Universities open to more students

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 July, 1999, 12:00am

The Government has greatly expanded university enrolment this year, hoping it will increase the pool of professional talent and boost domestic consumption.

But a shortage of accommodation and teaching facilities might affect the reform plan.

Last week 3.4 million high school students took the college entrance examinations across China and a record 1.53 million will be granted university places this September.

Although universities can accept more students, some new arrivals will have to forgo living the full college experience.

A lack of dormitory space plagues mainland universities and the situation is only expected to worsen when the school year begins in two months.

Twice this year, the Education Ministry has increased the number of university places available in an effort to boost the number of university-educated people on the mainland.

The latest enrolment quota expansion took place two weeks ago when the Ministry of Education allotted another 330,000 spaces for both undergraduate and graduate students. The first occurred in January when enrolment was increased by 220,000 students.

The majority of places are designated for new students whose numbers will increase this year by 48 per cent from 1.08 million last year.

Some institutions such as Beijing University and Nankai University in Tianjin will only accept an extra 100 students, while Sichuan University in Chengdu will increase its enrolment by 800 students.

Instead of building new dormitories, many universities are limiting the students enrolled under the quota expansion to those who can commute to school.

'All of the expansion students are to come from within the city and they will live off campus,' said an employee at the China People's University student enrolment office.

'No non-Beijing residents will be enrolled under that policy this year, but there are plans to accommodate them in the future.' In addition to allowing more students to receive university education, the Government hopes that the expansion would help boost consumption and inflate the economy.

The authorities have tried desperately to keep the economy growing.

Bank deposit rates have been cut seven times since 1996 but domestic prices have kept falling for the past 20 months.

Economic Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences director Liu Shucheng said in Hong Kong last week the slump was the worst since 1953.

In order to encourage people to spend money, one measure suggested by officials was for banks to give education loans to parents.

Dong Fureng, another noted economist, said Chinese parents were generous about their children's education and the Government hoped that the extra enrolment would prompt parents to dig even deeper into their pockets.

He recalled a recent visit to two high schools in Shanghai where he found parents spending 40,000 yuan (HK$42,672) a year on tuition alone.