tuition fees. Nevertheless, these institutions provide grants to their students to cover their educational expenses.

Organization of studies and programs

All Chinese higher education institutions offer two-semester academic year programs.

The first semester begins in early September and the second semester usually begins in mid-February. A half-year can last up to 22 consecutive weeks, with an average of five days of study per week.

University System of Higher Education in China

Academic degrees offered at Chinese universities can be bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees.

The fields of each degree differ according to the specializations available at each university.

Similarly, the specializations range from philosophy, economics, law, politics, sociology, mathematics, history, natural sciences, engineering, medicine, marketing, etc.


It lasts 4 years for most fields, except if you study medicine and surgery. In this case, the studies can last up to 6 years. With China’s reforms to internationalize its higher education system, many Chinese universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in English.

In addition, to be considered an international student, you must provide proof of 12 years of formal study.


Similarly, a master’s degree in China requires two or three years of academic study in one of the available majors. Master’s studies in China can be course-based or research-based. And of course, to be eligible, you must have earned a bachelor’s degree in the field related to the program you are applying for the master’s degree.


An interesting fact about China is that it has the largest number of PhDs in the world. Doctoral studies in China last from three to five years.

In addition, the studies are divided into two parts. The first two or three years are devoted to teaching. And in the fourth year, you work on writing your academic thesis. The program and admission requirements vary and are published by each university from year to year.

Scientific teaching and research in Chinese universities

Teaching in universities usually includes lectures, class discussions, experimental lessons, exercises, and, of course, theoretical and practical matching.

Scientific research:

Scientific research in Chinese universities and colleges is an important driver of scientific and technological development. China’s economy has improved and the country’s development has met the current demand for education.

In addition, scientific research has received support from the Chinese government and various other agencies. Generally by allocating a budget every year that encourages scientific research in all fields.