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Reorganization of Higher Education Institutions in China in the Early 1950's
Shortly after the establishment of the People's Republic, a nationwide, large scale reorganization of institutions of higher education, called "Yuan-Xi Tiaozheng", was conducted in China. It was aimed at totally rearranging Yuan and Xi, the faculty and department equivalents, not only within a particular institution but over several institutions throughout the country to allow more efficient and planned training toward needed manpower for the construction of a new state. No such large scale and intentional reorganization had ever been conducted in world history. This paper intends to give a full account of this reorganization and describes the process of formulating the basic structure or prototype of the present system of higher education in the PRC.
In preceding studies, this reorganization has generally been considered to be identical to a series of merger and absorption of institutions of higher education, as well as consequential emergence of new institutions which were originally planned at the National Conference of Presidents of Engineering Institutions, November 1951, and accomplished in the following two years. Contrary to these speculations, however, quite a number of merger and absorption had been, in fact, carried out in various parts of the country in earlier years, with some cases in the Northeastern region making the beginning. This paper attaches much importance to the continuity between such reformative measures and the so-called reorganization of 1952 and 1953.
However, these earlier restructuring should be distinguished from the latter in terms of scale and planned uniformity. In fact, some qualitative differences can be noted, such as the abolishment of the Yuan or faculty which formerly constituted the universities, designation of the Xi or department as the basic unit of management, as well as the classification of detailed subdivided specialities as the basic unit of teaching. The whole idea, nowadays, is believed to be modelled after Soviet Union, but it was not before 1952 that the idea was openly expressed in some official documents regarding future orientation toward development of higher education in China. Moreover, after the "three-anti campaign" and thought rectification among the academic profession, independent thinking and judgements including skepticism, complaints and hesitance about the reorganization could hardly be observed any more. Subsequently, the reorganization was accelerated greatly, allowing it to be accomplished in much shorter period of time. What was fulfilled through the reorganization can be summarized as follows.
First, upon completion of the reorganization in 1952 and 1953, the number of institutions of higher education was reduced from 211 to 182 on the whole. However, the total enrollment increased by 82.1%. One of the purposes of the reorganization was to concentrate dispersed facilities, equipment, teachers etc. in order to utilize them more efficiently, and with this measure, this purpose can be said to have been accomplished.
Second, the reorganization allowed an intentional decrease in the number of universities, increasing that of specialized colleges, particularly those in the science and engineering fields. These specialized colleges were geared to meeting the need for training for those with potential of becoming workers active in the forefront of production upon graduation. The number of the universities became one forth of that prior to the reorganization, while colleges of engineering, teacher training and agriculture increased by 35.7%, 175.0%, 61.1% respectively.
Third, the reorganization rectified the unequal geographical distribution of institutions of higher education, many of which formerly had been centered in several coastal provinces and cities. While institutions in the South-China region, including Shanghai, as well as the Southwestern region, formerly a center of learning under the Nationalist regime during the Sino-Japanese war, decreased drastically in number, markable developments were made in North-China, Northwestern and Northeastern regions through the reorganization. The geographical imbalance of higher education institutions, which in 1949 saw 53.7% of institutions in six coastal provinces compared to 46.3% elsewhere in the country, had been rectified to 43.7% and 56.3%, respectively, by 1953. Thus, although it was not necessarily successful in making the distribution even in a strict sense, there was certainly a good degree of progress on the whole.