Frontiers of Education in China

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 486–512 | Cite as

National/Global Synergy in the Development of Higher Education and Science in China since 1978

  • Simon MarginsonEmail author
Research Article


The paper reviews the rapid development of higher education and science in China in the last forty years. It discusses the conditions and strategies of that development, including the ways that it embodies a distinctive Chinese approach to higher education. In particular, the paper reflects on the policies whereby China coordinated with globalization in higher education and science after 1978, in building national capacity and global influence. Scale, nation-state policy goals and accelerated investment on their own are necessary but not sufficient (otherwise Saudi Arabia’s research universities would be stronger than they are). The effective national/global synergy developed by China, made possible by the international openness and part-devolution to science communities that was implemented in the Deng Xiaoping era, has been crucial in the rapid rise of China’s universities and science. This national/global synergy—and its potentials, tensions and limits—in turn has determined the nature of the achievement and will shape its future evolution.


China higher education universities research science globalization devolution Deng Xiaoping 


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press Limited Company and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education, Department of EducationUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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